Best Practices for SharePoint Online

Permission Management

  • Give people access by adding them to standard, default groups (such as Members, Visitors, and Owners). Make most people members of the Members or Visitors groups, and limit the number of people in the Owners group (have at least 2 Owners). 

  • Follow the Principle of Least Privilege: Give people the lowest permission levels they need to perform their assigned tasks. 

  • Use permissions inheritance to create a clean, easy-to-visualize hierarchy. That is, avoid granting permissions to individuals, instead work with groups. Where possible, have sub-sites simply inherit permissions from your site, rather than having unique permissions. 

  • Organize your content to take advantage of permissions inheritance: Consider segmenting your content by security level – create a site or a library specifically for sensitive documents, rather than having them scattered in a larger library and protected by unique permissions. 

Information Architecture 

A site’s information architecture determines how the information in that site — its webpages, documents, lists, and data — is organized and presented to the site’s users. Information architecture is often recorded as a hierarchical list of site content, search keywords, data types, and other concepts. To create an information architecture, you must analyze the information to be presented in the site. Here are some of the questions you can use to develop an information architecture: 

  • What kind of content will you have on the site? How will that translate into sub-sites, lists, libraries, and so on? 

  • How will information be presented in the site? 

  • How will site users navigate through the site?

  • How will information be targeted at specific audiences? 

  • Part of your information architecture might include classification of information.  

Document Management 

Document Versioning 

  • Enable document library versioning to ensure a complete version history is kept and maintained. This allows document changes to be tracked, and provides a mechanism to allow users to restore from previous versions if required and view details on past changes made. 

Document Library Naming and File Naming Conventions 

  • Document libraries must have a logical name to make the SharePoint site intuitive to use and ensure content is uploaded into the correct location. This would improve user adoption and collaboration. It is also important to ensure no spaces are included in document library internal names. On the Internet, spaces are encoded as “%20” in the URL. Spaces are acceptable to be included in the display name for document libraries. Without spaces, the URL is constructed in a more user friendly manner. 

  • File naming conventions are recommended to be named in a logical manner and short to ensure URL length limits are adhered to. It is highly recommended to not use any special characters in folder names, file names and also in document library names. Special characters such as ampersand, are not to be used. Always use alpha and numeric characters only. 

One Type of Content per Library 

  • To avoid hours of adding tags to bulk uploads, using one type of content per library can save time. This means organizing content distributed across different libraries can aid in reducing time required to tag documents in their corresponding libraries. 

Use Metadata instead of Folders 

  • Do not use folders to store content in document libraries because this can cause issues such as users misfiling documents, documents getting lost in nested folders, and it's more time consuming to navigate around document libraries to locate content. Tagging is preferable because it is more flexible. It also means you can view items by different classifications, which enriches the functionality of your library. Metadata provides the ability to view the list of files in the document library in different ways that allows you to find content quicker and also produces quality reports that is virtually impossible using folder structures. 

Site Column and Site Content Types 

  • Site columns and site content types are definitions that can be re-used across a site or its subsites. This saves set up time and helps minimize admin overhead. 

  • Site content types help structure a document library’s content by defining the metadata required to be captured in the content type, and associating the content type to files in the library. 

Check Out Feature 

  • The function of this feature is to prevent alteration of a document by multiple individuals. This is a good feature to have when there is more than one person working on a specific project or to prevent another from making changes to completed work without consulting you about it first. 

Document Library permissions 

  • In document libraries, the permissions recommended to be set up is to adhere to using SharePoint groups rather than granting users access directly to the library. This minimizes admin overhead from a permissions management perspective. With this security model, users can be added / removed from the SharePoint group(s), which subsequently controls their access levels to the library, depending on the group’s assigned permission levels on the library. Without the need for folders, permissions can be set up directly on the document library (if the library is to have unique permissions different to the site level permissions), otherwise the library’s permissions can inherit from the defined permissions at the site level.  

Document Library Views 

  • When document libraries include metadata and files are tagged appropriately, document library views can be set up to present the content in different ways that will help users find content quicker and easier. Content such as the most recently modified files can be presented at the top of the default view, saving the user time in finding the document that was last updated in the library. 

  • Views can also provide a great reporting feature on the content in the library. 

  • The All Documents document library view is the default view that typically always has all the metadata properties in the library visible. This view is to be used for doing bulk tagging on the documents in the library, post the bulk upload of files. It can also be considered as the administrative view of the library. 

Configure Alerts 

  • Alerts can be set up in a document library. They will inform you if someone is trying to change or delete your documents in some form or fashion. It will also keep you up to date on what has been added / changed in the document library through email notifications.