Background image

Learn SharePoint Online: Best practices, tips, and tricks

default post thumbnails default post thumbnails

What is SharePoint? Microsoft MVP Benjamin Niaulin covers SharePoint Online best practices, tips, and tricks—and takes a look at some SharePoint common issues mistakes.

According to our new benchmark report, State of Microsoft 365: Migration, Modernization, and Security in 2021, more companies are embracing the cloud-based productivity tools required for a distributed workforce—performing fewer on-premises SharePoint migrations while increasingly moving to cloud-based SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365.

This trend was reflected in our own ShareGate Desktop customer data, which showed a 33% increase in cloud-based operations in 2020 versus 2019. It helps solidify a feeling we’ve been having for years: the cloud is no longer an eventual possibility for businesses—it is the default solution.

Whether you’re migrating to the cloud from SharePoint Server or entering the Microsoft universe for the very first time, these best practices, tips, and tricks from Benjamin Niaulin will help you use SharePoint Online effectively in your organization.

Want to sharpen your Teams management skills? Watch Microsoft MVPs Jasper Oosterveld and Benjamin Niaulin on demand, and get best practice advice to help you move your Teams environment forward, including real-world examples of how businesses of all sizes have mastered Teams.


You’ve deployed Teams, now what? Hear it from the experts: how to build a thriving Teams environment

What is SharePoint?

When I ask people this question, the most common answer I get is: Well…I don’t really know.

SharePoint is actually a platform—and this is very, very important. SharePoint is a platform where you can build your own show.

You can think of it like LEGO pieces. SharePoint gives you building blocks to build your own things. You have all the little LEGO pieces, and you put them together to build whatever you want, whether that’s an internet website or a collaborative intranet.

It’s very important to understand that SharePoint is not a tool, like Word or Excel. It’s not something you install and everybody gets the same thing. Everybody gets the same platform, but not everybody’s going to build their SharePoint the same way.

What exactly can we do with SharePoint?

  • Intranets
  • Extranets
  • Internet websites
  • Collaboration portals
  • Process sites
  • Applications

SharePoint can be used to build an organization’s intranet. Or it can be used to build a custom extranet for people to check.

You can even build process sites to replace a business process you might have. Some people use it to create applications.

For example: every time you create a Yammer group to have a conversation with your colleagues, a SharePoint site is also created—a team site to collaborate on shared documents. This is one way SharePoint can be used as an instead of just being an intranet.

That’s the idea of SharePoint: build whatever you want to build with this platform.

SharePoint’s structure

Because SharePoint is such a huge platform, I just wanted to quickly recap the basic structure to make sure everyone is on the same page.

It’s important to understand the difference between:

What are SharePoint sites?

If you want to keep it simple, a SharePoint site is basically a box. And inside of this box—inside your SharePoint site—are all your lists and document libraries. Those are the two kinds of objects you usually find inside the box.

You want to look at a site as a box that you put things in because that visualization helps you understand that it’s not necessarily easy to share what’s inside one box with whatever is inside another box.

Later on, you’ll see there are other little objects like columns, side columns, content types, and other things like that. But ideally, you want to look at a site as a box that you put things in because that visualization helps you understand that it’s not necessarily easy to share what’s inside one box with whatever is inside another box.

What are SharePoint lists?

If we know that a site is a box with lists and libraries inside of it, then what exactly is a list and what is a document library?

It’s just like creating a table in Word or Excel: each column you create means more information contained in each row.

A SharePoint list is essentially a table on the web—easy to create, easy to use, and accessible from every browser.

It’s just like creating a table in Word or Excel: each column you create means more information contained in each row. The only difference is that a list has all the features of SharePoint for versioning, for content approval, and for work flows.

What are SharePoint libraries?

Document libraries are essentially the same thing. They’re a table, but instead of being just regular tables for managing content or data, the table is actually for the documents themselves.

Instead of putting your document straight into a file folder in File Explorer, you put them in a document library. Then you have columns that let you classify, manage, and tag your content—making finding your document that much easier.

What are SharePoint site collections?

The next thing you need to make sure you understand is: what is a site collection?

Remember that box, the site, that’s holding all your lists and libraries? Well, now you have a few boxes that are linked together by a structure, a hierarchy.

