How to Overcome SharePoint Online Limitations?

Are you encountering limitations when migrating from file servers to SharePoint Online?
Are you frustrated by the limitations of SharePoint and OneDrive?
Do you know that there are other file server migration strategies to overcome these limitations?

Do you know about these SharePoint Online limitations?

  • 5,000 item - Having a large number of objects in a document library degrades performance to the point where it becomes unusable. 
  • 300,000 item - This limits the number of documents users can sync using OneDrive sync client. Performance starts to degrade.
  • 400 Character URL Limit - The URL path for all files and folders can be no more than 400 characters (and no more than 400 characters for a single file or folder name in the URL). 

Story #1 - Engineering firm experimenting with SharePoint

An architectural firm in Copenhagen, Denmark, has 3 locations at Denmark and Norway. The file server is currently on site with 7TB of data, but they want to get rid of the file server. There are no official communication channels between the 3 sites, so using a cloud solution to unify the 3 sites makes sense.

They experimented with SharePoint and OneDrive. At first it was good because the integration of OneDrive Windows Explorer makes it easy to access files and folders from SharePoint. Later, however, they ran into problems with the AutoCAD application. One problem is related to file locking, the other to external references within a single file. This is not a SharePoint/OneDrive issue, but rather an application compatibility issue between the CAD and SharePoint applications.

SharePoint storage costs are another issue. If they had put all 7 TB of storage on SharePoint, it would have cost about $1400/month. The company wants less frequently used files to be stored in another system. They want a storage platform/solution that solves the file locking and external referencing problem while providing a way to use lower cost storage services like Amazon S3 and Azure Blob Storage.


Story #2 - Design firm with Mac Users

A design firm specializing in museum design uses a mix of CAD applications and Adobe Creative Suite. There are Mac users. Mac has certain characters in the file name that SharePoint does not support. Also, the Mac file path could be much longer than 256 or the current SharePoint limitation. You have tried SharePoint in the past but it did not work.

Story #3 - Migrate local NAS to SharePoint 

An MSP is helping a local customer migrate a local NAS to SharePoint and runs into SharePoint limitations.

  • The company was trying to migrate more than 700,000 files from a Synology NAS to SharePoint Online to leverage its Office 365 subscription.
  • The dataset contained very long paths and file names, which prevented some files from migrating.
  • The OneDrive sync client was installed on over 50 laptops.
  • The sync brings their network down for hours at a time.
  • Microsoft pointed out that OneDrive sync performance degrades when there are more than 100,000 items and advised the company to create multiple sites, each with fewer than 100,000 items.
  • The company decided that the cost of restructuring and the uncertainty were too high, and began looking for alternatives that could work with their data.
"Do you want to divide and reorganize the original repository of 700,000 individual files into seven different SharePoint libraries? What about the cost of retraining staff to get used to the new SharePoint online locations?"

What are the limitations of SharePoint?

Limit #1: Objects to be synchronized and objects in the library.

According to the SharePoint Online documentation:

"Although SharePoint Online can store 30 million documents per library, we recommend synchronizing no more than 300,000 files across all document libraries for optimal performance. Also, the same performance issues can occur if you have 300,000 items or more in all the libraries you want to sync, even if you do not sync all the items in those libraries..."

But from experience, performance starts to drop after 100,000 items. And oddly enough, that number shows up in SharePoint documentation in other contexts as well. Whether it's 300,000 or 100,000, the bottom line is that in many real-world enterprise environments with more files, the OneDrive sync client has serious performance issues, forcing users to switch to the Web interface. 

Compared to the OneDrive sync limitation, the 5000 view item limit in a library is even stricter. The moment you exceed 5,000 items in a library, it becomes almost unusable. 

Limit #2: Limit on maximum name length

This limit is another common problem when migrating file shares to SharePoint Online. It usually manifests itself in an error message like this:

"The specified file or folder name is too long. The URL path for all files and folders must be 400 characters or less (and no more than 400 characters for any single file or folder name in the URL). Please type a shorter file or folder name."

The migration will fail for any files that do not meet this requirement. And since this is the upper limit for the relative URL containing the entire path and name of the document library, this happens far too often. The result is an incomplete or aborted migration.

Another, even more stringent limit you may encounter is the 256-character limit on your Windows PC, when users synchronize SharePoint Online document libraries with their PCs. The error message may look like the following:

"The file name(s) would be too long for the destination folder. You can shorten the file name and try again, or try a location that has a shorter path".

Limit #3: Prohibitive Costs of data reorganization.

In addition to reorganizing file server data into different silos in different document libraries, reorganizing permissions is also a major headache.

The following quotes explain why some people believe that SharePoint does not support the removal of permissions inheritance, while others point out that it does. It's confusing because the support is there, but only for relatively small data sets. The documentation explains:

"A list can have up to 30 million items, and a library can have up to 30 million files and folders. When a list, library, or folder contains more than 100,000 items, you can't break permissions inheritance on the list, library, or folder. Nor can you re-inherit permissions on it. However, you can still break inheritance on the individual items within that list, library, or folder, up to the maximum number of unique permissions in the list or library..."

This can turn permissions migration and management into a data reorganization nightmare to avoid manually overriding the inheritance of permissions for items in the list, library, or folder.  

How to overcome SharePoint's limitations and what are the alternatives?

If the SharePoint limitations are holding you back from migrating file servers to Cloud, there is a better way!

