SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business – Preventing external sharing of data

October 17, 2017

A recent (September 2017) article suggested that OneDrive for Business (ODfB) (and by extension SharePoint Online (SPO); ODfB is a SharePoint-based service), a key application in Office 365 was a potential source of data leaks and/or target for hacking attacks.

I don’t disagree that, if not configured correctly, any online document management system – not just ODfB/SPO – could be the source of leaks or the target of external attacks. Especially if these systems, and the security controls that can protect the data in them, are not properly configured, governed, administered, and monitored.

But, I would ask, what controls do most organisations have in place now for documents stored in file shares and personal file folders, not to mention USB sticks, and the ability to send document via Bluetooth to mobile devices or upload corporate data to third-party document storage systems? Probably not many, because users have no other way to access the data out of the office.

As we will see, the controls available in Office 365 are likely to be more than sufficient to allow users to access to their documents out of the office, while at the same time reducing (if not eliminating) the sharing of documents with unauthorised users.

How to stop or minimise sharing from OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online

There is one simple way to prevent the sharing of data stored in SPO and ODfB with external people – don’t allow it.

There are several ways to control what can be shared, each allowing the user a bit more capability. All these options should be based on business requirements and information security risk assessments, and Office 365 configured accordingly.

In this article I will start with no sharing allowed, and then show how the controls can be reduced as necessary.

External sharing – on or off

This is the primary setting, found in the main Office 365 Admin centre under Settings > Services & add-ins > Sites. If you turn this off, no-one can share anything stored in SPO or ODfB.

The option is shown below:

O365_SC_Sites_SharingOnOff

If you do allow sharing, you need to decide (as shown above) if sharing will be with:

  • Only existing external users
  • New and existing external users [Recommended]
  • Anyone, including anonymous users

The second option is recommended because it doesn’t restrict the ability to share with new users. The last option is unlikely to be used in most organisations and comes with some risks.

The next place to set these options are in the SPO and ODfB Admin centres.

OneDrive admin center

If the previous option is enabled, the following options are available for ODfB. Note that BOTH SharePoint and OneDrive are included here because the latter is a part of the SharePoint environment.

  • Let users share SharePoint content with external users: ON or OFF.
    • NOTE: If this option is turned OFF, all the following options disappear.
  • If sharing with external users is enabled, the following three options are offered:
    • Only existing external users
    • New and existing external users [Recommended]
    • Anyone, including anonymous users
  • Let users share OneDrive content with external users: ON or OFF
    • This setting must be at least as restrictive as the SharePoint setting.
  • If sharing with external users is enabled, the following three options are offered
    • Only existing external users
    • New and existing external users [Recommended]
    • Anyone, including anonymous users

If sharing is allowed, there are three sharing link options:

  • Direct – only people who already have permission [Recommended]
  • Internal – only people in the organisation
  • Anonymous access – anyone with the link

You can limit external sharing by domain, by allowing or blocking sharing with people on selected domains.

External users have two options:

  • External users must accept sharing invitations using the same account that the invitations were sent to [Recommended]
  • Let external users share items they don’t own. [This should normally be disabled]

A final ‘Share recipients’ checkbox allow the owners to see who viewed their files.

SharePoint admin center

The SPO admin center (to be upgraded in late 2017) has two options for sharing.

The first option is under the ‘sharing’ section which currently has the following options:

Sharing outside your organization

Control how users share content with people outside your organization.

  • Don’t allow sharing outside your organization
  • Allow sharing only with the external users that already exist in your organization’s directory
  • Allow users to invite and share with authenticated external users [Recommended]
  • Allow sharing to authenticated external users and using anonymous access links

Who can share outside your organization

  • [Checkbox] Let only users in selected security groups share with authenticated external users

Default link type

Choose the type of link that is created by default when users get links.

  • Direct – only people who have permission [Recommended, same as above]
  • Internal – people in the organization only
  • Anonymous Access – anyone with the link

Default link permission

Choose the default permission that is selected when users share. This applies to anonymous access, internal and direct links.

  • View [Recommended]
  • Edit

Additional settings (Checkboxes)

  • Limit external sharing using domains (applies to all future sharing invitations). Separate multiple domains with spaces.
  • Prevent external users from sharing files, folders, and sites that they don’t own [Recommended]
  • External users must accept sharing invitations using the same account that the invitations were sent to [Recommended]

Notifications (Checkboxes)

E-mail OneDrive for Business owners when

  • Other users invite additional external users to shared files [Recommended]
  • External users accept invitations to access files [Recommended]
  • An anonymous access link is created or changed [Recommended]

Sharing via the Site Collections option

In addition to the options above, sharing options for each SharePoint site are set in the ‘site collections’ section as follows. Note that the default is ‘no sharing allowed’. A conscious decision must be taken to allow sharing, and what type of sharing.

O365_SPO_Sharing1

When a site collection name is checked, the following options are displayed.

Sharing outside your company

Control how users invite people outside your organisation to access content

  • Don’t allowing sharing outside your organisation (default)
  • Allow sharing only with the external users that already exist in your organization’s directory
  • Allow external users who accept sharing invitations and sign in as authenticated users
  • Allow sharing with all external users, and by using anonymous access links

If anonymous access is not permitted (setting above), a message in red is displayed:

Anonymous access links aren’t allowed in your organization

SharePoint Sharing option

The SharePoint Admin Centre has an additional ‘Sharing’ section with the same settings as shown above for ODfB. It is expected that these multiple options will be merged in the new SharePoint Admin Centre due for release in late 2017.

Additional security controls

In addition to all the above settings, there are a range of additional controls available:

  • All user activities related to SPO and ODfB, including who accessed, viewed, edited, deleted, or shared files is accessible in the audit logs.
  • SPO and ODfB content may be picked up by Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies and users prevented from sending them externally. This is of course subject to the DLP policies being able to identify the content correctly.
  • SPO and ODfB content may be subject to records retention policies set by preservation policies. These may impact on the ability to send documents externally.
  • SPO and ODfB content may be subject to an eDiscovery case.
  • Administrators can be notified when users perform specific activities in both SPO and ODfB.
  • Sharing (and access to the documents once shared) may be subject to security controls enforced through Microsoft Information Protection.

Conclusion

In summary, the settings above allow an organisation to strongly control what can be shared. If sharing is allowed, certain additional controls determine whether the sharing is for internal users or for users external to the organisation. If the latter is chosen, there are further controls on what external users can do. Audit controls and policies may also control how users can share information externally.

