The reality, as unfortunate as it is, is that many organizations tend to use SharePoint as a fileshare. Way too often companies use a single site, with a single document library and all company files and folders residing inside of that library. As new libraries and other lists are added to the page, they all share the same (homepage) site. So before long, the homepage site becomes the Wild West of SharePoint. Cluttered, busy and ugly (and not necessarily in that order).
Is this the right thing to do or should you create many sites in SharePoint?
This is best answered by giving you a real life example. You win the EuroMillions, you are now the proud owner of an unbelievable amount of dosh. You decide to buy a big house, but yet, decide to put all your kids, parents, in-laws in one little room (you’re so cruel). And that little room is where everyone eats and sleeps, despite the fact that there are many other rooms available in your big house. Would you ever do this? Hmm, I would hope not. I am sure you would try to give everyone a separate room (with the in-laws as far away from your room as possible). The message here is that if you acquired Office 365/SharePoint, make sure to capitalize on your investment, don’t turn it into DropBox or another file share.
I am a big advocate of creating many sites. In fact, as many as you need. So what would be valid reasons for creating separate sites? Let me explain…
Reason # 1: Unique security
While you can control security at a list/library or even file level, the best practice is to control security at the site level. So anytime you have unique contributors/teams/groups of employees working with content – create a new site. For example, HR documents need to go into a separate site, Finance Documents should get their own as well, etc.
Reason # 2: Unique business function/purpose
Even if security remains the same; if you have a different purpose for content like a different project or department, or team, create a new site as well. Even if you have same people working with content, it might be a good idea to separate it into multiple sites. In that case, your sites will serve as a container to organise relevant information. Following the above example, you don’t want to mix HR Department docs with Finance Department Docs.
Reason # 3: Multiple types of content
Whenever we talk about content in SharePoint, we primarily think about documents. It is not just about docs though. In SharePoint, you can manage documents, calendar, tasks, issues, contacts, etc. SharePoint Sites allow you to create and add additional web parts (related to the document library in some way) to store those other types of content. So anytime you need room to grow and anytime you want to avoid the cluttered environment – create a site. A great example of such site is a project site. You might have a document library to manage project documents, but you also will have Tasks to manage tasks and project schedule, Calendar for team meetings, Contacts to store team contacts, etc.