SharePoint 2007: Site Collections or Sites…That is the Question

There seems to be some confusion on the difference between site collections and sites in MOSS2007.  Almost everyone I speak to that has experience with SPS 2003 stumble with this when they first start working with SharePoint 2007.  So for that reason…I shall write a quick post about it.

In SharePoint Portal Server 2003, whenever you went to the sites directory and clicked the Create Site link under the Actions menu, you were creating a site collection.  Every site collection has a top level site where things such as site templates, list templates, and cross site groups existed.  Within a site collection, additional sites could be created that would share certain things (such as the template galleries and potentially permissions) with the top level site.  In essence the site collection was it’s own unique hierarchy of SharePoint sites and for the most part completely independant of other site collections.  In a stand alone installation of WSS there was typically only one site collection.  In SPS, there could be hundreds which is why organizing them effectively in the Sites Directory and Areas (via listings) was very important and crucial.  In fact, the primary role of SharePoint Portal Server aside from the additional functionality it provided in enterprise features such as search, audiences and personal sites – was the ability to organize the massive amounts of data that exists across multiple site collections better. 

By default in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (if you are using the Corporate Intranet Portal template as your default site) when you go to the “Sites” link and click the Create site button…you are instead creating a site that is a member of the site collection your portal is in.  So instead of having a portal layer and then a large number of unique collaborative collections below – everything now exists in a single site collection by default.  This is great if within your organization, you want to “easily” share things such as templates, site columns, content types and navigational elements. Plus security and user management is much easier using this approach.

However some organizations will still require unique site collections since their business units are very unique and very little sharing is anticipated between groups. If that is the case, then you may instead wish to create site collections from the sites directory. To do this, you need to:

  • Enable Self Service Site Creation in the Central Administration (Steps Below)
  • Change the configuration settings under the Sites Directory (Steps Below)

So in essense, the new way is really much better since we no longer have to manage two completely separate levels however if you liked the old way better and want more unique site collections for your collaborative areas, you can have that too.

Enabling Self Service Site Creation

  1. Log into the Central Administration Site (Note this is a unique site collection as well and if you have it located on a funny port number, it is usually a good idea to add it to your My Links)
  2. Click Application Management
  3. Click Self-service site management
  4. Select the correct web application (that step is easy to miss) and select On for Enable Self-Service Site Creation
  5. Click OK


Enable the creation of Site Collections in Sites Directory

  1. From the portal, use the Site Actions menu, select Modify All Site Settings. If you are not on top level site you will need to go to Top Level Site Settings.
  2. Under site collection administration, select Site Directory Settings.
  3. Select the checkbox to create new site collections from sites directory.

46 comments on “SharePoint 2007: Site Collections or Sites…That is the Question

  1. Bob Fox says:

    Excellent post Amanda. Very very nice. Im glad Shane got you on this one post a day kick… nice to see you writing more :)

    Bob Fox

  2. Renaud Comte says:

    Great post !

    i just make the same kind of post in french too :)

    But, i discover something weird

    When you use the site directory to create a new “Site collection”, the new page ask you for some categories, after you have to choose the different permissions then you’ve got a fresh site collection under the “/sites” path

    But after check, the link is not included in the site directory ?
    >>> the site exist but not linked in the “Sites” list of the Site Directory

    Have you got the same problem ? Is it a bug or a local prolem of my VPC ?

    Thanks in advance

  3. amanda says:

    Thanks Bob!

    Thanks Renaud – you did a fantastic job on your post as well. Very nice amount of detail. I will look into the issue you descripe a bit more. I wasn’t able to replicate it immediately but I am sure there is probably something buggy going on there.

    Anyone else find what Renaud is describing?

  4. Robin says:

    Yup i have the same experience. You can basically add multiple sitecollections beneath one ‘intranet’ portal.

  5. Jay says:

    Great post Amanda,

    Further to your post I’ve been thinking … this is almost a required configuration? If by default all content is created within the portal site collection then you have definite scalbility impact. Single site collection means a single database… not sure if the old 2GB recommendation is relevant to 2007.

    I’ll do some further digging, but food for thought


  6. Liza says:

    Hi, does anyone know if it is possible to share master pages, page layouts and content between sitecollections?

  7. ali mohammed says:

    i get this error message when i click on this the “mysite” link “Your personal site cannot be created because Self-Service Site Creation is not enabled. Contact your site administrator for more information.”

    i have configured shared service and enabled self service site creation. but still get this message.

  8. Thomas says:

    Liza: Yes and no: If you go with multiple Site Collections, I would recommend you use Features to package and deploy master pages, page layouts, content types etc. “No” – because this is not “sharing” – its “deploying the same multiple times”…

    Amanda: Thanks for opening this issue! I’ve also been digging around this lately, and my main concerns are:

    1) Scalability – what are the recommendations on number of site collections versus number of sites – have you found anything on that?

