Using RBS to Exceed the 200GB Content Database Limit

The Microsoft product team has published a software boundaries and limits document that provides guidance on the supported limits and known boundaries of SharePoint 2010.  

Boundaries are absolute limits that cannot be exceeded by design.  An example boundary is that you cannot store a document in SharePoint that exceeds 2GB.   There is an absolute value and SharePoint cannot be configured to get around the limit.

Supported limits define the tested value for a given parameter.  The default values for these parameters were defined by extensive testing by the SharePoint product group.  Exceeding these limits is possible but will not be supported by Microsoft and you may experience unexpected results.   An example of a supported limit is the largest number of site collections per web application, which is 250,000.

There are two specific supported limits  I want to call out:

  • Documents per library limit – 30,000,000
  • Content database size limit – 200GB (collaboration),  1TB (document archive)

The first limit is related to documents in a document library.  You can store a very large number of documents in a document library, however, the actual performance may be impacted by how you nest folders and the views that you create.   The maximum supported limit for documents in a document library is 30 million.

The second limit is the maximum size for a content database.   For collaboration sites, Microsoft will support content databases up to 200GB.   For single sites that are being used as only document repositories the supported value extends up to 1TB.

These limits presented above are not mutually exclusive.  This means that although you can store up to 30 million documents in a document library, the actually number may be significantly less do to the document sizes.   You still need to maintain a content database size of 200GB or less.

There is a rumor that has been floating around for a while about Remote Blog Storage (RBS) and it’s ability to get around the documented 200GB content database limit.   The rumor states that if you have very large files you can use RBS to store them outside of the content database on cheaper storage medium.  The thought is that this would reduce the size of the content database, allowing you to store more large files in a site collection than you could if they were kept directly in the content database.   This is false.   

Yes, storing files with RBS will reduce the physical content database size but it doesn’t resolve the original reasons that caused Microsoft’s product team to put in place the 200GB limit.   There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.    If you are using RBS in order to exceed the 200GB recommended limit for a content database you may find yourself running into support issues in the future.

The recommendation is to live within the 200GB per content database rule.  This doesn’t matter if you are storing all of the data directly in the content database or only some of it because you are using RBS. 

If you are looking at RBS please make sure you take the time to fully understand the purpose and value provided by the solution.  Also make sure you understand the risks and data management requirements prior to deploying a RBS solution.   You want to deploy RBS for all the right reasons and not as a result of something you overheard.

It is important to note that if a person contacts Microsoft support and their farm is outside of any current published limits and boundaries they will be asked to resolve those issues first prior to receiving support.

Update (July 2011): Microsoft has modified the support boundaries and limits document to clarify this situation.  Please review the notes related to content databases in that document.  SharePoint service pack 1 now enables content databases to grow in excess of 4TB when you meet a set of detailed requirements.  See the boundaries and limits document for details.

0 thoughts on “Using RBS to Exceed the 200GB Content Database Limit”

  1. Hey Mike,

    Care to comment further on: “Yes, storing files with RBS will reduce the physical content database size but it doesn’t resolve the original reasons that caused Microsoft’s product team to put in place the 200GB limit. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.”?

    A lot of folks out here have looked to EBS and RBS to help with these limits, so I””m curious if you mean to say RBS is not going to help here at all, or if it will help but you have to set realistic expectations of A, B, C…

    My theory around what you mean is that even if you externalize the BLOBs the metadata mass left behind (in the SQL DB supporting SharePoint) must still remain below 200GB, which I get. So basically RBS lets you stretch-out a DB a little longer as you are externalizing a large portion of what would be normally stored in the DB (i.e. without RBS ALL the content, not just the metadata, would be stored in the DB).

    If I am way off here please advise.


    Topically this is a great post BTW!

    1. It is true that EBS / RBS does not allow the user exceed the 200GB support limit. I understand how it can be easy to make the assumption that moving content out of the content database and onto a file system would enable more content to be associated with a content database. The limits and boundaries document does state the 200GB limit for content databases and no where does the document indicate that moving content into RBS / EBS would overcome the limit. Now with that being said, does that mean you are going to have issue with your SharePoint environment if you go over the 200GB limit? Maybe, maybe not. There are many factors besides the amount of content that can have an impact on the performance of a SharePoint farm. What I can confirm is that if a customer contacts Microsoft support due to a performance issue and it is determined that the customer has used RBS to exceed the 200GB limit then they may be asked to resolve that issue before additional support will be provided.

      The SharePoint product group is always evaluating system performance and updating their documentation, so there might be more clarification and guidance in the future. My advice for now is to always stick with 200GB or less per content database no matter if the content is directly stored in the database or externalized via RBS. Doing so will ensure that you will be supported by Microsoft and it will reduce the chance of issues during future service pack updates or migrating to SharePoint vNext.

      There is one situation where you can exceed 200GB and it is supported. That is if you have a single site collection in the content database and the content is not used for collaboration but for records retention. In that case the supported limit is 1TB.

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