SharePoint Online migration–Limitations

This is a series of blog posts that I am writing covering migration to SharePoint Online. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read my previous posts:
The classic SharePoint migration mistake
SharePoint Online migration – Pilers and Filers

SharePoint Online migration–Start up is key

What I want to cover in this post are some of the technical limitations around SharePoint Online and tools like OneDrive for Business client app when it comes to migrations.
Every product has it’s limitations and these are changing quite rapidly as the service improves. These however are the most important ones you should know about when it comes to migration I believe:
SharePoint Online can be purchased in a number of different ways, whether by stand alone plans (1 and 2) or via a Suite (P, M or E). The following applies:
a. Team site storage = 10GB + 0.5GB per user. Thus for 10 users you get 10GB + 10 x 0.5GB = 15GB total storage. Team sites are designed for information shared between team members. This is for all plans that include SharePoint Online.
b. Public web site storage = 5GB. Every plan includes a public web site that is designed to be placed on the Internet and for anonymous users to access. This is for all plans that include SharePoint Online.
c. OneDrive for Business storage = recently upgraded from 25GB per user to 1TB per user. OneDrive for Business storage is designed for personal user storage. Initial storage for the OneDrive for Business cannot be pooled and provided to other users or to the Team Site. Each individual licensed users received 1TB for their own usage. This is for all plans that include SharePoint Online.
So for 10 users you have:
Team site = 15GB
Public Web site = 5GB
OneDrive for Business = 10 x 1TB = 10TB
d. All plans support the ability to purchase additional pooled storage that can be allocated either to the Team Site, the external Public Web Site and/or individual users OneDrive for Business (although with OneDrive for Business going to 1TB this may no longer be possible because site collections are currently limited to 1TB, however until this is enabled you can certainly add pooled storage to the 25GB quota for OneDrive for Business).
Site Collections
A SharePoint Site Collection is basically a grouping of SharePoint sites and subsites into a single container for security and policy reasons.
a. Small Business and Small Business Premiums plans (P1 and P2) are limited to a single Team Site Collection.
b. Mid-sized Business plans (M) are limited to 20 Team Site Collections.
c. Enterprise plans (E) including stand alone SharePoint plans are limited to 10,000 Team Site Collections.
d. You can only create a single Public Web Site Collection on all plans.
e. Individual Site Collections are now limited to a total size of 1TB per Site Collection. This means the maximum space you can allocate to a Team Site in P plans is 1TB (i.e. 1 x Site Collection). In a M plan it is 20TB ( i.e. 20 x Site Collections). In E plans it is 10,000TB ( i.e. 10,000 x 1 TB). Thus, the maximum amount of information you can store in SharePoint Online Team Sites is P plans = 1TB, M plan = 20 TB and E = 10,000TB. Don’t forget, we are only talking about the shared Team Site here for each plan and have no included any personal or web site storage.
f. Each plan supports up to 2,000 subsites per Site Collection. Think of the top of the tree as the Site Collection and any site you create under this as a sub site. Thus, you can create 2,000 of these subsites in any site collection. Thus, the total subsite limit in P plans = 2,000 ( i.e. 1 Site Collection), M plan = 40,000 ( i.e. 20 Site Collections) and E plans 20,000,000 (i.e 10,000 Site Collections).
File limits
a. The maximum file size you can upload to any SharePoint Online plan is 2GB per file.
b. Files that contain detectable viruses and malware will be prevented from being uploaded to SharePoint Online.
c. Certain file types cannot also be uploaded to SharePoint Online. You can see a list of those at: Types of files that cannot be added to a list or library. There are about 20 or so and note that EXEs can be uploaded!
d. File names can have 128 characters
e. Folder names can have up to 250 characters
f. Folder name and file name combinations can have up to 250 characters.
Sync limits
You can use the OneDrive for Business desktop to synchronize from SharePoint Online libraries to a desktop. You can synchronize from Team Sites as well as OneDrive for Business storage to your desktop.
a. You can’t synchronize more than 20,000 items in total across all of your SharePoint Online Team Sites and OneDrive for Business inclusive.
b. You can’t synchronize more than 5,000 items from a single site library including files and folders.
c. Open files can’t be sync’ed.
The ability to synchronize documents in SharePoint Online to a desktop was designed for only a small subset of currently ‘in-use’ files. It was never designed for the bulk synchronization of gigabytes and gigabytes of data to individual desktops let alone local network shares. This, I believe is being changed with upcoming versions of the client sync software, however you will find an upcoming post from me on why you shouldn’t be configuring systems in this manner anyway.
All versions of SharePoint (online and on premise) have restrictions on what characters can appear in files and folders. This is mainly due to the fact that most of the time you are working with SharePoint via a web browser and some characters have special meaning there (i.e. *, /,:, etc).
Types of files that cannot be added to a list or library
This means if you try and migrate a file of folder that contains one of these it will fail. In that case you simply need to rename it. The list about what characters are not acceptable in files and folders can be found here:
Information about the character that you cannot use in site names, folders name and file names in SharePoint.
Items in a list
Lists in SharePoint (any version) that display over 5,000 items have difficulty being rendered. This is more about the load on the web server and browser than SharePoint. You can overcome this limitation by creating data ‘views’ in SharePoint to restrict what is displayed at anyone time. For more information about this see:
The number of items in this exceed the list view threshold
There are other limits but you are less likely to come across these but I still strongly recommend you read the following article that contains information about the limits around all SharePoint Online plans:
SharePoint Online: software boundaries and limits
Also, make sure you check back there regularly as the service is upgraded over time.
Yes, SharePoint Online including OneDrive for Business does have some limitations and if you are looking to migrate to it then you should know what these limits are before you start doing a migration. However, remember as with all limits these will change and upgrade over time. My expectation is that the next change we will see is the Team Site initial collection jump from 10GB to 1TB or perhaps even 10TB. I also expect the limits around OneDrive for Business synchronization to dramatically increase as they increase the amount of space available for people.
Hopefully this post will give you a better idea of what the limitations are that you should be looking out for when doing a migration to SharePoint Online.

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