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Setting the Storage Quota

When a site collection is created, you must specify a storage quota.

Quota Specification

This value must be between 100 MB and 100 GB (note: this is what I observed for the tenant I am testing with even though the documentation states that the limit is from 24 MB to 100 GB).  The quota used is decremented from the “Storage base per tenant” at the time the site collection is created (or the quota is changed).  For enterprise clients the storage base per tenant is 10 GB + 500 MB per licensed user (see: SharePoint Online: software boundaries and limits).

Observation: When you create a site collection, the server resource quota is decremented from the pool immediately, but the storage quota is not decremented from the pool until the process of creating the site collection is complete.  Similarly, when deleting a site collection, the server resource quota is placed back in the pool immediately, but the storage quota is not put back in the pool until the delete is complete (this takes several seconds or minutes just like creating a site collection).  Even though the site collections are still available for restoration from the site collection recycle bin (within the tenant admin screen), they do not count against the totals for storage quota or resource quota.

View a Site Collection’s Storage Metrics

If you are a site collection administrator, you can go to Site Settings > Storage Metrics to see what is taking up the most space and how much space you have available against your quota.

Storage Metrics

Quota Warnings

If you are close to exceeding the storage quota, the site collection administrators should get an email once the storage surpasses a certain percentage of the quota.  By default this threshold is at 85%, but can be adjusted from the SharePoint tenant administration screens.

Set Storage Quota

The email sent to the site collection administrator mentions the site URL and has a link to the storage metrics for the site.  Unfortunately, this email appears to only go out once per week (Sunday morning at 12:00 AM) so it may be several days before you get notified.  I’ll need another week to pass to verify this.

Quota Warning Email

In addition to an email, if a site collection administrator or site owner visits any document library in the site, a warning banner is shown at the top.  This appears to only show for document library pages and is only seen by site collection administrators or site owners.  While the email may not be sent immediately, the warning banner is shown immediately.

Quota Warning Banner

Quota Exceeded

SharePoint Online will let you add content until you have exceeded the quota.  It will let you add a large document even if you are just under the quota (I was able add a 500 MB document, even though I only have 1 MB available).  Once you have exceeded the quota, however, no other updates can be made.

When you have exceeded the storage quota an email is sent to the site collection administrator (well, it is queued to be sent over the weekend just like the warning email).  The email mentions the site URL, has links to the recycle bin and storage metrics for the site, and displays the site statistics (current usage).

Quota Exceeded Email

In addition to an email, a message is shown at the top of every page in the site. Unlike warnings, this message is seen by all users and is shown on every page of the site.

Quota Exceeded Banner

Adding Content to a Site with an Exceeded Quota

You cannot add content to a site that has exceeded its quota.  This is true even if you are a site collection administrator or global tenant administrator.

If you try to add a document to a document library via drag and drop you get an error message like the one shown below (in this case the document is named “TestUpload”).

Quota Exceeded Drag Drop

If you try to upload a document to a document library via “new document” and “upload existing file” you get the following error.

Quota Exceeded Upload

If you try to add a list item, it fails when you click Save.  You see a similar message when changing list items.

Quota Exceeded Save List Item

If you try to add an app, you also get an error.

Quota Exceeded Add App

Freeing Up Space

Simply deleting content isn’t enough since it is put in the recycle bin and that also counts against usage.  So, you need to remove items from the recycle bin at a minimum.  If there isn’t enough space freed up by the recycle bin, you’ll need to delete something from the site first and then remove it from the recycle bin.  Note that unless you are a site collection administrator you can only see your personal recycle bin.

Even if you are a site collection administrator, the “empty the recycle bin” link provided in the red or yellow banner only takes you to the personal recycle bin for that user.  If you are a site collection administrator and you want to see the recycle bin for all users go to Site Settings > Recycle Bin.  This will take you to the administrative recycle bin page where you can see end user recycle bin items for all users as well as items deleted from the end user recycle bin (the second stage recycle bin).

Note that you do not need to delete items from the second stage recycle bin in order to clear up space; they apparently do not count against the usage.

Bottom Line

Hopefully this gives you a good summary of what the storage quota is and how administrators and end users are affected by the quota.  I feel that for the most part, the user experience is reasonable and therefore you shouldn’t feel too pressured to provide liberal storage quota values risking your tenant limit.  Instead you can likely provide reasonable values and react if/when the warning is reached or the limit is exceeded.  The worst part is likely that there could be a 7 day delay for site collection administrators getting notified for the warning or exceeded email message.

What Have You Recently Learned about Storage Quotas?

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