What do I gain or lose by using SharePoint site collections rather than sub sites/webs?

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in Blog

Terry, asked in the forums what you gain and/or lose if you architect your sites around site collections rather than sub sites/webs. Here’s my take on this issue: If you use site collections you lose:

  1. Aggregation/rollups. Components such as the Content Query Web Part that can perform rollups of lists across entire site collections and thus sub sites, cannot roll up across multiple site collections. This can generally be offset by the use of the Data View Web Part, but you need SharePoint Designer to use that web part since it is not available through the UI.
  2. Peer site references. You can define columns to source their data from peer sites within the site collection, but not across site collections.
If you use site collections, you gain:
  1. Strict security isolation. For example, the creation of site security groups for each sub site, makes those site security groups visible to any administrator of any peer sub web within the site collection. In strict security context cases, the names of these groups, which usually involve the site name, could reveal the existence of some site that you might not want everyone to be aware of. It just helps to isolate security to the site level.
  2. Better backup granularization. Doing site collection backups can be much faster and more efficient when sites are broken into many site collections rather than one.
  3. Better stale site management. SharePoint’s stale site management features are, as you might have guessed, tied to site collections. This means that if you have a site collection that contains 10 sites of which 9 are never used but one gets some usage, then that site collection, and the 90% stale content, never gets flagged for review.
  4. Better quota management. Quotas can be assigned at the site collection level. If the site collection contains multiple sub webs, it becomes harder to determine which site(s) are most active and consuming the majority of the allotted quota.




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Cornelius J. van Dyk

Born and raised in South Africa during the 70's I got my start in computers when a game on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum crashed, revealing it's BASIC source code. The ZX had a whopping 48K of memory which was considered to be a lot in the Commodore Vic20 era, but more importantly, it had BASIC built into the soft touch keyboard. Teaching myself to program, I coded my first commercial program at age 15.

After graduating high school at 17, I joined the South African Air Force, graduating the Academy and becoming a Pilot with the rank of First Lieutenant by age 20. After serving my country for six years, I made my way back into computer software.

Continuing my education, I graduated Suma Cum Laude from the Computer Training Institute before joining First National Bank where my work won the Smithsonian Award for Technological Innovation in the field of Banking and Insurance. Soon I met Will Coleman from Amdahl SA, who introduced me to a little known programming language named Huron/ObjectStar. As fate would have it, this unknown language and Y2K brought me to the USA in 1998.

I got involved with SharePoint after playing around with the Beta for SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Leaving my career at Rexnord to become a consultant in 2004, I was first awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award for SharePoint in 2005, becoming only the 9th MVP for WSS at the time. I fulfilled a life long dream by pledging allegiance to the Flag as a US citizen in 2006. I met the love of my life and became a private consultant in 2008. I was honored to receive my ninth MVP award for SharePoint Server in 2013.

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