So In a galaxy far, far away in the distant past, there fought some brave Jedi, representing good, structured data, in conflict with “The Folders”, their evil counterpart. Their weapon of choice: Metadata – the power thereof commonly recognized in the SharePoint culture.

“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed.” ― Darth Vader (Folders in SharePoint? Hmmmm….)

Okay…. That was fun. But seriously, if you’re (only) using folders in SharePoint, you’re doing it wrong. No excuses. And I’m not just talking folders vs metadata, I’m talking SharePoint vs File Shares.

So you think you should use folders, because ‘business’ wants it? Because that’s the way they’ve always worked and you decided that by giving them what they want is your User Adoption Strategy? You’ll change it later? You’ll convince them later? Wrong! Why don’t you just leave them on the cheaper storage – file shares / server?

I am a SharePoint trainer and nearly every day I meet students who tell me they use SharePoint, but not the metadata. That’s like buying an expensive chest of drawers – and then using it as a box.

“The debate about folders vs. metadata within SharePoint has been going on for some time. For many of us with IT backgrounds, the choice seems obvious. When it comes to searching, sorting, filtering and categorizing data, metadata comes out as the clear winner. Folders seem almost primitive, with many limitations. That said, why does it seem to be so difficult for end users to jump on board with metadata? Why the resistance to move from the primitive world of folders to the flexible new world of metadata?” (Jim Klapwyk – see a link below to this great article)


I’ve been fighting for metadata & SharePoint so long – that I’ve forgotten why. This has been a good exercise for me to sharpen up on the pros and cons again AND see what’s changed in 2013. This blog is not about the HOW to do it – but the WHY and to give you access to more resources so that you can make the decision yourself.

So why should you use metadata as opposed to folders in SharePoint?

Metadata allows us to group data in different ways – folders are static. If you ‘group’ it by department – it’s gonna stay grouped by department except if you duplicate the data. It’s harder to change folder structures, while changing metadata is easy.
It allows us to view (look at) data in different ways – so different people can look at the same data – with ‘different eyes (see image below)
Consistent metadata across documents within a library will help improve the user’s search results
Folders increase URL length, which breaks when above 259 characters
Libraries / lists in SharePoint can be exported to excel to serve the purpose of registers for audit purposes – 2 birds – one stone. (see image below)
When documents are stored together – standards can be applied
SharePoint allows for multiple classifications (a document belongs to both Marketing & HR – no problem)

Grouping Metadata / Views
Grouping Metadata / Views
Exporting Libraries to Excel
Exporting Libraries to Excel

I cannot demonstrate the big picture in one blog post, nor can I convince you to use metadata – if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes. What I can promise you is that it’s the “bees knees”. Please take the time and read more about this. The links I’ve added below are great resources on this subject:

Some awesome reads / blogs to help you make up your mind:
SharePoint Folder vs Metadata
SharePoint 2013 Best Practices: Using Folders / Metadata
SharePoint Lesson #21: Metadata vs. Folder
10 Reasons to Avoid Folders in SharePoint
SharePoint VS. NFS Differences

Till next time. “May the Force be with you”
eMpowerMeTM White Background

Note: eMPowerMe is an initiative of The Guid Stuff (Pty) Ltd. to reach out to people and change their lives by empowering them. Please share this with other users and in the process empower them as well.