The simple answer to this question is yes, MOSS 2007 can easily handle managing 15 million documents. In fact, MOSS 2007 Enterprise Search can index 50 million documents; see MOSS 2007 Limitations. Channel 9 (MSDN) has an interesting video titled Office SharePoint Server at Microsoft: 12TB and Counting, I recommend you watch it. It’s not going to give you all the answers, but it will help you understand what is involved with managing such a large amount of content.
An extensive amount of initial planning and information architecture would need to put in place for any ECM system that was to manage 15 million documents. But done right, you can do the same. You will also find, if you put the time in up front, the overall future operations and maintenance will be significantly reduced.
Planning and Information Architecture
To be effective and useful, there is a great deal of planning and information architecture that needs to be thought through. By planning, I am referring to team, governance, policies, procedures, search configuration, infrastructure and so on. With regards to information architecture, be it 1,500 documents, 15,000 documents or 15 million documents, without the appropriate content classification, permissions and ownership, complete failure is eminent.
Please, please, please… do not simply take the structure of a file system and duplicate that in SharePoint. Sure, you immediately benefit from versioning, recycle bin, auditing and other enhanced features, but users will not be able to find files any better than they could when on your file system. One of the key benefits of a Document Management System (DMS), such as MOSS is it’s ability to return relevant search results. You will not obtain this without content classification.
If you read MOSS 2007 Limitations, you will see there are limitations to the number of documents (files) that can be stored in a single Document Library. It is also a recommendation, or limitation, to store no more than 2,000 documents (files) in a folder. However, if your user browses to a Document Library folder and it does contain 2,000 documents, they may not be very happy with the results; both performance and having to page through so many documents. In short, don’t do it to them…
Studies have shown that there are two types of users in your organisation, those who prefer to point-n-click their way to content and those who prefer to search. It is important to implement a solution that works with both these types of users in mind. In this type of situation, I would recommend breaking the documents out into topics.
Some of the limitations outlined in MOSS 2007 Limitations may, in fact, not be hard limitations. For example, Microsoft has indicated that a Document Library can store a maximum of 2 million documents (files). I know this is not a hard limit because I have a customer with over 3.3 million documents in a single Document Library. So… there is additional investigative work to be done here.