The key takeaway is that organisations should ensure that the sharing options available in Office 365 are based on the organisation’s business requirements and security risk framework.

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Office 365 – new data governance and records retention management features

October 7, 2017

At the September 2017 Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft announced a range of new features coming soon to data governance in Office 365.

These new features build on the options already available in the Security and Compliance section of the Office 365 Admin portal. You can watch the video of the slide presentation here.

Both information technology and records management professionals working in organisations that have Office 365 need to work together to understand these new features and how they will be implemented.

Some of the key catch-phrases to come out of the presentation included ‘keep information in place’, ‘don’t horde everything’, ‘no more moving everything to one bucket’, ‘three-zone policy’, and ‘defensible deletion process’. The last one is probably the most important.

How do you manage the retention of digital content?

If your organisation is like most others, you will have no effective records retention policy or process for emails or content stored across network file shares and in ‘personal’ drives.

If you have an old-style EDRM system you may have acquired a third-party product and/or tried to encourage users (with some success, perhaps) to store emails in that system, in ‘containers’ set up by records managers.

The problem with most of these traditional methods is that it assumes there should be one place to store records relating to a given subject. In reality, attempts to get all related records in the one place conjures up the ‘herding cats’ problem. It’s not easy.

What is Microsoft’s take on this?

For many years now, Microsoft have adopted an alternative approach, one that is not dissimilar to the view taken by eDiscovery vendors such as Recommind. Instead of trying to force users to put records in a single location, it makes more sense to use powerful search and tagging tools to find and manage the retention of records wherever they are stored.

Office 365 already comes with powerful eDiscovery capability, allowing the organisation to search for and put on hold records relating to a given subject, or ‘case’. But it also now has very powerful records retention tools that are about to get even better.

This post extends my previous posting ‘Applying New Retention Policies to Office 365 Content‘, and won’t repeat all of it as a result.

Where do you start?

A standard starting point for the management of the retention and disposal of records is a records retention schedule. These are also known in the Australian recordkeeping context as disposal authorities, general disposal authorities, and records authorities. They may be very granular and contain hundreds of classes, or ‘big bucket’ (for example, Australian Federal government RAs).

Records retention schedules usually describe types of records (sometimes grouped by ‘function’ and ‘activity’, or by business area) and how long they must be retained before they can be disposed of, unless they must be kept for a very long time as archival records.

The classes contained in records retention schedules or similar documents become retention policies in Office 365.

Records retention in Office 365

It is really important to understand that records retention management in Office 365 covers the entire environment – Exchange (EXO), SharePoint (SPO), OneDrive for Business (OD), Office 365 Groups (O365G), Skype for Business. Coverage for Microsoft Teams and OneNote is coming soon. Yammer will not be included until at least the second half of 2018.

That is, records retention is not just about documents stored in SharePoint. It’s everything except as noted.

Records managers working in organisations that have implemented (or are implementing) Office 365 need to be on top of this, to understand this way of approaching and managing the records retention process.

Retention policies in Office 365 are set up in the Security and Compliance Admin Centre, a part of the Office 365 Admin portal. Ideally, records managers should be allocated a role to allow them to access this area.

There are two retention policy subsections:

  • Data Governance > Retention > Policy
  • Classification > Labels > Policy

The settings in both are almost identical but have slightly different settings and purposes. However, note all retention policies that are set up are visible in both locations.

The difference between the two options is that:

  • Retention-based policies are (according to Microsoft) meant for IT to be used more for ‘global’ policies. For example, a global policy for the retention of emails not subject to any other retention policy.
  • Label-based policies map to the individual classes in a retention schedule or disposal authority.

Note: Organisations that have many hundreds or even thousands of records retention classes will need to create them using Powershell.

Creating a retention-based policy

Retention-based policies have the following options:

O365_RetentionLabelSettingsA

Directly underneath this are two options:

  • Find specific types of records based on keyword searches [COMING > also label-based]
  • Find Data Loss Prevention (DLP) sensitive information types. [COMING > label-based DLP-related polices can be auto-applied]

A decision must then be made as to where this policy will be applied – see below.

Creating a label-based policy

To create a classification label manually, click on ‘Create a label’.

O365_CreateClassLabel

Note:

  • Labels are not available until they are published.
  • Labels can be auto-applied

The screenshot below shows the options for creating a new label.

O365_ClassLabelSettingsA

Label- based policies have the following settings:

  • Retain the content for n days/months/years
  • Based on Created or Last Modified [COMING > when labelled, an event*]
  • Then three options: (a) delete it after n days/months/years (b) subject it to a disposition review process (labels only), or (c) don’t delete.

* Such as when certain actions take place on the system.

 

Applying the policies

Once a policy has been created it can then be applied to the entire Office 365 environment or to only specific elements, for example EXO, SPO, OD, O365G.

  • IT may want to establish a specific global policy
  • Most other policies will be based on the organisation’s records retention schedule

Once they have been published, labels may then be applied automatically or users can have the option to apply them manually.

In EXO, a user may create a folder and apply the policy there. All emails dragged into that folder will be subject to the same policy.

In SPO, retention policies may be applied to a document library and can be applied automatically as the default setting to all new documents. [COMING > also to a folder and a document set]. Adding a label-based policy to a library also creates a new column so the user can easily see what policy the documents are subject to.

Note: Individual documents stored in the library will be subject to disposal, not the library. 

What about Content Types?

Organisations that have used content types to manage groups of records including for retention management will be able to continue to do so, but Microsoft appears to take the view (in the presentation above) that this method should probably replaced by labelling. This points needs further consideration as content types are usually used as a way to apply metadata to records.

Note: If the ability to delete content (emails, documents) is enabled, any deleted content subject to a retention policy will be retained in a hidden location. The option also exists when a label-based policy is created to ‘declare’ records based on the application of a label. 

What happens when records are due for disposal?

Once the records reach the end of their retention period, they will be:

  • Deleted
  • Subject to a new disposition review process [COMING in 2017 – see below]
  • Remain in place (i.e., nothing happens)

In relation to the second option above, a new ‘Disposition’ section under Data Governance will allow the records manager or other authorised person to review records (tagged for Disposition Review) that have become due for disposal.

This is an important point – only records that had a label with the option ‘Disposition Review’ checked will be subject to review. All other records will be destroyed. Therefore, if the organisation needs to keep a record of what was destroyed, then the classification label must have ‘Disposition Review’ selected.