You can think of those boxes collectively as a site collection, because they are all connected through the same superior site—what we sometimes call the root site.

Everything within a site collection will also share some things, like the list of SharePoint groups. When you create security groups in SharePoint, they’re shared by the entire site collection—the structure of sites or boxes that are linked together.

You can also choose for them to share other things, like databases or a style library.

When you create security groups in SharePoint, they’re shared by the entire site collection—the structure of sites or boxes that are linked together.

It’s worth noting that many of the Microsoft’s new features—like Office 365 Groups, Teams, and modern group-connected team SharePoint sites—are designed to work with one site at the top level.

Moving forward, you’ll want to think about flattening your SharePoint architecture—moving your existing subsites to top level site collections in SharePoint Online. Which brings me to my next point…

What are hub sites?

The key to creating a site structure that’s physically flat but logically top-down? Hub sites.

Whereas many organizations used sub-sites in the past to create connective tissues, sub-sites don’t don’t adapt well to change. That’s because sub-sites are actually a physical construct reflected in the URL for content. If you reorganize your business relationships, you break all the intranet relationships in your content.

Hub sites are the new connective tissue for organizing families of modern SharePoint team and communication sites. They model relationships as links, rather than hierarchy or ownership, so it’s much easier to adapt to changes in organizational changes.

Why this webinar? 5 common mistakes

Why did I put together this webinar? To be honest, I kept seeing a lot of the same mistakes.

Mistake #1: Building your intranet under Central Administration

It wasn’t too long ago that I saw an intranet completely built under the Central Administration.

Why is that bad?  The Central Administration is the main console where you:

  • Create your web applications
  • Create site collections
  • Define how search is going to work

This is definitely not something you want to see.

Mistake #2: Installing a new SharePoint farm for each new department/team

The next thing I saw recently was an organization installing a new SharePoint farm every time a new department or team needed SharePoint. An entirely new farm every single time. No!

What you could have with SharePoint is really centralized—have one SharePoint farm, and then create different web applications of different site collections for your different departments and teams. They should all be sharing the same installation and the same farm.

Even in cases where your organization is geographically dispersed, you won’t necessarily need multiple farms. You can easily place different servers and web front ends, and then have database replication or mirroring to make sure that performance and fault tolerance is still present.

The takeaway here? In most cases you will only need one SharePoint installation.

Mistake #3: Making universal changes one-by-one for each document library

A few years ago, I got a call from someone, and they told me they weren’t very happy with SharePoint, I think it was with SharePoint 2010 (now no longer supported).

What happened was, they had originally gone through something like 200 document libraries, and they’d added a choice column in every single one. And then two years later, they realized they needed to update that choice.

It’s important to look at the different availabilities—such as site columns and reusable columns, or even content types—and make sure everything is centralized in one place.

So what do they do? They went through all 200 document libraries, added library settings, and then edited the column of choice to add an extra choice.

And what do you think happened? Well, every once in a while they would add an extra “s”, or they wouldn’t copy/paste correctly—introducing human mistakes. So you definitely don’t want to be doing that.

This is where your intranet architecture and planning come into play. It’s important to look at the different availabilities—such as site columns and reusable columns, or even content types—and make sure everything is centralized in one place.

Mistake #4: Continuing to use file share folders to organize content

You’re getting zero value from SharePoint if you take file shares, dump them into SharePoint, and then continue using folders to organize content.

If this is the case, I’ll tell you right now: don’t get SharePoint. Just stay on your file share. There is no added value whatsoever, and it will actually be slower this way.

What you really want to do is take advantage of metatdata tags to restructure, using things like search to find your content.

Mistake #5: Installing SharePoint in standalone mode

During your SharePoint installation, you can install in farm mode as a large implementation, or you can do a standalone installation—which comes with a free SQL Server Express that doesn’t allow you to store more than four gigabytes.

You can imagine their faces when they realized they couldn’t add content. They couldn’t even configure the user profiles, which were kind of like MySite or OneDrive for Business.

This was a big problem a few years ago. Today, everybody knows about it, so it’s not as big of a concern. I think the option has even been removed from the installation.

Before you get started

Before you start your SharePoint project—before it even begins—you need to ask yourself some very important questions:

  • Do you have a reason to use SharePoint?
  • Or, do you want to use it just because you have free licenses?

