• Best Practices – Working With Large SharePoint Lists

    At the SharePoint User Group UK (SUGUK) meeting held in London yesterday, an interesting topic – Building the Perfect SharePoint Farm: A Walkthrough of Best Practices from the Field – was covered. During one of the offline discussions, the issue of applicable best practices on how to manage large SharePoint lists cropped up.

    Everyone generally agreed on the recommended best practice of “no larger than 2000 items”. The difference in opinion arose from what comes up at the end (or beginning) of the phrase in italics. Some of the opinions expressed could be paraphrased thus:

    1. You should have no larger than 2000 items in a single list irrespective of the number of views contained in the specific list.
    2. You can have more than 2000 items in a single list as long as each view within the specific list has no larger than 2000 items.

    There are few pretty good and well documented articles on the subject (please see resources below) but here’s a summary of my view on the subject matter:

    Opinion (1) does not truly reflect any of the best practice recommendations and would need to be reconsidered. While opinion (2) is correct, it’s only partly so.

    A single SharePoint list may indeed contain more than 2000 items; actually, up to 5 million items. However these items would need to be arranged into containers. Each list has a default container i.e. the root folder. So by creating subfolders in the root containers, you can distribute the items into 2000 per folder. Here’s an excerpt from the white paper titled: “Working with Large Lists in Office SharePoint Server 2007

    "…the recommendation is that a single list should not have more than 2,000 items per list container. A container in this case means the root of the list, as well as any folders in the list — a folder is a container because other list items are stored within it. A folder can contain items from the list as well as other folders, and each subfolder can contain more of each, and so on. For example, that means that you could have a list with 1,990 items in the root of the site, 10 folders that each contain 2,000 items, and so on. The maximum number of items supported in a list with recursive folders is 5 million items."

    In summary, having more than 2000 items in a single list, all in a single container (e.g. the root folder) and attempting to use list views to group the items into collections of no larger than 2000 per view isn’t exactly keeping to the best practice recommendations.

    Best practices for publishing portals
    Plan for software boundaries (Office SharePoint Server)
    Working with Large Lists in Office SharePoint Server 2007


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