Records that are reviewed and approved to be destroyed are marked as ‘Completed’. This means there is a record of everything (subject to disposition review) that has been destroyed, a key requirement for records managers.

Other new or coming features

A number of other new features demonstrated at the Ignite conference, are coming.

  • Labels will have a new ‘Advanced’ check box. This option will allow records marked with that label to have any of the following: watermark, header/footer, subject line suffix, colour.
  • Data Governance > Records Management Dashboard. The dashboard will provide an overview of all disposition activity.
  • Data Governance > Access Governance. This dashboard, which supports data leakage controls, will show any items that (a) appear to contain sensitive content and (b) can be accessed by ‘too many’ people.
  • Auto-suggested records retention policies. The system may identify groups of records that do not seem to be subject to a suitable retention policy and make a recommendation to create one.
  • For those parts of the world who need it, new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) controls
  • Microsoft Information Protection, to replace Azure Information Protection and provide a single set of controls over all of Microsoft’s platforms.

SharePoint On-Premise to SharePoint Online – New Page options

September 16, 2017

If you are planning to move to SharePoint Online and have customised or allowed users to customise site pages (especially in ‘publishing’ sites), you need to be aware of the new page options in SharePoint Online.

If you are completely familiar with the new SharePoint Framework (SPFx), you don’t need to read any further. This post is aimed at Site Administrators and Site Owners who have edited or ‘customised’ their SharePoint site pages – and organisations that have customised pages.

Background

Microsoft released the new ‘modern’ SharePoint site pages in 2017. These pages are based around HTML5 and provide different page editing options. To put it simply, existing site pages do not ‘work’ in modern pages; the only way to view them is using the ‘classic’ SharePoint experience.

What has changed

The most significant change, from an editing point of view, is the removal of the ribbon menu. Yes, that’s right, no more ribbon, what you see below no longer exists but has been replaced by completely new functionality described below.

SP2013Ribbon3

SP2013Ribbon1

SP2013Ribbon2

 

Instead of a ribbon menu, in SharePoint Online, pages are made up of a set of web parts each with their own options. To add one of these new web parts, you edit the page, then (a) accept the default or choose a layout per section (see below), then click on the + in the middle top of that section to add the web part you want to add.

These options described below.

Why is this important

In SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 you could copy an entire page content and paste it to another page. You can’t do that with SharePoint Online modern pages.

This means that all pages will have to be ‘re-built’ unless you plan to keep users on the ‘classic’ look for a while.

Creating a new page

Even creating a new page is new. To create a new page in team sites, you click the gear/cog icon, then ‘Add a page’. For non-Communication sites, you can choose a layout from the new web parts – see below.

SPOAddPage2

If you create a page from a Communications site, you get the option to choose which template you’d like to use:

SPOPageTemplates

The first thing you then have to do is give the new page a name. (Hint – use hyphens between multi-word page names, then go back later, edit the page, and remove them. It makes for a cleaner URL).

SPONewPageBanner

Once added, the only page ribbon options are shown below::

SPORibbon1

 

Adding web parts

On every new page, choose the layout or web parts is based on clicking the + sign as you can see above directly under the page naming section, or the image below

SPOWebPart1

As noted above, SharePoint Online ‘modern’ pages are made up of multiple web parts that can be placed in five different page layouts.

The page layouts are:

  • One column
  • Two columns
  • Three columns
  • One third left column
  • One third right column

These are – more or less, similar to the options in ‘Text Layout’ in the old ribbon menu, although there are now fewer options.

While a page can have multiple layouts, you should look at how a mobile device will render that view. To do that, simply reduce the page size layout on the screen to the same size as the mobile device. The page will render accordingly.

The web parts that can be placed within the page layouts, and their relationship with the old ribbon menu, are as follows:

  • Text
    • Similar to a INSERT – Web Part – Content Editor Web Part but with the default black font text only.
    • Formatting options are Headings 1 – 4, Normal text, Pull quote
    • Bold, italic, underline
    • Dot points, numbered points, left, centered, right aligned text
    • Hyperlink (similar to INSERT – Link)
    • No font or size or colour options
    • No subscript or superscript or strikethrough
    • No highlighting
    • No images (this means that images are somewhat unnaturally separated from the text)
    • No tables. If you wish to add a table, create it in Word and copy and paste it in.
  • Image
    • Similar to INSERT – Picture.
    • Displays the image with a name, it is not possible to add a hyperlink to the image.
    • If you want a hyperlink with an image, create a link using either the Link web part or the Quick Links web part and add the image.
  • Document
    • New feature
    • Displays a document on the page.
  • Link
    • Similar to INSERT – Link
    • Places a link on the page.
    • The link can include an image.
  • Embed
    • Similar to INSERT – Embed Code
    • Embeds code on the page.
    • Use to embed a YouTube or other video that will play on the page.
    • No Java Script (as you could in SP2010/2013 – you will need to do some research to see what’s possible and what’s not).
  • Highlighted Content
    • Similar to a library or list web part
    • Displays a range of content types from the site (‘most recent’ by default), the site collection, a document library, or all sites.
    • Allows a range of searches, filters, sort and layout options
  • Bing maps
    • New feature but similar to embedding a Google or Bing map using embed.
    • Embeds a Bing map.
  • Document library
    • Similar to a library web part
    • Displays content from a document library.
  • Events
    • New feature.
    • Displays events. Not good for detailed calendars with multiple items per day.
  • Hero
    • New feature
    • Displays content with links in 1 – 5 titles, or 1 – 5 layers.
  • Image gallery
    • Similar to Picture Library Slideshow Web part
    • Use to display a set of images that you select, not necessarily from an image library
  • List
    • Similar to a list web part
    • Displays content from a list.
  • News
    • Similar to a blank page.
    • Display news (separate pages).
  • Office 365 Video
    • Deprecated
    • To be deprecated in favour of Stream)
  • Stream
    • New feature
    • Displays embeded videos stored in Stream
  • People
    • New feature but similar to Site User web part
    • Displays clickable links to site users
  • Power BI
    • New feature
    • Displays Power BI content.
  • Quick Chart
    • New feature
    • Displays a very simple column or pie chart, based on figures entered from the page
  • Quick Links
    • Similar to a links list web part
    • Displays links to other content. Links can include (small) images
  • Site activity
    • New feature
    • Displays a list, by last modified date, of content created on the site.
  • Yammer feed
    • Similar to Yammer feed embed
    • Displays a Yammer group feed.
  • Group calendar
    • New feature
    • Displays items from an Office 365 Group calendar

Things you cannot do any more (or maybe shouldn’t)

There are a number of things you can no longer do any more unless possibly via the SharePoint Framework (SPFx). But, the fact that you need that to re-create those things using SPFx suggests you may want to consider whether those items are still relevant or useful. My advise is – don’t assume, but keep an open mind.