We need to stop thinking about the features—it’s not about the features. It’s definitely not about how SharePoint works or what it can do. You need to consider whether or not it’s the best platform or application for your business needs.

To design an effective intranet your people will actually use, you need to ask questions about the work, not the technology.

SharePoint is such a huge platform that if you don’t where you’re going with it in the future, you’re not going to go anywhere.

Please don’t underestimate SharePoint.

Anytime anyone has ever said, We’ll just put it like this for now and set it up properly later, it does not work.

I have never seen it work, do not do it. Go ahead and try it out, but not on your servers. Create an Office 365 30-day trial to get a feel for things. But don’t invite anyone, don’t tell anybody. It’s crucial that you don’t take it lightly. SharePoint is a beast of a platform.

Once SharePoint is installed, adoption can be very quick—especially when you’re using other tools connected to it, like Exchange or Yammer. If you didn’t plan ahead, if you didn’t prepare properly, you can lose control fast.

7 tips for planning your SharePoint

Stop everything you’re doing and start planning!

Tip #1: Stop calling it SharePoint

Every single implementation I’ve done, I’ve always tried to call it something else. Because if it fails miserably, you don’t want the failure to be associated with the name of the platform. SharePoint upgrades through versions—and between you and me, SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2013 aren’t even the same platform at all.

Tip #2: Take the time to show off

I mean that you should have a communication plan. Collect feedback about what users liked and didn’t like about the previous intranet. Organize launch events every time you reach a milestone. Get a bit of enthusiasm going so users are more likely to embrace your new platform and support it.

Tip #3: Provide training

Training increases employee satisfaction. They’ll be able to do more tasks, they’ll be motivated to use SharePoint, and adoption will increase as a result.

Tip #4: Take a look at your business processes

SharePoint isn’t always going to be the problem. In many cases, there’s complex processes for approvals—often linked to a paper trail format. Remove complex workflows in favor of a single simple one for approval.

Tip #5: Keep your governance plan simple

You should definitely have a governance plan. But to be honest, no one will read it if it’s too big. Consider doing it as a wiki that everyone can quickly access and jump through to find the different parts.

Tip #6: Enforce said governance plan

Whatever policies you set, you need to make sure your environment respects them.

Tip #7: Make your intranet architecture logical

This is linked to governance because you need to create policies for how you’re going to store things. Even though you’re just doing an intranet right now, you need to have a vision for what’s going to go where.

Install and configure

I’ve seen it done too many times: you get SharePoint, use the interface to install—next, next, next—and a configuration wizard offers to configure everything for you, putting everything under one web application.

When you install SharePoint, the last thing you want to do is use the wizard, or interface.

Do not use the Click-Install.


  • Build your own PowerShell
  • Use AutoSPInstaller

Build your own PowerShell

I know that one of the reasons why we, as IT guys, choose to go with a Microsoft environment is so we don’t have to deal with Unix or Linux. We want to click some buttons and have things happen. That’s why Windows is so popular, that’s why Windows servers are so popular, and that’s why all these applications are so popular.

Well, with SharePoint we’re kind of going against all that. With SharePoint, the right way to install—and in many cases, the right way to set it up—is by using PowerShell. And PowerShell is a way of scripting. It’s a way of using command lines to talk to your Windows server and talk to your SharePoint environment.

Use AutoSPInstaller

If you’re not familiar with PowerShell, I strongly recommend you use an application called AutoSPInstaller. It allows you to script, put in whatever you want, and quickly redeploy an environment in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013.

So whenever you want to build a new testing environment for your developers—if you want to install a new server quickly, and you want to make sure every configuration is done properly—you want to use the AutoSPInstaller. Because when you use the interface to install SharePoint, it’s going to do very weird things, like add GUIDS.

For those who aren’t familiar: A GUID (global unique identifier) is a term used by Microsoft for the unique identity generated by its programming.

So when you’re creating a file or database, instead of just naming it something you’ll recognize, you can have a GUID assigned to it. It’s going to add a bunch of letters and numbers together because that’s how the program is going to recognize it, but no human will ever be able to pinpoint or recognize it quickly. It’s horrid.

Configure and optimize SQL

The speed of your SharePoint is directly influenced by the speed of your SQL Server.

