There are multiple ways to setup document libraries in SharePoint and you need to consider what is the best approach for your organization. Here are some examples:
- Using folders in SharePoint. Since the days of DOS we have used folders for separating out our files. You can do this in SharePoint, but the intent of SharePoint is to have enough meta data tagged to your file so you can search or filter for the file you are looking for (just like you search for something on Google) instead of having them in folders. The other downside of folders in SharePoint is that it makes security of libraries more complicated.
- The second option is to have multiple libraries. An example of this is having a library for each department in your organization. Again you can get into the issue of folks using folders again (you need to train people on what SharePoint is and can do, before you set them free using SharePoint). If you can get them to not use folders, they need to get use to entering in a description for each file, and/or add your own columns of data you would like to capture (kinda like folder names, but now you can filter for those documents). The issue with this is that we are so use to doing a save as, and drag and drop to a folder that this new step of adding meta data is a hard one to get folks to get use to.
- Next, taking the concept from above you can create “views”, which is nothing more then a filter. At a previous organization I worked at we had 45 SOPs but not every person needed to read and understand all of them. So we added a column to the library to indicate which job titles needed to review each SOP. Then we created a View for each job title so they can see just their SOPs. The nice thing about views is it really just ends up being a link to a webpage to the specific data you want to view. So you can email this link or embed it in another webpage (so if we add SOPs to your link, it is okay, no need to update the link the new SOPs will just show up). If you have files in folders within this library, you can forget using views to try to pull files from the folders.
- When creating a document library you need to keep security in mind (who needs access?) and do you want version control turned on? For those sensitive HR documents you can only allow a few key folks access to that part of our library or you can drill it down just to one document. Version control, if it is on with 2007 every time you save the document it will create another copy of it once you check it back in (for some organizations they may have space concerns). And with 2010 (I think) it will only save the new piece you updated (so, taking up less space then resaving another copy of the document).
- Alerts. If you want you can set up email alerts be sent out when a new document is added and or changed. Example: you have a project with a library and a view named Meeting Minutes. When you add minutes to that view it will automatically send out an email to let your team members (you setup the users) that a new set of minutes has been added. Or you can be that controlling person that wants to make sure no one is monkeying around with your files (so you receive and email when anything changes).
- Document Library template. Yes, if your organization agrees to a new methodology for document libraries you can create a template for all to use.
Final thoughts …
So it is up to the users on how they want to use SharePoint, but you need to make sure they are aware there are other ways to do things in SharePoint than using folders.