The things to keep in mind are:

  • Most of the Format Text options from the old ribbon are now contained in the options contained in the Text or Layout web parts.
  • There is no web part that allows you to create tables. These will have to be manually inserted. This means you cannot edit them on the page, it’s display only.
  • ‘Upload file’ is no longer available. Instead you would use a link or quick links, or perhaps even display the document on the page.
  • Search is now a single search box at the top left. There really isn’t a need for additional search boxes, but some may need them.
  • Many of the existing web parts have gone or been replaced by other options including Highlighted Content.

Summary

All of the new page editing options are a massive improvement on most legacy web parts and options. However, many organisations are likely to have built quite complex pages based on these old options.

Accordingly, some thought needs to be put into how the content of existing SP2010 and SP2013 pages will be migrated to the new environment, especially to take advantage of new mobile device access.

 

The Recordkeeping World of Office 365 – More than just SharePoint

August 28, 2017

I’m often asked (and sometimes challenged to confirm) if SharePoint can manage records. The question is often based on a unspoken second element – like ‘xyz’ system?

It might be (and sometimes is) argued that any system can manage records if the records stored in the system provide evidence of business activity and are considered information assets. But recordkeeping is more than just keeping any records in any system.

The international standard for records management, ISO 15489-1-2016 states: ‘They (records) can be distinguished from other information assets by their role as evidence in the transaction of business and by their reliance on metadata. Metadata for records is used to indicate and preserve context and apply appropriate rules for managing records.’

So, records are not just distinguished by their evidentiary role, but also by their reliance on metadata.

Record types

In my opinion, it is a mistake to focus solely on SharePoint when the question is asked – can it manage records? The question assumes that one application will be used to store all the records – or at least the so-called ‘unstructured’ records – created by the organisation. Any discussion of SharePoint must include and take account of SharePoint Online as part of the Office 365 ecosystem.

The term ‘unstructured’ in this sense generally means email and any kind of digital record that can be saved to network file shares. The latter generally includes documents (in multiple formats), images, and other digital record types.

However, ‘what gets saved on a network files share’ generally overlooks the fast-increasing volumes of information that would not normally be ever stored in a file share. Simple examples of records that are never (or may never be) saved in network file shares (or dedicated recordkeeping systems) include tweets on Twitter, messages sent by personal messaging apps, and social network type information.

I’m always impressed (albeit a bit sceptical) when I hear that organisations state they are capturing all these types of information in their recordkeeping system. That’s pretty impressive.

Records in Office 365

Many organisations have moved (or are moving) their Microsoft enterprise licencing to Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription-based service. Office 365 includes a range of applications that create or store records including:

  • Exchange (email, calendars, Groups, Planner)
  • Office (used to create the content)
  • SharePoint / OneDrive for Business* (document libraries and lists)
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Sway
  • Skype for Business
  • Stream (video)

*OneDrive for Business is a SharePoint-based service.

SharePoint is only one part of this information rich ecosystem, and really shouldn’t be thought of as a single destination for the storage of records. Yes, it can be used to store and manage records, but you need to stand back a little to appreciate the full picture.

How Microsoft (may) have approached recordkeeping in Office 365

Until recently, and in the on-premise world, records were stored and managed separately in Exchange and SharePoint, each with their own recordkeeping capabilities, quite independent of each other.

Over the past two years, Microsoft developed a unified strategy for recordkeeping in both systems, presumably based on the likelihood that most corporate records would continue to be stored separately. The requirement for additional recordkeeping metadata in either system would remain optional – see below.

In mid 2017, Microsoft introduced a centralised way to create, manage and apply retention policies to content stored across (no longer separately in) Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. These new policies are created as labels in the Office 365 – Security and Compliance Portal under the slightly misleading section called ‘Classifications’.

These new retention policies can be applied across Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. In SharePoint, they can be applied to a site, a document library (preferred), list, or individual documents. They remove the requirement to manage retention separately in Exchange and SharePoint.

But what about the metadata?

As noted above, the international standard for recordkeeping states that metadata ‘is used to indicate and preserve context and apply appropriate rules for managing records’.

So why or how is metadata optional in Office 365?  I think this is for two reasons:

  • Making any form of metadata mandatory will turn users off using the system.
  • Metadata may not be the ‘be all and end all’ for context-based discovery.

‘Context’ essentially means that records relating to a given context (e.g., ‘noise complaints’) can be identified, retrieved and managed in that context. For example, emails relating to a meeting; the meeting agenda and minutes may be stored in one location but more often than not the emails remain on the Exchange server. Another example might be emails relating to the development of a new policy; again, these are more often than not stored separately from the system used to store and manage documents.

Regardless of where they may be stored, metadata should provide and indicate the context of any records that may be created. Years of EDRMS use suggests that users generally don’t like to add additional metadata to records.

So how does Office 365 do this?

In most organisations, the only ways to apply recordkeeping metadata to an email is to save it to an EDRMS or in SharePoint. Most organisations will rarely configure Exchange to include the capture of metadata.

As with an EDRMS, the metadata options in SharePoint are more or less unlimited but careful thought needs to go into what metadata should be applied, and how. For example, metadata can be set:

  • In the Managed Metadata Service (MMS)/Term Store, including with hierarchical models
  • As site columns
  • As library columns

Regardless of the option selected, metadata may be set as a default on each SharePoint document library column. That is, when a record (including an email) is saved to a specific library, it can be assigned specific metadata that is to be assigned to all documents in that library.

Applying metadata in this way, especially as site columns, means that information can be retrieved in context.

It should also be kept in mind that Microsoft Office documents saved to a SharePoint document library also retain their metadata in the document properties, even when the document is exported, a kind of ‘metadata payload’.

Is metadata still relevant?

In the mid 1990s, Yahoo introduced a new portal that allowed users to browse the nascent internet based on pre-defined categories. That is, a form of metadata tagging was applied to all content that allowed the user to browse to where they wanted to go to.