You want to make sure you configure:

  • CPU, RAM, disks
  • NTFS allocation (4K vs 65K)
  • Initial size of DB
  • Autogrowth
  • Instant File Initialization
  • Maintenance plan (logs)

CPU, RAM, disks

The most common mistake is actually very basic: not enough disk—or rather, the speed of your hard disk or hard drives are not fast enough for the reads and writes that SQL Server needs to do for your SharePoint environment.

You’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough CPU power—enough RAM—to get all of the requests. And that really depends on what you’re going to do with your SharePoint.

NTFS allocation

Did you know that when you install SharePoint or connect a new drive, it formats the hard drive in what we call NTFS?

Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is. What’s important is that, by default, the allocation sectors are 4K. Which, if you want it the size it can write—and I won’t go into too many details, I know not everyone is interested in this—but SQL Server is able to write 64K.

This can only be done once you format your drive. So if your SharePoint is already running—tough luck. This has to be done while you set up your SQL Server. And what you can do is format your drive to allow larger allocation clusters.

Initial size of DB

The next thing to do at your SQL Server is change the initial size of your database.

If you want to change—here’s what happens. You create a new site collection, or you create a new web application. This is where SharePoint stores things.

If you want SharePoint to store things, this is equal to SQL Server. It’s a database server.

And if, when you create that database, it only creates a database of 100 megabytes, but you know your intranet is going to be at least 100 gigs, well then put your initial size at at least 75 gigs or 100 gigs.


There’s no use letting the database do an autogrowth—which is another very bad out-of-the-box configuration, in my opinion—because the autogrowth settings of your database is by one megabyte.

If you have a 10 megabyte document in your document library, the document library is 10 megabytes. And your database size is one megabyte.

If you add that document, the autogrowth setting will say: Oh, there’s a 10 megabyte document coming. We’re not going to take an extra 10 megabytes—we’ll take one and see if that’s good enough. No? Okay, let’s take another one. Is that good enough? No? Ok, let’s take one more.

So go ahead and set up the autogrowth so that it grows by a lot more than one megabyte at a time. This will allow the SQL Server database for your SharePoint to grow much faster and reserve the space.

Instant File Initialization

Which brings me to this other setting, Instant File Initialization. Everybody has heard of this at some point, even if it was in computer class at school. Computers store things in ones and zeroes, right?

So think of it this way: if the database where SharePoint stores things needs to grow, every time it needs to reserve space it says, Well, I’m going to need 100 gigs.

Instead of creating the space and taking it right away, it creates ones and zeros. So every ones and zeroes, it plus one and then it puts zero to make sure that it can accept both values—10101010, all the way up to 100 gigs. And then it’s sort of a checker, if you want.

What Instant File Initialization says: Oh, you want 100 gig? All right, we took it. It’s done. We’re not going to check whether the ones and zeros work.

Of course, this could lead to potential corruption. So far, I haven’t experienced any. This is definitely great for a development environment, when you need developers to test in the fastest environment possible. So be careful with that one.

Have a maintenance plan

And, of course, the last problem is is that the log files of your database can grow and grow and grow until the SQL Server has no more space. And then all of SharePoint shuts down, or you can’t add documents anymore in your document library.

You need to make sure you have maintenance plans so that you take backups frequently—that, or you need to truncate the log. There’s definitely lots of information to look at when you’re looking at that.

Consider whether or not to activate things like continuous crawl, which is going to require a lot power but also have a lot fresher index.

If you do activate continuous crawl, I don’t recommend you activate it everywhere.

If you do activate continuous crawl, I don’t recommend you activate it everywhere.

Identify your content source

How are you going to split different environments so that search starts crawling them separately, at different crawl schedules, and with different crawl types?

And is it going to be incremental or continuous crawls?

Configure schema

Did you know that when you create library and list columns, by default the search doesn’t pick them up?

You need to create what’s called a managed property in the search schema.

Timer jobs

Timer jobs are tasks that SharePoint runs on a schedule.

For example, you might have created something in SharePoint called the Content Organizer. When you drop a document in a document library, the Content Organizer automatically—based on rules you can set—moves it to a new document library in a new site.

But this runs on a schedule. There’s about five pages of jobs like this that you can configure, or that you can disable on a specific web application. So start configuring!

Always test your backups

SharePoint is a lot more than just SharePoint. It’s your workflows that are stored in your database. It’s SQL Server. It’s an IAS backup.

