Increase available SharePoint storage

Reduce storage costs and operational pressure by ensuring that your tenant does not contain  any unnecessary SharePoint sites and teams.

Screenshot of SharePoint Admin Center report showing active sites, number of files, and percentage of storage used

If you've ever received a notification that your tenant's SharePoint storage limit has been reached, you'll be aware of just how expensive additional storage can be. But how is storage assigned, why do tenants run out of it, and how do you free up space?

What are the standard SharePoint storage limits?

Microsoft assigns SharePoint storage in tenants with a base-plus-per-user approach. This means that it assigns 1 TB of base storage to an organization, and then an additional 10 GB per licensed user.

In a smaller organization, this does not pose a problem, because the base storage is spread across a small number of people, so in a 50 user org there is 30 GB available per user. In large organizations however, ratios become challenging. For example, an organization with 800 users will get:

1 TB + (10 GB x 800 users) = 9 TB

This is an average of 11.25 GB per user.

At even larger org sizes, available storage per user gets closer and closer to only the 10GB assigned per user license.

Each user also gets 1 TB of individual OneDrive storage, but even though this data technically lives in SharePoint (behind the scenes, each user's OneDrive is technically a SharePoint site with access limited to them only), this is separately assigned and cannot be used for shared storage such as that needed by teams and sites of all kinds.

More information: Enterprise plans comparison table

How much does extra SharePoint storage cost?

The cost of additional SharePoint storage in some instances depends on the organization's licensing scenario, but in most cases it's available at a cost of $0.20/GB, purchased via the Office 365 Extra File Storage add-on in the Admin Center.

This means an additional 1 TB of storage costs $200/month. These costs can very quickly accumulate, for our example 800 user organization this can easily grow to an additional annual cost of $ 24 000 within a few short years.

Why do Microsoft 365 tenants run out of storage?

Initially, the terabytes of SharePoint storage assigned to a tenant seem more than sufficient. Why then do tenants run out of storage?

Why tenants run out of storage - User behaviour

People create new workspaces instead of using existing ones

The collaboration tools in Microsoft 365 are super easy to use. So easy to use that it's in many cases easier to simply create a new team or SharePoint site for sharing information with colleagues than it is to search for an existing, appropriate container.

People create test workspaces to try functionality and then forget to delete them

Everyone likes to try out new functionality or concepts before committing to using them "in production". Most tenants are littered with teams and sites named "Jonathan Test X" or "Testing Sarah March".

When people leave, content they manage is orphaned

When a person leaves an organization, they very seldom ensure that all content they manage is correctly reassigned to someone else by the time they leave. They might delegate containers for their most recent work, but in most cases older workspaces (whether they are still be relevant or not) are neglected and end up without an owner, but still consume storage space.

SharePoint is incorrectly used to store media files it is not suited to

SharePoint is designed as a collaborative content storage platform, perfectly suited to people working together on documents, spreadsheets, pages and other files which usually require input from more than one person. It can also be used to house images and video files (and does so very interactively recently), but it's not intended to house extremely large files such as 4K or 8K files used by media production companies.

Because the default individual file upload limit is 250GB, it's often unwittingly seen as a perfectly acceptable location for these files, resulting in very rapid storage consumption.

Why tenants run out of storage - Technical configuration

Unlimited versioning

The Microsoft 365 way of working is to a large degree about seamless, easy collaboration first and foremost. An important part of this collaboration is highly interactive co-authoring in Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and also more recently Loop.

When co-authoring, new versions of documents are constantly created in large numbers. What starts as a single file instance quickly becomes dozens upon dozens of versions as various team members make edits, and eventually hundreds or thousands of versions for long-term collaborative files.

Lack of retention policies

Organizations with thorough governance plans usually have detailed retention policies in place which determine how long certain categories of content are kept for, and when they need to be disposed of. Without retention policies in place, it's easy for content to remain on the tenant indefinitely, regardless of whether it is still relevant or not.

How to free up SharePoint storage space

When planning to free up tenant storage, it's often easiest to start with a few fast, high impact wins to relieve immediate pressure, and then invest time in structural measures which will deliver results slowly but steadily over the long term.

High impact option 1: Clean up orphaned sites and teams

It's fairly easy for sites and teams to become orphaned when their owners leave and their accounts are deleted. This usually leaves members and visitors in place, but no one with accountability to manage the content.

To clean up orphaned workspaces, you need to find all sites and teams which do not have either a group owner or a site owner, and then either reassign or delete them.

How to clean up orphaned workspaces

Screenshot of the removal of orphaned Teams and SharePoint sites using SProbot
Screenshot of removal of duplicate SharePoint sites and Teams using SProbot

High impact option 2: Remove duplicates

When in a rush, it's often much easier to create a new site or team than it is to find the correct existing one among dozens (or even hundreds). 

Sometimes people don't have access yet to the appropriate existing container, so they're unaware that it exists.

To get rid of unnecessary duplicate SharePoint sites and teams, you need to  find all sites with the same or similar names, but different URLs, and then delete the obsolete or redundant duplicates.

How to remove duplicate workspaces

High impact option 3: Get rid of empty sites

Empty workspaces are a common occurrence in most tenants. People regularly create sites with good intentions, but then never use them.

To clean up empty workspaces, you need a report which shows sites in which the document libraries and custom lists do not contain any items, and for Teams that there are no conversations.

In some instances, people create folder structures but never populate them, so the presence of folders does not necessarily indicate that a site contains content.

How to find and remove empty workspaces

Screenshot of SProbot cleanup tool for empty SharePoint sites and teams
Screenshot of SProbot cleanup tool for test SharePoint sites and teams

High impact option 4: Delete sites and teams which were created only for testing purposes

Everyone loves testing new functionality, or processes, or just experimenting with what a set of content pages could possibly look like.

The problem is that test SharePoint sites and teams clutter search results with irrelevant content.

To clean up test content, you need a report of all sites which include mention of testing-related words and phrases.

How to find and delete test workspaces

How to ensure your tenant stays tidy

Once you've taken the most appropriate quick high impact actions for your tenant's specific situation, there are several structural measures you can implement to prevent further content growth and sprawl.

Why you need Teams and SharePoint governance

Because Microsoft 365 makes it so easy to create a SharePoint site or a team, people tend to create new workspaces without considering whether a suitable container already exists, what template to use if not, or what the appropriate security settings should be.

This often results in uncontrolled content sprawl.

Gain control of your tenant by using SProbot's AI-powered cleanup tools to get rid of unwanted SharePoint sites and teams, and then put in place controlled new workspace provisioning, driven by centrally managed templates and clearly defined governance rules.

Reduce content sprawl

Audit your existing tenant content with a set of clean-up tools which target the most common unwanted, obsolete and unmanaged workspace types.

Prevent duplicate and other unnecessary workspaces from being created with clearly defined governance policies.

Save time

Enable your users to find SharePoint sites and teams through search which is powered by descriptions and tags which are automatically created by AI.

Create and easily update templates to include standard navigation, libraries, pages and permissions so your users can hit the ground running.

Empower your users

Give your users the tools to create their own workspaces without giving up governance control.

Enable a simplified SharePoint and Teams creation process with request forms which clearly explain the purpose and settings of each template type.

See how SProbot can help you keep your M365 tenant tidy

We'll show you how to tame content sprawl and make it easier for your users to find what they need

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