The problem with this idea was that it assumed everybody would understand the categories. Google’s response to this was to provide a single search box allowing users to retrieve whatever they were looking for – subject, of course, to the way the algorithm presented the information to the user based on their understood context.

Adding metadata to indicate the context of a record works as long as the context is still valid – both for the content and the user. Or, to put it another way, the way in which I might describe a record with metadata may be different from the way you want to access that record, because your context is not the same as mine. There may be a range of information that I want to find that hasn’t necessarily been recorded in the context in which I am looking for it.

Some years ago I was curious why users in one business area could not find many records relating to a specific subject – noise complaints in a city area well known for its nightlife. In most cases, they were searching for records containing complaints about noise in that specific area, recorded in the title or metadata of the record.

When we asked them to ignore the metadata and search by the content of the records they found thousands of records, all described in different contexts – building approvals and inspections, delivery of services, police liaison, visitor numbers and public feedback. All these contexts were quite valid, but they were not the context of the user searching for the records.

The lesson learned was simple – my context is not necessarily your context. Records, especially digital records, could relate to any context including future and unpredictable contexts.

Context-based information and eDiscovery

For some users, one of the most ‘startling’ features of Office 365 is Delve and the related Discover option in the user’s OneDrive for Business. Both are based on the underlying Office Graph that learns a user’s context based on their interactions (or ‘signals’) across the Office 365 environment and presents potentially relevant content (to which they have access) from SharePoint or another user’s OneDrive.

I used the term ‘startling’ because, for most users, the idea that you can find out what others are working on seems intuitively to be some kind of breach of privacy (even though they have access to that content already). And yet, what it is doing is letting a user know, based on her or his context, what may be of interest from potentially quite different contexts. It does this based on the interactions between users.

Office 365 also includes a powerful eDiscovery capability that allows the user (if licenced to do so) to find all information across Exchange and SharePoint relating to a specific context regardless of where it is stored, and quarantine that information as required in a case file. While metadata may assist in the process, it is not essential.

But what about all the other records?

So far I have not said anything about the records produced by and stored in the other Office 365 applications such as Teams, Planner, Skype for Business and so on. Or about the management of records produced in third-party social media or messaging applications.

The Office Graph already takes into account the interactions between users to present potentially relevant information stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business. At some point in the future, Microsoft may include the information in the various other Office 365 applications.

As for social media, the preferred model may be to capture the feed of that information in an Office 365 service – Microsoft Teams, for example, can receive a feed from third-party applications including Twitter. The answer to the use of third-party messaging applications is to use applications that have at least the same or, preferably, better functionality. Teams and Skype for Business are in this space.

Summary

If you have got to the end of this article, thank you for reading.

In summary, my main point is that when thinking about SharePoint for recordkeeping it is a good idea to consider it in the context of the broader Office 365 ecosystem and its recordkeeping capabilities, not as an isolated application capable of storing and managing records.

Knowledge Management in Office 365

July 21, 2017

A few articles in the past few weeks, and some internal discussions, prompted some thinking around how Office 365 can support knowledge management (KM) – however that may be defined.

What is Knowledge Management?

According to many knowledge management sources online, knowledge management appeared around 1990, and paralleled the rise of document management. Both appear to have arisen as computers appeared (from the mid 1980s) and digital ways of capturing and managing information took hold, and records management was still primarily focused on the management of paper records.

An early (1994) definition for the term ‘knowledge management’ suggested that it was ‘… the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge’ (Davenport, 1994. Koenig, 2012)

Bryant Duhon expanded on this somewhat imprecise definition in his 1998 article ‘It’s All in our Heads’ (my emphasis):

‘Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.’ (Duhon, 1998)

A key element was capturing the knowledge acquired by individuals.

Koenig (2012) noted that ‘Perhaps the most central thrust in KM is to capture and make available, so it can be used by others in the organization, the information and knowledge that is in people’s heads as it were, and that has never been explicitly set down.’

Explicit/implicit versus tacit knowledge

Generally speaking, there is a difference between explicit and implicit knowledge, the information that is recorded, and ‘the information and knowledge that is in people’s heads’ (and walks out doors when people leave).

The latter is defined generally as tacit knowledge. That is, information that is ‘understood or implied, without being stated’, from the Latin tacitus, the past participle of tacere ‘be silent’. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/tacit)

I have worked with the issue of how to access and capture the knowledge in the heads of departing employees since around 1984, when I was first made aware that the departure of some very senior and/or long-term staff meant that we would lose access to the information they knew, gained not only from learned knowledge but also in many cases from many decades of personal experience.

At the time it was not my responsibility to worry about it, but I saw attempts to conduct interviews and document procedures and processes with departing (or already departed) employees.

This pre-digital era activity stuck in my head – was interviewing the departed employees the only way to get this information out of their heads?

(As a side note I learned that it was important to interview and talk to my ageing parents and their siblings about their memories and experiences before those memories were lost forever).

Enter the computer age

I consider myself lucky to have been witness over a generation to the change in working practices from paper to digital.

The start of the digital era from the mid 1980s and ubiquitous access to computers on desktops, person to person emails, network file shares and personal folders created another related dilemma – even if the information was created (or captured) by a user, how could it be accessed?

Users were encouraged to put this information in repositories – mostly document management systems – but the fact that email and information on file shares were stored in different servers meant that unless users would actively move emails to a document management system, that information remained hidden away.

What was needed was a way for users to create and store information – emails, documents – wherever they wanted to put it, and for that information to be accessible, restricted only by relevant security controls.

The only systems that seemed to really do this effectively were eDiscovery tools. Perhaps this was not surprising, as the survival (and financial viability) of a company might depend on the ability to find the information that was required.

The rise of smart phones and ubiquitous, always-on, digital communication within the past 10 years has only added to the types of knowledge available and the methods used to capture it.

In my opinion, traditional recordkeeping practices have not kept up and often remain rooted in the idea that knowledge can be stored in a single location or container. How does one capture instant messages sent via encrypted messaging services in a records container?

Microsoft Graph

Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Graph in 2015. The image below demonstrates how the Graph connects content created and stored through the Office 365 (and connected) environment/s.

microsoft_graph.png

The image above should resonate with most people who work in an office. We send emails, create documents or data, set tasks, make appointments, attend and record meetings, have digital conversations, send messages, connect with colleagues, maintaining personal profiles.