You need to make sure everything backed up properly. But most importantly: make sure you test the restore.

SharePoint is a lot more than just SharePoint. It’s your workflows that are stored in your database. It’s SQL Server. It’s an IAS backup.

Empower power users with SharePoint Designer

If you’re not familiar with SharePoint Designer, it’s a free tool that you put on your desktop.

It allows you to:

  • Connect your SharePoint site or site collection
  • Build workflows
  • Design new list views
  • Create external content types
  • And tons of other stuff!

It’s a great tool to use in all these cases. But you need to be careful with who you give it to—make sure they’re well-trained and understand the impact. Used improperly, SharePoint Designer can quickly and permanently completely destroy your environment.

Don’t customize everything

There’s a lot that can be done out-of-the-box and without code—so try not to create a new custom web part to do something that can already be done using SharePoint.

Think about what will be able to migrate to the future. Think about whether your solution will work in Office 365.

Using and building SharePoint—the right way

How can you make sure you’re using and building SharePoint the right way?

Folders vs metadata.

Think of it as folders storing all your files in different organizers and drawers. And metadata is how you tag the documents themselves so you can find them quickly.

If you choose to use:

  • Folder structure: Your documents can only be physically stored in one place at a time.
  • Metatdata: You can add multiple different tags to each document—making it easier to find content with different search parameters.

You should try to move away from using folders and towards using metadata to tag your documents.

Centralize and reuse

Metadata is stored using columns. The thing about columns, though, is there are different types of columns to choose from. And it does matter what kind of column you choose to create.

You have the choice of creating either a:

  • Column: Created within a document library or list, can’t be reused somewhere else. Or a:
  • Site column: Configurations are centralized and reusable across a site collection.

Because site columns are centralized, all of the lists and libraries across the site—as well as any subsites—can reuse that column and its configurations.

I recommend using site columns whenever possible so that you can reuse them.

Because site columns are centralized, all of the lists and libraries across the site—as well as any subsites—can reuse that column and its configurations. It also allows you to create a lookup column for a parent site.

Content types

If you have a bunch of site columns that you find yourself frequently using together, you can create what’s called a content type.

Content types are: Reusable sets of columns used together that define a type of content in your organization.

Whenever you add a content type to a document library, it automatically includes all of the columns identified within that group.

The value of the content type is that it allows you to have more than one type of content within the same document library, while still benefitting from column filtering.

You also want to stay away from endless columns. Users don’t want to start filling out complex forms to add an uploaded document—instead, they’ll just send it by email or put it back under file share.

Design a site architecture that accounts for the 5,000 list view threshold

Another common mistake I see is people complaining that there’s a 5,000 items limit on SharePoint.

This is not true. The limit of documents in a document library, if I remember correctly, is something like 50 million documents. It’s not a limit. It’s a view threshold because it hurts performance.

You need to plan your site architecture so that you don’t hit the list view threshold for a document library. If you have no choice, add some sort of indexing and filter columns that’s you’re using.

So as soon as you get more than 5,000 items, SharePoint stops showing them to you. Remember: everything is stored inside of SQL Server—there’s queries involved in this.

You need to plan your site architecture so that you don’t hit that number for a document library. Or—if you have no choice—add some sort of indexing and filter columns that’s you’re using.

Go into your SharePoint environment again, to your Library settings. Have you ever questioned what this is? This is for SQL Server—not the search engine.

What this allows you to do is choose which column is going to be indexed so that SQL Server can build an index for that information and not have to query every time. This lets you pull a lot more information in your list—far more than 5,000 items. However, you need to set this up before you hit the 5,000 threshold.

Enable metadata navigation to see again and reorganize / index sort and filter columns

If you’ve already passed the  5,000 threshold and you need to see your items again, enable metadata navigation. That way, you’re able to filter your document library, deleting or moving things into folders.

If you’ve already passed the  5,000 threshold and you need to see your items again, enable metadata navigation. That way, you’re able to filter your document library, deleting or moving things into folders.

I’ve got to be honest—I don’t use it that often anymore. But if you are still using the lookup column, it’s a very, very bad idea to do a lookup column for a list containing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of rows.

The performance hit every time you load the lookup is immense. So please—be careful with your lookup column.

