SharePoint 2010: Optimize SharePoint with External Storage

By Iqbal Khan

SharePoint has clearly staked its claim as one of the premier collaboration platforms. Working together means sharing documents, so among its many other features, SharePoint includes document management. Therefore, you’re probably using SharePoint as a place to store your documents to make it easier to share them with others.

Every time you store another document in SharePoint, the database grows. Each document you store in SharePoint may be anywhere from 500KB to 2MB, sometimes some even larger. When you start talking about hundreds of thousands or even millions of documents stored in SharePoint, it can soon become massive. SharePoint stores all these documents in a SQL Server database. As the database size grows beyond a certain threshold, it can become difficult to manage and degrades the performance of both SharePoint and SQL Server.

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Like other relational databases, SQL Server wasn’t necessarily designed to store documents (called binary large objects, or BLOBs, in SharePoint lingo). Instead, it was designed to store structured relational data. SharePoint stores all the documents as BLOBs in the database, and by storing these documents as such, your SQL Server database can get real big real quick.

If the SQL Server database you’re using is 20GB or less, it will still be manageable. In many cases, your SQL Server database may grow into the hundreds of gigabytes or even the terabyte range. At this size, database management operations become more challenging, time consuming and problematic if anything goes wrong. Even simple backup and restore operations take on a whole new meaning.

And, when all your documents are stored in SQL Server, SharePoint performance can suffer. SharePoint provides a simple document storage mechanism within SQL Server that lets you archive older documents to cheaper storage, keeping documents around for a certain period of time for compliance reasons and more.

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