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SharePoint Lists Vs. Database Tables

I got a question from a developer whether they should use SharePoint lists or database tables to hold the data for his application.  This is a fair question and as a consultant I will start with the standard answer:  It depends.

I will follow up that answer with the standard consultant question: what are you trying to do?  There generally isn’t one answer for any technology choice.  We need to take as many factors into account as possible.  Who will be maintaining the data?  Will the data only be used in your SharePoint application or does it need to be available across the enterprise and used by a multitude of systems?  What standards are already in place for application data?  Are there security concerns for this data?  All of these questions and more need to be answered in order to decide where you should store your data.

SharePoint has come along way since I first started using the 2001 products.  But just because you can use SharePoint lists to hold all your application data doesn’t mean you should.  My general rule is if there is little or no usage of the data outside of your SharePoint application, you don’t need complex table joins and it doesn’t need to be edited by other systems then it is acceptable to use a SharePoint list.  If you go beyond these limits I heavily lean toward using a DBMS.  Could you still use lists outside of these conditions?  Yes, but it will probably cost you more in development time across all of your systems.  Just remember, just because you have a hammer, everything isn’t a nail.

posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 7:21 AM Print
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# re: SharePoint Lists Vs. Database Tables
Santosh Balan
2/5/2013 11:59 PM
Tim,

Is there any special considerations that needs to be given while designing SharePoint lists?

Example in a typical Database table design, we would design a one-to-many relationship in a particular way with composite keys etc.

Any leads on the best principles for SP Lists?

Thanks in advance.
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# re: SharePoint Lists Vs. Database Tables
Tim
2/6/2013 6:56 AM
Santosh,

SharePoint lists are a powerful tool. I would start with similar principles as I would with designing database tables so that you have clear lookup data points between them. The main considerations are both the performance and technical overhead with choosing this approach. I don't personally have a best practices list that I can point you to, but I'm sure they are out there.

Tim

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Tim Murphy

Tim is a Solutions Architect for PSC Group, LLC. He has been an IT consultant since 1999 specializing in Microsoft technologies. Along with running the Chicago Information Technology Architects Group and speaking on Microsoft and architecture topics he was also contributing author on "The Definitive Guide to the Microsoft Enterprise Library".



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