How to Create the Right Metadata Structure for your Enterprise

Here are the important details you need to know to create the right metadata structure with Box!


Metadata Terminology: 

  • Attribute: a key-value pair
  • Metadata Template: created by an admin; specifies a grouping of attributes that define what values can be populated for a file/folder 
  • Metadata Instance: created by any user; specific attribute values set for a file or folder. More colloquially called "metadata" to users.  This is what is created when a metadata template is applied to a file.

When do I use custom metadata vs. metadata templates?

Custom metadata is best used for ad-hoc collaboration and one-off metadata additions, whereas metadata templates are best used for structured business processes.  Both custom metadata and metadata templates offer basic search functionality, but structured metadata templates offer more advanced capabilities around managing your content.  Some of these include:

  • Enforce uniformity across metadata application on files
  • Advanced search on specific metadata attribute values 



What should I consider when creating a metadata template?

Templates are a logical grouping of metadata attributes that help classify content.  Templates should be used to group together similar attributes.  For example, a marketing team, that is classifying brand assets, always needs to know the campaign name and the product line of an item.  In this case, a good practice would be to create one "Brand Asset" template that has two attributes: "Campaign" and "Product Line".   In a case where all content in Box has a "reference ID", and only a subset of that content is a "Brand Asset", two separate templates applied to one file may be a better approach.  


Here are the limits to also keep in mind as you create metadata templates for your enterprise:


Maximum number of custom templates per enterprise


Maximum number of fields per template


Maximum number of templates that can be applied to a file/folder (Note: Metadata can only be applied to folders via the API.)


Maximum number of custom metadata attributes (non-templates)


Maximum number of characters for keys and display names of templates and attributes


Maximum metadata size



The maximum metadata size limit is set to recommend a sizable chunk of metadata that should reasonably be grouped together.  For user experience purposes, we still recommend having a smaller set of metadata attributes and values.  By following the architecture guidelines and recommendations below, we do not expect you to hit the metadata 512KB size limit.  


Option 1: Standard Metadata

Recommended max metadata attributes per template


Recommended max size of an attribute value

2048 chars

Recommended max # values in a dropdown



Option 2: Many Dropdown Options

Example max metadata attributes per template


Example max # values in dropdown


Example max size of dropdown value



Option 3: Larger Field Values

Example max metadata attributes per template


Example max size of attribute value

10,000 chars


Option 4: Many Fields

Example max metadata attributes per template


Example max size of attribute value

500 chars


If you have your own custom configuration, you can roughly compute your maximum metadata size as: 

8 * [(# chars in metadata attribute key) + (# chars in metadata attribute value)] 


What are some examples of metadata templates?

When using metadata, it's important to consider what functional groups will benefit from adding and maintaining metadata templates. Our suggestion is to consider using metadata in the following lines of business:

  • Legal- Classifying legal contracts. From custom terms of service to acquisition contracts, metadata attributes like signature date or contract term can prove useful for discovery.
  • Vendor Management- Onboard and manage vendor contracts and details for much easier reporting and cost management.
  • Sales- Organize content by product line, use case, or sales geography. Make it easier for sales representatives to find important collateral.
  • Marketing- Manage digital assets and sales enablement material. Centralize multiple digital asset repositories to help streamline brand efforts.
  • Project Management- Add structure and status to documents. Add detail to project work plans to help accelerate and communicate project progress.
  • HR- Standardize the employee lifecycle, from hiring to retiring. Leverage metadata to find common forms to analyzing employee data.


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Last update:
‎05-08-2019 10:06 AM
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