Our company has recently started using Office 365 and I am helping set up our structure of Sharepoint sites, Subsites and Libraries. The company is multi-national with 1000 employees. Each department will be given a team site, e.g. Engineering, Purchasing, Finance etc. e.g. https://companyname.sharepoint.com/teams/Engineering/

In each team site, some content will be used by that department only and some needs to be shared with other departments, which will obviously need different permissions.

I am not sure whether to group the content into Libraries or Subsites. E.g. the Engineering site might look like this: Site/Library#1: Engineering write permission, other departments read only Site/Library#2: Engineering write permission, Finance write, other departments read only Site/Library#3: Engineering write permission, Purchasing write, other departments read only

The general advice online is that, if you have different permission requirements then Subsites are more appropriate. However, this seems like overkill because (certainly with the first department I am looking at) the content is not that disparate and intuitively one site, with Libraries, seems more appropriate.

Despite the advice online, it looks like I can give Libraries different permissions just like with Subsites.

Thank you for any advice you can offer.

  • 1
    I don't want to put this as an answer as I'm rather novice, so I hope a comment will suffice: why not both? Each department gets its own subsite. Engineering. Finance. Then you can put document libraries on the subsite, and change these permissions as necessary. It's a bit more organized that way, though I'm very new to nested permission levels. If someone else can add, please do! Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 13:00

3 Answers 3


I would do this way.

  • Create SharePoint User group for each department so that i can easily manage the permissions.
  • as each department have own site collections, I will create a Shared Docuemtn library in each site collection.
  • Then break inheritance and give full control to the department which it belongs and add reset department groups as read only.
  • Always use the unique permission to avoid any kind of security issue.

I would say that if there are going to be multiple lists for each of your scenarios, I would go with creating a sub-site with that permission set. Otherwise, if you know that there will only ever be one list/library with that permission set, a list with a broken (custom) permission set seems more appropriate.


I know this is old but I googled and got here, so this might help someone who is looking for a similar answer.

How I recommend of creating this structure, is have every department as a different subsite, instead of a different site collection as someone suggested because this would mean to create additional groups in each site collection to be able to share lists or whatever.

And why subsites instead of libraries? Because you are creating work groups for each departments, at one point they might want to add shared calendar, task lists, or start creating different document libraries with special permissions for confidential information.

Also you can create an owner group for each department site and train a couple of superusers for each one of them that can manage their sub sites and lighten your work load, this is specially useful for when you have big companies like the one you described 1000+.

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