Don’t try to make SharePoint your relational database

SharePoint is not the place to replace your relational database.

Those complex databases—where this is related to that, which is related to that, which is related to that, so that I can get all my information for a customer—SharePoint is not built for that and will not support that.

You can try to do it, you will fail at doing it, and you’ll just end up wasting time, money, and—probably like me a few years ago—quite a bit of hair.

What you need to look at is how to connect external data to your SharePoint. Or look at the new apps model that lets you surface this kind of complex application inside of SharePoint, through I-frames or however you want to look at it.

Security and permissions: SP Groups vs AD Groups

When you manage security in your SharePoint site, you have two kinds of groups:

  1. SharePoint groups: These are groups that are created for your site collection where you can assign permissions.
  2. Active Directory groups: These are groups created by your Active Directory admins that usually already exist.

First things first. Never give permission directly to an individual user. Never do this. Never do this. Never do this. Always give permissions to a group.

Whenever you change the membership of a SharePoint group, the next time the search passes with an incremental crawl, it’s going to launch a full crawl to recalculate the entire access control list— which is going to take hours and slow down your environment. You don’t want full crawls to be launched.

Whenever you change the membership of a SharePoint group, the next time the search passes with an incremental crawl, it’s going to launch a full crawl to recalculate the entire access control list.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Give permissions to SharePoint groups so your library gives rights to SharePoint groups.
  2. Inside of your SharePoint groups, add Active Directory groups.
  3. Then, add your users to an Active Directory group.

Only give permissions to SharePoint groups. And the members of the SharePoint groups should be Active Directory groups, not individual users. This is best practice.

But don’t start breaking inheritance at item/document level

Also, try to stay away from breaking permission inheritance at the item or document level.

By default, all sites, lists, and libraries in a site collection inherit permissions settings from the site directly above them in the site hierarchy. So sites inherit permissions from the root site, subsites inherit permissions of the parent site, and folders, lists, and documents inherit permissions from the site that contains them.

You can read more about customizing permissions for a SharePoint list or library in the official Microsoft support documentation.

The best thing to do—as long as you can, for as far as you can—is leave permission inheritance intact. If you have to break it, try to do so at the site level, if possible.

First of all, try not to do it. But if you’re going to break permission inheritance, try to do it at the document library or folder level.

Even this will hurt the performance of your SharePoint Server. SharePoint is going to start getting slower and slower because your document library is a query to the SQL Server. And for each row, if there’s custom permissions, it’s going to have to check the list of permissions for each individual row to see if you have access to it.

So the best thing to do—as long as you can, for as far as you can—is to leave permission inheritance intact. But if you have to break it, try to do so at a high level, like the site level, if possible.

15 quick tips to creating an awesome SharePoint

1. Creating too many subsites is not a good idea

Don’t create too many subsites. It’s not a good idea. It’s going to be hard to manage. It’s going to be hard to follow. It’s going to be hard to see what’s going on where, what’s been created where—especially for permissions.

2. Don’t copy/paste from Word—or be sure to clean up HTML

Write your content directly in SharePoint as much as possible. If your users are copy/pasting from Word, at least try to clean up the HTML because Word adds a lot of mad HTML markups. SharePoint 2013 is a lot better with this than its predecessors, but still—try to stay away from that.

3. Content Editor web part was meant for content—NOT custom CSS, JS, or HTML

The Content Editor web part was meant for content. In 2013, Microsoft even added embedded code to get you to stop putting your custom CSS, your custom JavaScript, or your HTML. Yes, it will work for that single page. But whenever somebody takes over those site collections, or it comes time to do a migration, nobody’s going to know what’s going on in those pages or how to debug it. Stay away as much as possible—or inventory every page where you do this.

4. Images uploaded all over the place

Try to upload images beforehand. Then, go to the location where you want to add them and choose an image that’s already in SharePoint. If you upload images through a website or web page, it’s going to add the image in whatever default document library it wants. And then it’s going to create a folder structure—which you should try to avoid.

5. Edit styles and theme colors for content authors to match your branding

You know those styles that let you create content inside your wiki pages or publishing pages? You can modify a CSS class or an SP color file to make sure it matches your current branding. That way, you can make sure your users stick to fonts and formatting that are on-brand.