    2) Backup and restore. OOTB, the only way to backup a site is by using stsadm -o export. For a site collection: stsadm -o backup (like in the old days…) However, doing a really simple test gave me the following: 6 secs for -o backup (complete site collection, standard Collab Portal) and 30 seconds for -o export (_blank_ Team Site) backup. If this explodes for sites having content, I suspect we cannot use stsadm -o export for e.g. nightly backups.

    There are other issues to consider as well – e.g. Site Quotas are set pr. Site Collection. The “Site Usage and Confirmation” feature is also pr. Site Collection. Content Types and Site Columns are managed pr. Site Collection. And finally, the nifty Content Query Web Part can only find content from within the Site Collection in which it resides. So you really need to consider all these issues before deciding one thing or the other. I tend to recommend starting out with the default, and then try to live without Site Quotas and automatic site deletion. Backup is more critical, in my opinion. I think you (and I) will end up with a 3rd party tool, once the number of sites reaches something that cannot be backed-up nightly.

  9. Kylie manders says:

    Amanda, are there any web parts such as ‘content by query’ which will traverse several site collections?

  10. grayghost says:

    It would seem that there is no “limit” per say as long as you are not storing more information in your site collection than your content database can handle. Check out Joel Olsen’s post on this for more information over at

    I do have to say that yes, “it’s easier” however I would say that you lose on security in various fashions which I shan’t go into here.

  11. viet says:

    When I try to turn the Self – Service Site Management on I get this error: “Cannot enable site creation because there is no site collection at “/” on the Web application. ” PLEASE help!

  12. Rochelle says:

    Thanks for the information everyone. I am tossing up on whether to use Sites or Site Collections for Business Units sitting under a “Corp Portal”.
    I have some questions I was hoping to get answered please.
    1) So are the choices only – Sites in the one Content DB or Site Collections, each in their own DB. So what happens with your growing content DB’s. I heard a few things about splitting in SP2003 but am not familiar with the SharePoint 2003?

  13. Mark H. Smith says:

    I created a site collection in the scenario described by Renaud above. The URL for the site collection DOES list within the Sites list. From within the Site Directory, you must “View All Site Content” and then open the Sites list to see all the items. However, the URL for the site collection does not show up in the Table of Contents web part, which is used on the Site Map tab. I’ve seen other bloggers comment that the Table of Contents and Site Aggregator don’t work across site collections.

  14. Sabeeh Siddiqui says:


    Great post. I was wondering if you could help with a design issue:

    I want to have mutliple site collections in the internet zone all using the same port on my web server. Are there any drawbacks of having this structure? I am going to implement FBA and have users choose links on the site collection they log into. After clicking on the link, they will be redirected to other site collections.

    Please advise.



  15. Thunderbird says:

    Can anyone let me know how to change a portal site url in sharepoint 2007 please let me know my mail address is

  16. yd says:

    I’m new to SharePoint 2007. When I started to create sites I knew nothing about SiteDirrctory, so I created several Web Applications and then created site collections. Now I tried to create site collection by the way in this article, but it says /SiteDirectory doesn’t exist. What’s the problem?
    What’s the difference between my method and the SiteDirectory way?


  17. Dave P says:

    Hi, I upraded in-place from SPPS 2003 to MOSS 2007 and found that all the original sites in 2003 were inclded in the sites list in 2007. However they did not appear as sites in 2007’s site directory. When i create new sites they appear with the site icon in site directory and are listed in the sites list. Is it possible to have the original 2003 sites also appearing in site directory?

  18. Oystein says:

    Hi Amanda, I do also have a problem when i created a site, the link is not included in the site directory. I did just create a site directory beneath the portal and there i create new sites and workspaces from the link “Create Site” on the page. I check for include in sites list, the site is created, but it does not show up in Sites List. Somebody resolved this?

  19. Dave P says:

    I guess this item is dead

  20. Peg says:

    I have the same problem with new sites not being listed in site directory. Although it seems to work intermittenly. I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out what is wrong.

  21. Peter says:

    I have the same problem with new sites not being listed in site directory. It seemed to work initially (or was that when we were using SP 2003?) Not sure, now but I thought it was. However, it is no longer any thoughts?

  22. Sean says:

    Got the same problem here with sites intermittenly not showing up in the directory. I have been working on it for a month now with MS with no results. Maybe they will just call it a feature.

  23. Asiya says:

    Hi Amanda
    Yes we too are having this problem where by we are creating multiple team site collections adding links manually to the site directory but they don’t show up in the table of content web part. The only place that I can see these links is in the sites list belong to the collaboration portal which you can see via the manage content and structure admin link. Any suggestions most welcome…

  24. Pingback: NFL Jerseys
  25. Pingback: Nike Outlet
  26. Pingback: Cheap Yeezy Shoes
  27. Pingback: Basketball Jersey
  28. Pingback: Nike Outlet store
  29. Pingback: nfl jerseys
  30. Pingback: Pandora Rings
  31. Pingback: Pandora UK
  32. Pingback: jordan 11 concord
  33. Pingback: Yeezy
  34. Pingback: Yeezy 350

Leave a Reply