Managing Site Hierarchy with SharePoint Hub Sites

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posted by Khoa Quach
on Jan 15, 2020

The approach for managing and commissioning SharePoint sites has been the same for the last few iterations of SharePoint. Even if it made sense to the administrators and power users out there, it was always challenging to explain and convey to SharePoint newcomers.

With the growing enthusiasm towards SharePoint communications and team sites, as well as the ease by which you can now create and manage Office 365 groups, understanding the concept of hub sites will help keep your SharePoint site’s ecosystem tidy.

First of all, what are Hub Sites?

Hub sites are literally container holding sites that share (or will share) one or more common features, such as:

  • Global navigation
  • Search capabilities 
  • Office 365 group
  • Branding
  • External sharing setting
  • Aggregation and display of content

A hub site may sound like a classic site collection, but hub sites have unique qualities that make them extremely valuable.

Previous SharePoint site hierarchies were based on site collections, root sites, and sub-sites. Think of the layout as a pyramidal structure:

Moving sites around various site collections leads to migration work (whether manually or via a third-party application), which is never fun. Moreover, that process can raise concern in regards to governance; once the site(s) are migrated, administrators need to ensure that the permissions are properly reflected at the new location.

Hub sites leverage a flatter structure where all of the sites sit at the same level you created for a specific scenario. All you need to do to move a SharePoint site around is to adjust the hub site with which it is associated. By properly associating a site to a hub site, it will inherit all of the hub’s features, such as search, branding, navigation, etc.

Not only does this limit headaches for potential migration, but it also simplifies permissions and governance. In short, downsizing the number of nested sites under a SharePoint site reduces the ability to disrupt inheritance and unique permissions. This can be seen when executing a SharePoint audit report from the Office 365 protection portal; targeting a specific site (or “location”) provides a better view of the permissions and files on that site.

So, how do I go about creating a Hub Site?

Begin by registering a hub site. To do so, you will need to navigate to https://portal.office.com and open the SharePoint administration panel.

Once on the SharePoint administration panel, select Active Sites from the left navigation before selecting the site you wish to register as a hub site.

You will need to provide the name of the hub site and the administrator(s) of the hub.

Once you click Save, you should see the site associated with the new hub you’ve created.

You can now select other sites that should share common features with this newly created hub site.

Okay, that’s helpful information, but what are actual use cases?

This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, here are some common scenarios where a hub site would be particularly useful:

  • A hub called “Departments” with associated departmental sites (Marketing, Operations, R&D, etc.)
  • A hub called “External” with associated team sites that need to provide external sharing links
  • A hub called “Region” (for example, APAC) with associated sub-regional sites

Read more: External User Access to SharePoint Online Using SharePoint Designer

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