6. One feature with many uses instead of many features with one

If your developers are going to deploy features, try to have them focus on one feature that deploys many things, or hidden features that depend on it, rather than having many, many features you need to activate.

7. Work with the right environments and identify them visually

Try to have different environments and identify them visually. If you’re working in a testing environment, you want to know you’re in a testing environment if you arrive there indirectly.

8. Have all the facts on InfoPath (you can still use it, but it needs to make sense)

If you’re going to use InfoPath, be aware of all the facts. Microsoft has said they’re stopping support for InfoPath in 10 years. If it serves an immediate need that won’t be around in more than few months or a year, and that won’t need to scale, go ahead and use it. But if you’re going to be using forms, try to create custom .net or web-based applications or forms instead.

9. Careful with event handlers (it’ll be tough to figure what’s going on where)

The problem with event handlers are that they’re hidden. What happens in the future, when you have no idea what’s going on? You arrive to your document library and have no idea what’s going to happen when you add a document inside that library. So be careful—try not to use too many.

10. Drag and drop files… without the metadata (use the datasheet view in Quick Edit)

If you drag and drop files inside, or you use the Explorer view to add documents—well, none of the metadata is going to get written or added. It’s not even going to ask you a question. So try to use the data sheets in Quick Edit to fill in all of this information.

11. Avoid complex approval workflows

We talked about this earlier when I said you need to rethink your business processes. With the technology here, you don’t need to automatically do the same complex workflow you had before with hard papers.

12. Work with documents in the library—don’t download and upload again

If you’re going to work with documents in a document library, then work with documents in a document library. Don’t download them onto your computer to work on them and then upload them again. You lose all of the benefits! People could be working on it while you were gone—you lose the co-authoring, the co-editing, all the real-time collaboration.

13. Having a naming convention for files—no more metadata in the file name

I also want you to stop with the file names that have tags or values that are going to change. These documents should just be called Contract ShareGate, or just ShareGate. And then 1, and contract, and Q1, and V4 should all be metadata so that I can find my document. So make sur eyou have a naming convention in place as part of your planning as well.

14. OneDrive vs OneDrive for Business vs MySite

OneDrive is like Dropbox. It has nothing to do with SharePoint—it’s a place where people are just going to store their documents to access them later on. OneDrive for Business is accessed by clicking on OneDrive, just to confuse everybody in your SharePoint environment. But OneDrive for Business has nothing to do with the public offering where you store files on the internet—it’s a tool you install on everyone’s computer to synchronize the document libraries offline. Microsoft marketing has associated the tool called OneDrive for Business with what we used to call MySite. So a lot of people are going to call your MySite OneDrive for Business. But that’s not right, even though that’s how you access it. So please, don’t confuse your colleagues: rename the hyperlink to something you invent in your company. Something like ShareGate Drive.

15. Understand how versioning and check-in/check-out works

This is very, very important because you can have users creating versions upon versions upon versions upon versions. Add limits. Understand what check-in and check-out does.

I know… it’s a lot of information. But following these best practices will help you have an awesome SharePoint!

Q&A from the webinar

Q: If you exceed 5000 list items SharePoint Online how do you get the view to work if you use the filter feature or is enabling meta data the only way?

A: Please visit the following :

Q: Any advice for a 7 person company? Should we proceed to use Sharepoint?

A: It has nothing to do with the actual size of the company. SharePoint is a platform and will help you build what you need with it. Obviously it may make more sense to use Office 365 instead of SharePoint On-Premises which such a small number of users, but the planning still needs to be there.

Q: Where would be a good start in learning how to create .net forms instead of utilizing InfoPath forms?

A: It’s hard to say, you would need to start from the beginning and make sure you have a good understanding of HTML and CSS as well as Javascript. Pluralsight is a great learning center to start online learning as well.

Q: Is it possible to change the OneDrive link text when my organization uses Office 365?

A: Yes you can use PowerShell to change it in both On-Premises and Office 365 as well as use a different Master Page or Javascript to override the default behaviour.

Q: Do you have more info on customizing theme styles and colours?

A: Check out this article on creating composed looks for SharePoint 2013, it may be helpful:

Q: If I have one site collection for policies, can I search that collection only?

A: Yes, Search can be and should be configured to serve the needs of the organization. Creating a Content Source or Result Source for that Site Collection could be one way to go.