The Microsoft Graph collects and analyses this information and presents it to users based on their context. According to Microsoft:

‘Microsoft Graph is made up of resources connected by relationships. For example, a user can be connected to a group through a member of relationship, and to another user through a manager relationship. (The Graph) can traverse these relationships to access these connected resources and perform actions on them through the API. You can also get valuable insights and intelligence about the data from Microsoft Graph. For example, you can get the popular files trending around a particular user, or get the most relevant people around a user.’

(Source for image and text: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/graph/docs)

According to Tony Redmond, Microsoft Graph’s REST-based APIs provide ‘… a common access approach to all manner of Office 365 data from Exchange and SharePoint to Teams and Planner’. The Graph Explorer, a newly introduced user interface, extends the ability to access information, wherever it lives. (https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/graph/graph-explorer)

How does a person access this knowledge?

In my opinion, two key points about tacit knowledge are that:

  • It can be captured easily, just as other digital applications capture information about us, including by what we click on or search for.
  • It can be accessed without a person necessarily having to search for it.

Most of us by now are familiar with the way Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, Amazon and so on capture information about our interests and present suggestions for what we might like to do next. It does this by understanding our context

Organisational knowledge management should be the same. Users should go about their business using the various digital applications available to them and other users should be able to see that information or knowledge because they have an interest in the same subject matter, or need to know it to do their work.

Users should be presented with information (subject to any security restrictions) because it relates to their work context or interests. They should not have to go looking for knowledge (although that is an option, just as finding a friend in Facebook is an option), knowledge should come to them.

How does Office 365 do this?

Most Office 365 enterprise or business users will have one or two ways to access this information:

  • Delve (may require a higher licence such as E3 for enterprise clients)
  • The One Drive for Business ‘Discover’ option.

The ‘Discover’ option allows a user to explore further, to see what others are working on. The response I get to Discover is both positive and slightly startled – the latter because it will be possible to know what others are actually doing.

Why is this important?

The ability to access and ‘harness’ collective knowledge in this way is essential to modern day workplaces.

To quote Microsoft:

‘As the pace of work accelerates, it’s more important than ever that you tap into the collective knowledge of your organisation to find answers, inform decision making, re-purpose successes and learn from lessons of the past’. (Moneypenny, 2017)

Serendipitous discovery

In his 2007 book ‘Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder’, David Weinberger spoke about three types of order:

  • The first order is the order of physical things, like how books are lined up on shelves in a library.
  • The second order is the catalogue order. A catalogue typically refers to a physical order; it is still physical, but one can make several catalogs of the same physical order. Weinberger’s prime example is the card catalog of libraries.
  • The third order of order is the digital order, where there is no limit to the number of possible orderings. The digital order frees itself from physical reality, and in it, everything can be connected and related to everything else: Everything is miscellaneous.

The phrase ‘herding cats’ always comes to mind in relation to digital information. It resists order or compartmentalisation.

Further, your order is not my order, my way of browsing or searching may not correspond with your logic for storing or describing it (especially on network file shares!).

The internet pioneered serendipitous discovery. It is now completely taken for granted when, as noted above, we are are offered suggested friends in Facebook, jobs in LinkedIn, purchases on eBay and so on. We are presented this information because the application has collected information about what we clicked on, what jobs we do (or did), who our friends are, and what we like to search for.

The idea that our work environment can do the same thing and present information automatically based on our context (information finds us) is sometimes surprising for people used to the second order of things.

 

Davenport, Thomas H. (1994), Saving IT’s Soul: Human Centered Information Management.  Harvard Business Review,  March-April, 72 (2)pp. 119-131. Duhon, Bryant (1998), It’s All in our Heads. Inform, September, 12 (8). Quoted in Koenig (2012).

Duhon, Bryant (1998), It’s All in our Heads. Inform, September, 12 (8), pp. 8-13.

Koenig, Michael (4 May 2012), What is KM? Knowledge Management Explained, http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/What-Is-…/What-is-KM-Knowledge-Management-Explained-82405.aspx, accessed 21 July 2017

Naomi Moneypenny (17 May 2017), Harnessing Collective Knowledge with SharePoint and Yammer, https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/SharePoint-Blog/Harnessing-Collective-Knowledge-with-SharePoint-and-Yammer/ba-p/70164, accessed 21 July 2017

Redmond, Tony (20 July 2017), Exploring Office 365 with the Graph Explorer, https://www.petri.com/exploring-office-365-graph-explorer, accessed 21 July 2017

Weinberger, David, (2007) ‘Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder’

Migrating to SharePoint Online – Early Learning with Modern and Communication sites

July 7, 2017

We have had a ‘controlled’ on-premise SharePoint environment since early 2012, starting with SharePoint 2010 and moving to SharePoint 2013 two and a half years ago.

‘Controlled’ in this sense means that users cannot create their own sites or sub-sites and site owners are responsible for managing their sites, including creating libraries and lists and managing page content.

Governance model

Our governance model, originally based on a Microsoft governance model, provided a good balance between (a) the need for excessive IT control and effort (there’s only two of us managing the whole environment), and (b) the potential for a feral environment when site creation gets out of hand.

An early decision was made to use multiple web applications for teams, projects, publishing sites, the intranet, and ‘apps’ (a handful of ‘purpose-built’ sites).

Another key governance decision made in 2012 was to keep the environment as much as possible ‘out of the box’ (OOTB) and avoid customization. By doing this we aimed to ensure that upgrades would be relatively straightforward. This didn’t prevent site owners from being fairly creative with their sites, especially site pages.

Preparing for SharePoint Online

If you are planning to move to Office 365 and SharePoint Online (SPO), you should understand how existing sites will migrate to the new platform, especially with the release of new ‘modern’ SharePoint sites and more recently ‘communication’ sites.

One of the first considerations is the architecture of the new SPO sites. These use only name-based paths – ‘/sites’ or ‘/teams’. If you have (like we did) multiple web applications or complex hierarchies of sites, you will need to consider how these will map to the new architecture.

For example:

  • Sites in multiple web applications will need to be mapped to either /teams or /sites. For example, one of our web applications was /projects; these will be migrated to /teams and all new project sites will be Office 365 Group based, with a ‘PRJ’ prefix.
  • Sites in complex hierarchies can, potentially, continue in SPO, but the SPO model is more suited to multiple, separate sites at the same level. A hierarchy or organisational structure may change and this could cause problems for moving content between sites. Having said that, all SharePoint sites site under the top level https://(organisation name).sharepoint.com ‘root’ site, followed by either /sites or /teams – e.g., https://(organisation name).sharepoint.com/sites/example.

