Now let’s be honest. How familiar is this scene below…
ACT I. SCENE ONE.
(In a project kickoff meeting. Enter SHAREPOINT ADMINISTRATOR,
and PROJECT MANAGER with Project Staff.)
Me thinketh this is a good day to kicketh off a project. We now hath a SharePoint portal for our project. So we can collaborate and store all our documents and track-eth our progress in one central location.
Yes. I verily decree that you have such a portal-anon! I say useth it for all your project documents and tracking-eth…
…but dost not upload-eth any large PowerPoint files.
END SCENE. END SHAREPOINT USE.
NOTE: the above scenario could replace PowerPoint with any commonly large file types (i.e., WAV, MP3, PDF, etc).
Introducing SharePoint in your organization will produce the same productivity gains as a teenager with their hands on Shakespeare Cliff Notes for their final essay; but, when you have to place arbitrary restrictions on usage in order to control storage growth and keep out performance-hogging items it’s like you’ve just read Old English Shakespeare to them. Fie!
And let’s be honest, no one understand Shakespeare unless Denzel Washington is delivering the lines a la the 1993 Kenneth Branagh directed Much Ado About Nothing.
But why place such restrictions when we want users to use SharePoint for all their collaboration, regardless of document type?
Easy. It all comes down to performance. Restricting file size/type is an easy, yet arbitrary, way to control the impact certain files have on SharePoint performance. Both large files (especially lots of them and with versioning turned on) and certain file types will overtax the system, slowing down all SQL queries. Let’s consider this example:
So 75 GBs isn’t a whole lot, but when you think about it, each PPT is taking 75 MBs of space (that’s a lot of space consumption by a single document). Think about adding PDFs to each project, maybe a few CAD files, some videos that go along with those projects. Suddenly you have a GIGANTIC site collection of 100s of GBs – and that’s just one site collection of the many in your environment slowing down the performance for the rest of your SharePoint. In order to avoid this performance degradation, Microsoft has put in place defaults at the web application level. For SharePoint 2010 and 2013, the default file size setting is 50 MBs. Let's have Microsoft TechNet explain:
Thresholds are those that have a default value that cannot be exceeded unless the value is modified. Thresholds can, in certain circumstances, be exceeded to accommodate variances in your farm design, but it is important to understand that doing this may affect the performance of the farm in addition to the effective value of other limits.
The default value of certain thresholds can only be exceeded up to an absolute maximum value. A good example is the document size limit. By default, the default document size threshold is set to 50MB, but can be changed to support the maximum boundary of 2GB.
These thresholds are in place to ensure optimum SharePoint performance. The easiest way to ensure this is to place restrictions on those file types that tend to be very large. While the default can be changed to a higher or lower level per web application, that doesn’t solve the underlying performance problem and may just confuse end users on when they can save certain file sizes/types to which location.
BUT you don’t want to tell your user to use SharePoint for all collaboration EXCEPT files larger than XX MBs or XYZ type files. Like the scene above, you’ll get a lot of questioning, funny looks AND before you even finish speaking you can guarantee that the users have already abandoned SharePoint. Here’s another scene to press upon this point:
Current project site with file restrictions (maximum file size if 50 MB; MP3s and EXEs not allowed):
HARK! There is a way to prevent this abandonment and increase SharePoint usage as the sole collaboration platform – while ensuring large, beastly files don’t slow down SharePoint performance. Here’s how to rectify the above example:
Current project site with no file restrictions:
Note: the 2 GB file limit is a hard and fast rule that NO ONE can get around (see this article).
Enabling Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) in your environment allows you to keep data fully accessible and usable in SharePoint yet keep the data out of SQL and in a more BLOB (unstructured data like PPTs, DOCs, etc.) friendly repository (like a file share or NAS). RBS is a native SQL technology that works with SharePoint 2010 and 2013 (For 2007 users, you can enable External BLOB Storage).
Dell Software offers an enhancement solution for RBS/EBS called Storage Maximizer for SharePoint which makes it easier and more flexible to choose and send the data you want (based on any metadata, including custom columns) to the external repositories you choose. Your end users will be NONE the wiser!
Learn more about how large files can kill performance and drive away user adoption in this technical brief: The Top 5 Performance Killers in SharePoint Storage.