Alternative Solution #1 - Lift and Shift

Lift-and-Shift is a migration strategy that creates another set of virtual machines in Azure, AWS, or a regional co-location data center and moves the data on the on-premises file server to the virtual machines in the data centers. Once the data migration is complete, the DNS name for the file server can be quickly switched from the on-premises file server to the file server in the cloud. In this type of procedure, lift-and-shift is also known as rehosting. It is a relatively fast and cost-effective way to migrate data from on-premises to the cloud, and the best part is that it is backward compatible after DNS redirection.

Alternative Solution #2 - Hybrid Cloud and Local File Server

Lift-and-shift is easier when the Internet in the office is fast. Therefore, a site-to-site VPN between the office firewall and the cloud virtual network acts like part of the local network.

The hybrid cloud file server is a good balance between the local file server and the cloud file server, so employees in the local office can still use the file server over a local network.

Why Triofox helps when SharePoint doesn't work?

Triofox Solution

With the Gladinet Triofox solution, the cloud file access solution is interoperable with existing file server network shares and provides offline folder capabilities. It includes integration with Active Directory, cloud drive mapping, global file locking and NTFS permission control. These native integrations make the file sharing solution an extension of the current file server rather than another data silo that takes away data.

Mapped Drive

Mapped drive over the HTTPS channel to the corporate file server is a crucial feature. Employees are familiar with a mapped drive, and no additional training is required.

Active Directory

Corporate users already have corporate identities in Active Directory and related Active Directory federation service and SAML single-sign-on. They don't need yet another set of credentials to access a file-sharing solution.

File Locking

Most file-sharing solutions offer manual file locking in the forms of "file check-in" and "check out." Gladinet provides automatic file locking by detecting file opening requests. When Microsoft Word opens a file, the file locking process will be initiated automatically and finished automatically when the file editing finishes.

File Permissions

Finally, integrating with Active Directory and NTFS permission makes it easier for system administrators to set up the permission control. The permission features make the Gladinet solution stands out among its peers.

How can we overcome these limitations?

  1. File Server AS-IS - We add a cloud layer to your existing file server to enable HTTPS access for Active Directory and SMB/CIFS protocols. Your file server has no such restriction. 
  2. Cloud Storage Services - We use cloud storage services such as Amazon S3 and Windows Azure blob storage. These services are highly scalable globally. 
  3. Avoid Synchronization - 100% file synchronization is a terrible idea for enterprise data. First, the data footprint is huge. Second, it is not secure at all and provides a larger attack surface. On-demand synchronization is much better for business use.

Here are the features that will help employees get up and running quickly. 

Cloud Drive Mapping

Drive mapping is an important feature for online file access. End users can easily drag and drop files and folders from a mapped drive over the Internet. Drive mapping also helps manage external file references.

Global File Locking

File locking is an important feature for online file access and team collaboration to avoid conflicts. End users need to control global concurrent online file access by using file locking to maintain consistency.

Seamless Transition

From Active Directory identities to NTFS file permissions and folder protection, all the things an employee is familiar with remain as if nothing has changed. Similar and consistent user interface approach minimizes the user learning curve.

Here are the features that give you a SharePoint-like user experience.

Productivity

Make it easier for your teams to collaborate with customers successfully:

Outlook Integration

Instead of sending files as Outlook attachments, files and folders can be shared as links via Outlook.

Send Large Files

Enhance large file transfers' performance by only sending the changes that were made instead of synchronizing the entire file.

Share Files and Folders

Files and folders can be turned into weblinks and accessed from web browsers or any mobile client.

Receive Files and Folders

Weblinks can be generated for web browser-based upload to receive files and folders.

Advanced Sharing

Policies such as expiration dates and read/write permissions can be attached to file sharing.

Desktop Integration

File-sharing can be as easy as right-click on a file from within Windows Explorer.

Security

Secure Data Room

Shared folders have optional secure data room features to enable view-only permissions that disable downloads.

Granular Folder

Define different permissions for folders at different levels of the directory structure.

Domain Control

The destination email domain is one of the white list parameters that control who can receive file-sharing invitations.

IP Address Control

The destination IP Address is another parameter to control who can be the receiver for a file-sharing action.

Collaboration

Co-Editing

Integrates with Office365 to take advantage of built-in co-editing features.

Notification

Keep track of important changes and events in the system.

Do you want to make these features available to your remote workers?

Offline Editing

A traditional VPN requires a stable and active connection to the corporate firewall to function. A disruption in the Internet or an interrupted connection to the firewall interrupts employees' work with unsaved files. With offline editing, remote workers can save and edit documents without an active connection and save the files asynchronously to a corporate file server once the connection is restored.

Always On

A firewall vendor typically offers VPN without an always-on feature. Always-on VPN requires more infrastructure components such as identity servers, authentication servers, compatible clients OS, etc. However, most modern cloud applications are always-on, allowing offline access to files and folders and storing files on a local device before synchronizing them with online servers.

High Performance

Accessing file servers is hardly high-performance, because when a VPN serves as an enabler, file access is done via the SMB/CIFS protocol. First of all, the SMB protocol is not a data streaming protocol with many requests and responses. If we can switch to HTTP streaming for file transfer, performance will improve. Second, HTTP-based file transfer traffic can take advantage of a global content delivery network, so HTTP is faster for cross-continent transfer.

Are you ready to boost mobile productivity and enable your employees to work better from home?