Q: If InfoPath is dying.. what is the best way to add forms for entering new information to a list?

A: InfoPath can still be useful, but you need to know the facts and if it is a fit for yo and your organization. Otherwise you should look at creating custom web forms that do not required a program to view or create a new form item.

Q: How do you know when to create a sub site vs a new site collection?

A: It’s hard to know without some experience and knowledge around those two concepts. The lesson I learned was « when in doubt, create a new Site Collection ». Creating a new Site Collection is easier to recover from than creating a sub site in the wrong location.

Q: What’s the best way to initiate user buy in from those tainted by previous experiences? The goal is to steer away from network / department drives.

A: Do not call it SharePoint again! Give the project a name and it’s all about internal communications and training. Your colleagues need to see there is value in changing their ways. If they see value in using SharePoint over file shares then it’s an easy sell.

Q: Do you recommend content types stored at the top site or on the site which they are being used on?

A: Ideally I will create them at the root of the Site Collection or « Top Site », but it may vary since you may find yourself with too many Content Types quickly. The advantage is that once created, they are automatically copied to sub sites.

Q: Does the “lockdown” feature exist in SharePoint online?

A: According to this MSDN page, yes it is.

Q: Would you recommend disabling OneDrive and instead encourage users to place documents in their respective sites (checked out, of course) in order to discourage users from merely sharing their “local” documents and not placing documents in the “proper” location?

A: Honestly it is a great question and it is very difficult to “disable” OneDrive for Business features in SharePoint. Best is good communication/training constantly

Q: What is this security setting that will keep people from googling View All Site Content and being able to view my information?

A: View the following :

Q: Could you elaborate on the 5000 view threshold, Once i library is locked because of the threshold on sharepoint online, all i need to do is turn on managed metadata? are their other steps, or where do i go to read on how to unlock library?

A: Please visit the following :

Q: What was the URL for the governance post on your websites?

A: Here’s the link:

Q: Are there site collection columns?

A: Yes and No. There are called site columns and are the recommended way to add columns in your SharePoint site but can be created at the root of the Site Collection and available for all sub sites.

Q: How can you use ShareGate to replicate from one environment if the new farm is Azure?

A: Sharegate can migrate from an on-premise farm to SharePoint online

Q: Would you provide more details on best way to lock down SPDesigner in O365?

A: There are specific permissions need to access SharePoint through SPDesigner. Here an MSDN page on the subject:

Q: To have the same master page on each subsite, do you need to copy it across? Or can each subsite inherit from the parent?

A: Each subsite can inherit from the rootsite.

Q: Is there an open source community you know of, that we could upload our custom code/scripts to?

A: Check out

Q: Does anyone have these training videos for sale. I don’t have the time to learn how to make mentioned training videos?

A: You can check out 3rd party that offer these like and surely some others as well.

Q: How do you handle videos within SharePoint? Any particular governance plan?

A: Small videos can go directly in SharePoint but please keep in mind that it’s not a streaming platform. Not to mention that Office 365 is releasing a video portal site template very soon for SharePoint. Also look about using IIS for streaming Video, there are a few blogs out there on it. Yes, this should be in your governance plan.

Q: Is the content editor web part from MOSS 2007 deprecated in MOSS 2013 or is it still featured OOTB?

A: Yes, it is still there.

Q: Did Microsoft fix SharePoint 2013 SP1 yet? (can’t upgrade anymore after patching)

A: Looks like it’s fixed now:

Q: What backup occurs in Office 365 SharePoint

A: Backups are performed every 12 hours and retained for 14 days. Restore from backup can only be done at a Site Collection level in most cases.

Q: I hear users hate entering metadata keywords – any comments on this?

A: Well, I can understand the frustration for some users. Easy tip: Use default values for your columns and try not to flood the user with 20+ columns to fill

Q: How is governance different from role-based security?

A: Governance is a broad subject. It’s all about having rules and guidelines about the use of your SharePoint farm. It’s about more than just permissions.

Q: Should we be inheriting from OOTB Content type such as Document. People seem have varied views on this in the community

A: Sure you should inherit from OOTB content types! In fact, you don’t have any other way to create content types without inheriting for an OOTB one.

Recommended by our team

What did you think of this article?

Level up your Teams end-user training Watch our MVP-led webinar for expert advice from a Microsoft training pro.