SharePoint content storage options:
implications for search

October, 2009

Ideally, it shouldn't matter where we store content. In the real world, though, this is one of the first and most important decisions when implementing and customizing a search system. In SharePoint alone, there are more than 10 content storage options, and for many organizations there are additional external content repositories.

Fundamentally, there are two dimensions to the content storage question: technology and usability. There are three basic technology options: the file system, special purpose software applications, and general purpose relational databases. From the user's perspective, the primary issues are:

  • Where do I look?
  • What do I type in the search box?
  • How do I refine my search?

Whatever its limitations as a search engine, SharePoint is popular as a search system in part because it addresses many of the issues in both dimensions. In this article we will:

  • look at SharePoint content storage options;
  • discuss how to evaluate their suitability for collaboration and publishing applications;
  • describe the pros and cons of SharePoint lists vs. databases and SharePoint libraries vs. file shares;
  • look how to customize SharePoint search to address usability issues.