SharePoint 2013 Capacity Planning

One of the first documents you should refer to when planning a SharePoint deployment – as a platform and also individual solutions – is Microsoft’s Software Boundaries and Limits

When planning to implement SharePoint Server on-premise, the farm and services architecture should always be scoped within the Microsoft’s Software boundaries and limits for SharePoint 2013 published on TechNet. The same document should also be used for guidelines when designing solutions to be built on SharePoint – it provides detailed guidelines for limits when designing lists, libraries and site-based solutions.

There is now a separate document for SharePoint Online that is understandably shorter given the fewer options (that would be none) available for managing the farm itself – SharePoint Online: software boundaries and limits

For older versions of SharePoint, as a rule of thumb, if you are running an older version of SharePoint, follow the lower limits set out for either version. Sometimes, Microsoft adds new limits to new releases that we guess are based on feedback and experiences during previous versions. If you’re still running a previous version, take advantage of those lessons learned, even if the new recommendations are more constrained than the official support limits.

A reminder of the Microsoft definitions:

  • Boundary = static limit that cannot be exceeded by design
  • Threshold = configurable limits that can be exceeded to accommodate specific requirements
  • Supported = configurable limits that have been set by default to a tested value.

So a boundary is fixed – you can’t change it. Threshold means the limit to maintain performance will depend on behaviour. e.g. for comparable performance, a highly collaborative site, with content changing frequently should be kept much smaller in size than a long-term archive where content is rarely accessed and never changes. Supported means that if you exceed the limit and experience problems, Microsoft will laugh at you. Of course they won’t, but you will need to bring the servers back within support limits to receive any help troubleshooting what’s gone wrong. (You can also expect to be asked to remove any bespoke code and third party software, but that’s a whole other topic.) The other key consideration with supported limits is that they are based on the hardware and sample (sterile) content Microsoft used to stress test. Your own hardware is unlikely to exceed it and performance may be impacted long before you reach the official supported limits.

What follows is our summary with additional notes and comments to help interpret some of the less clear guidelines. Colour code: Bold means the entry is new to 2013, Green means it is higher than for previous versions, Red means it is lower than for previous versions.

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