Storing Data in SharePoint 2010

See how data is stored in SharePoint 2010 using items, lists, libraries, sites, site collections and web applications.

It's important to understand data structure since it's not visible in SharePoint. A lot of people get confused and don't understand how to use SharePoint sites, pages and lists.





The video is for beginners, developers, administrators and end user:


Video Transcription

This video shows you how data is stored in SharePoint 2010 which is useful for developers, administrators and end user. It doesn’t show you exactly how each of the logical units work in detail since this is part of other presentations.

Items & Documents

The most basic element in SharePoint is an item or a document.

An item can be a calendar entry, a task or a contact. An item can have metadata like location, start date and end date (calendar entry) or a telephone number, first name or last name (contact).

A document can be a Word document, PowerPoint presentation, some Excel file or a PDF. Video and music files are also seen as documents by SharePoint. A document can also have metadata like contributor, format, language or a scope (coverage).

So the most basic element is an item or document. Sometimes you also have folders you can use to store items or documents.

Lists & Libraries

Items and documents have to be stored somewhere and therefore we have lists for items and libraries for documents.

As you can see data can be displayed in different views depending on how it makes sense to display the information.

On the left side there is a navigation pane you can use to switch between lists and libraries.

Items, Documents and Folders are part of a list or library where each list or library can have a different purpose: You can store tasks, events, links, discussions, announcements or a lot of different kinds of documents.


A list or library uses views to display information in rows and columns. If you have a calendar events will be displayed in a more appropriate way. Anyway the item or document itself is represented by a row and its metadata in different columns.

Content Types

And you can group metadata stored in columns into certain types of content called Content Types.

Different types of information have different metadata. For example:

  • Regarding a calendar entry its metadata may consist of a start time and end time as well as a location.
  • Regarding a document its metadata may consist of an author, a title and a modified date.
  • Additionally a report can have metadata like language or scope.
  • Additionally a whitepaper may have metadata like rights management information.

For example you can have the following Content Types:

  • Document with the columns author, title and modified date.
  • Report with the columns author, title, modified date, language and scope.
  • Whitepaper with the columns author, title, modified date, language, scope and rights management information.

In general you can add content types to lists or libraries. You can add the 3 content types mentioned above to a document library to store documents with different metadata. You can also create 3 libraries to store each type of document.

Quick summary:

  • Content is stored in lists
  • Described with metadata
  • Metadata is grouped to Content Types


Next we have sites. Each list is part of a site. Also each library is also part of a site.

A site can be seen as a container which has a default page (Homepage) and which includes lists and libraries. A site is a container for data.

Sites are the elements in SharePoint which can be arranged in hierarchies. There are different types of sites:

  • A site can be a team site. Each team has lists and libraries to store contact information about team members, documents or events.
  • A site can also be a project site where each project has lists and libraries to store information about the project like its current state, presentations and calculations.
  • A site can be an Internet facing Website.


Sites can have sub sites to represent a logical hierarchy… but there are also pages. E.g. a site can show office locations where pages represent the different offices.

A page is part of a site and actually a document stored in a document library. In this case the document is called ‘Page’ and has metadata like title, content, author and the document library is called ‘Site Pages’ where the pages are stored. In this example there are 2 pages: ‘Home’ and ‘How To use This Library’. As you can see items and documents are everywhere and can have different appearances even as pages.

Site Collections

A site collection is basically a collection of sites with a root site at the top. The root site is almost a site like any other site below it. Additionally you can manage settings which apply to all sites in the site collection e.g.

  • The available functionality,
  • Common navigation,
  • Security settings or
  • Layouts.

Under site settings you can see settings for the Site Collection like ‘Workflows’ or the ‘Site Collection Administration’ if you have the right permission.

Web Applications

At this point you need a way to access your collection of sites and sub sites via a web browser. And therefore we have web applications. A web application is the logical component:

  • It has a Host Header (URL), e.g. http://intranet.
  • It stores data inside one or more associated content databases.

A web application can have several site collections:

  • http://intranet
  • http://intranet/sites/hr
  • http://intranet/sites/operations

A team site is usually used inside the company and has a different URL than an internet facing website. This is the part where the web server comes in...

Web Server

A web server is a server where a set of services are running to publish websites to the internet or intranet. Of course a web server can publish more than one web site.

If you have multiple SharePoint servers they are grouped to a SharePoint (server) farm. While the web server publishes information to the Internet or Intranet the database server is required to store configuration data and content.

The picture shows:

  • A web server hosting two web sites: One web site for the intranet and one for the extranet.
  • The intranet contains two site collections.
  • The first site collection contains a site for the ‘Sales Department’, a site for ‘HR’ and a project site.
  • The sub site ‘Sales Department’ contains lists and libraries with e.g. presentations, white paper as well as product descriptions.
  • The second site collection includes a site for the executive committee.
  • The third site collection realizes the extranet and is located in a different web application and database.


Information Workers these days have problems to make decisions based on too much information or because of insufficient information. Information is usually stored at different places, can’t be found or accessed. The goal is to work more easily and more efficient and to securely store, manage and retrieve any information from anywhere. Storing Information at one place is required.

Microsoft offers SharePoint as part of a solution where you can store information using items, documents, lists, sites and Site Collections. You can group them into logical units to represent teams, departments, partners or projects.

While this presentation gave you an overview how data is stored in SharePoint the next presentation will give an overview how to work with data stored in SharePoint.