Migrating site content

Most SharePoint site content consists of a combination of pages, libraries and lists, and the data stored in each.

Each has a new counterpart in SPO and you need to understood these in advance of migrating. Note however that Microsoft have continued the ‘classic’ look in SPO so that the pages look the same (for the time being); libraries and lists on the other hand are converted immediately to the new ‘modern’ style on migration.

Libraries and Lists

The most visible change to libraries and lists is the removal of the familiar ribbon menu and its replacement with a much simpler and user-friendly version, one that is almost identical with the new ‘ribbon’ that appears in OneDrive for Business.

The main library ribbon is as follows:

SPOLibRib1

The ribbon changes when a document is selected, in this case a Word document:

SPOLibRib2

The new ‘ribbon’ was designed to make it as easy as possible for users to add, edit and access content, including on mobile devices, focusing on the primary actions users need to perform:

  • Add new content (including creating a new Office document from within the library, or a new folder or link)
  • Edit content (including by using Office Online applications)
  • Move and copy content
  • Share content

The ribbon is minimalistic and expands with additional options with a document is selected. The following options are accessed by clicking the three-dot ‘ellipsis’ to the far right of the ribbon menu, or clicking on the ellipsis to the right of the document name:

  • Copy to
  • Rename
  • Version history
  • Alert me
  • Manage by Alerts
  • Check Out/In

‘Flow’ is a new option in both libraries and lists, replacing the older style library or list workflows (and possibly some simple SharePoint Designer workflows).

The primary consideration when moving to modern libraries and lists is change management. On a positive note, users who found the old ribbon menu just a bit too complex should find the new ribbon simple to use.

Library Settings and List Settings still remain and have the same look and feel; this option is now accessed from the gear/cog icon.

A new (or rather slightly modified) option for SPO users on the ribbon is the ability to synchronise (‘sync’) the SPO library selected with File Explorer. This option allows users to access SPO content from the familiar File Explorer view, although various library options such as check out/in are not available; the documents in File Explorer are copies.

  • Note: Migrating to SPO provides the opportunity to ‘clean up’ libraries and lists, especially libraries without content.

Site pages

Perhaps one of the most challenging changes for SharePoint administrators and site owners or users will be the introduction of new ‘modern’ pages. This may be a challenge for organisations that have implemented or allowed site page customizations.

SharePoint Administrators need to make themselves familiar with the structure and layout of modern site pages well in advance of any planned migration, especially to understand how existing pages will migrate.

The main changes to site pages are the absence of the ribbon and completely new web parts. Instead of a ribbon, each new web part includes various editing options, outlined below.

The introduction of ‘communication’ sites in late June 2017 added to both the site type potential as well as the options for constructing a page. All of these changes make the new site pages mobile friendly.

Another key point to consider, in terms of site design, is whether sub-sites are really required.

New site page web parts

The new web parts are visible when any modern page is placed in edit mode; when you click on the page you will see the + option that allows you to add the required web part. This replaces the ‘App Part’ and ‘Web Part’ options under the SP2013 ribbon ‘INSERT’ option.

The new web parts are presented in three groups.

The first section offers the following web parts.

  • Text. Allows formatted text to be insert in a defined area on the page. Similar in a way to the FORMAT TEXT options on the ribbon menu in SP2013, and also presenting text in a Content Editor Web Part. However, it only includes rich text (headings, formatting, but no tables or images).
  • Image. Allows an image to be placed on the page, similar to SP2013 INSERT – Picture. No text can be added, and so if you need to place text and images together, you may end up with multiple text boxes with an image above or below.
  • Document. Displays the first page of a document within a defined area. This may used as alternative to a table.
  • Link. Allows a direct link to be provided to any other content. Similar to INSERT – Link in SP2013.
  • Embed. Almost the same as the ‘Embed Code’ option in SP2013 INSERT ribbon menu, but note there are some limitations.
  • Highlighted Content. Allows different types of content from the site or other locations to be displayed on the page. The content can be filtered and sorted, and various layout options are available. Type options are: Documents, Pages, News, Videos, Images, Events, Issues, Tasks, Links, Contacts, or All. As at the date of writing this post, the option to display the content from a List is still not available – but see below.

The next section offers various page layout options, similar to the Text Layout option under FORMAT TEXT.

  • One column
  • Two columns
  • Three columns
  • One-third left column
  • One-third right column

The last section offers the following web parts.

  • Bing maps. Displays a Bing map.
  • Document library (preview). Presents an editable list view of documents.
  • Events. Displays items created in the events list.
  • Hero. Provides a way to highlight and link to content using two different designs: ‘topic’, which presents 1 – 5 tiles; ‘showcase’ which presents 1 – 5 layers. The tiles or layers both include the ability to add a photograph and a link to other content.
  • Image gallery. Displays photographs from an image library.
  • List (preview). Presents an editable list view of a list.
  • News. Displays news that is created as news pages.
  • Office 365 Video. To be deprecated in favour of Stream (see below). Presents a link to a video.
  • People. Shows people from Active Directory.
  • Power BI (preview).
  • Quick chart. Displays a chart.
  • Quick links. Displays links to other content.
  • Site activity. Presents a tiled list of content that has been created recently on the site.
  • Stream (preview). This will replace the option under SP2013 INSERT – Video.
  • Yammer feed. Displays a Yammer group feed.

For more details on the new page options, see:
https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/SharePoint-Blog/Reach-your-audience-via-SharePoint-communication-sites-in-Office/ba-p/70079

Considerations using the new modern pages

Aside from the overall page layout using the new web parts in modern pages, the key issues we have identified so far with migrating old site pages have been the following, none of which are possible in the OOTB modern site pages without (possibly) using the SharePoint Framework (see below):

  • Content presented in tables, including images.
  • Images with links, including image maps.
  • Multicoloured text.
  • Images embedded next to text.

If you have allowed extensive page editing or customisations, you may need to consider how to move away from this model.

Why are the page options now limited?

In a word – consistency, but also flexibility using the new SharePoint Framework (SPFx). Site Owners (and others) may have been able to create a range of page content in SP2013 or SP2010. Without central control, this could result in a range of user experiences which may in turn affect user take up. Consistency across SharePoint sites provides users with a familiar navigation model.

The need to access SharePoint on mobile devices also likely drove the requirement for consistency of content.

What are the other options?

The new SharePoint Framework (SPFx) offers the ability to create your own custom SharePoint web parts.

However, rather than use SPFx to re-create the web parts or options that no longer exist, it may be worth considering whether these ways of presenting information are still valid – for example, presenting information in a table on a page was a popular option, but was it the best way to present that content?

Office 365 – SharePoint Communication Sites

July 2, 2017

Microsoft released the new ‘Communication Sites’ into the SharePoint environment for First Release customers in late July 2017. The release of these new and eagerly anticipated site types underlined the need for a good SharePoint architecture, especially when moving from on-premise to online in Office 365.

What are Communication Sites?

To quote Microsoft, Commmunication Sites ‘… are perfect for internal cross-company campaigns, weekly and monthly reports or status updates, product launches, events and more.’ (Source: https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2017/06/27/sharepoint-communication-sites-begin-rollout-to-office-365-customers/)

But what are they and how do they fit into your SharePoint architecture? What the relationship between Communication Sites and other sites using the publishing features of SharePoint?

Communication sites are, essentially, a new type of online-only site with three different top-level site page designs:

  • Topic. Use when you have ‘a lot of information to share, such as news, events and other content’.
  • Showcase. Use when you want ‘to feature a product, team or event using photos or images’.
  • Blank. Build your own.

Depending on the architecture of your current SharePoint environment, topic-based SharPoint sites have the ability to replace the top-level site of a publishing-based intranet site. The default layout of topic-based sites makes use of the ‘hero’ web part that presents information in several ’tiles’ on the screen as well as other web parts such as ‘news’, ‘events’, ‘documents’ and ‘contacts’. Multiple columns can be displayed on the page and various other options are possible, including by using the SharePoint Framework.

Showcase-based sites, on the other hand, allow you to promote and showcase parts of the organisation, events or products. The default layout also uses the hero web part that allows content to be displayed in one to five layers.

The blank design allows you to create your own site structure.

To quote Microsoft on the link above (which includes lots of screenshots), ‘When you create a page on a communication site, you can embed documents and video, and dynamically pull in real-time data from across Office 365, including documents from SharePoint, Power BI reports, Microsoft Stream videos and Yammer discussions. The resulting page is a rich and dynamic communication’.

How do you create Communication Sites?

Communication sites are created in the same (new) way as Office 365 Group-based sites, by clicking on the ‘Create Site’ option in the SharePoint portal (https://(your company).sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/sharepoint.aspx).

Clicking this option presents two options as shown above: (a) team sites and (b) communication sites. Only authorised users who can create O365 Groups can create a Group-based team site or a Communication site.

Creating a new Communication site using this option does not create an O365 Group, unlike a Group-based team site.

Note: The path for both new Group-based and Communication sites is set in the SharePoint Admin portal. In our experience most Group-based sites need to be created in the /teams name path, while Communication sites should be created in the /sites name path. It can take a little while (we found up to 20 minutes) for the changed option to appear in the SharePoint portal, ‘create site’ option.

SPOComms_DesignName

When the ‘Communication Site’ option is selected, the authorised user must (a) select which design (topic, showcase, or blank) and (b) give the site a name (which becomes the URL address). We found it was very easy for a use not to select the correct site design because it appears on the left, whereas all the other options including the name appear on the right of the site creation process. The new site is created quickly after ‘Finish’ is selected – in a matter of minutes.

Note: The new sign designs are only available at the top level of the site. New sub-sites are standard sub-sites which, depending on your set up, are probably going to be ‘classic’ site pages with modern libraries and lists. The site pages can of course be easily swapped over for a new modern page, but these pages do not include (or do not seem to inherit) the same design options as on the top level topic and showcase based sites. There may be an architecture or design reason for this – see below.

Using Communication Sites

As noted above, Communication sites have two primary potential uses:

  • Replacement for top level intranet sites that are usually built on sites with publishing features enabled
  • New ‘showcase’ sites, that may also already exist as publishing sites

The meaning of ‘intranet’ in this context may vary, but in our context the intranet is a standard top-level site, with multiple sub-sites, with publishing features enabled and common organisation-wide centralised information such as news, organisational structure and information, and policies and forms. It may also include extensive customisation. Other types of ‘intranet’ might include:

  • The top level in a hierarchy of team and publishing sites, all known as the ‘intranet’.
  • Any other SharePoint site that is known as the ‘intranet’. This might include team sites.

Considerations when using Communication Sites

As noted above, the ‘topic’ and ‘showcase’ design elements of Communication sites are restricted to the top level site only. However, many ‘intranet’ sites include at least one level of sub-site. Therefore, careful consideration needs to be given to the architecture of the proposed ‘intranet’ if a decision is made to use Commmunication sites instead of traditional publishing sites for this purpose.

Communication sites include the following default elements:

  • Top level site page, using the ‘hero’ web part that provides links to other information.
  • Site pages (includes the top level page and any news pages)
  • News (pages)
  • Events (calendar)
  • Documents (library)

Other apps that can be added to these sites include:

  • Custom list
  • Site mailbox

Organisations may also make use of the SharePoint Framework to add other types of content on the pages.

Clearly, this may limit the potential to use a Communication site to completely replace an existing multi-sub-site intranet.

The lesson that may be drawn from this is that Communication sites using the ‘topic’ design are not intended to be a complete replacement for a multi-sub-site intranet. The inference is that replacement intranets may actually be made up of multiple different sites.

A possible structure (based on a typical intranet site) might be made up of the following elements:

  • Organisation ‘home site’ using the ‘topic’ design. This would typically be the first ‘go-to’ place for users to learn more about how the organisation works, the latest news, and policies and forms. It may also include multiple links to other applications or content. ‘Hero’ web part links may point to content within the site, or to other Communication sites (topic or showcase).
  • A dedicated sub-site for policies and forms.
  • News pages
  • Multiple ‘showcase’ design sites for each organisational area or event, to promote their work, instead of using sub-sites from the main site to do this.
  • Multiple sites under the ‘/teams’ (includes Group-based sites) and ‘/sites’ name paths.

How do you find anything?

A possible concern to separating elements of existing SharePoint sites into completely separate sites is finding the content; if the information forms part of the same site, it should be possible to find it relatively easily.

The simple answer to this is that the ‘Search’ option in SharePoint Online no longer points to the same site by default, and instead searches across all SharePoint content, regardless of its location.

Conclusions

Organisations that continue to host their SharePoint sites in on-premise servers will need to consider and plan how to migrate their sites, including their intranet, into the new SharePoint Online environment, with the following options:

  • Team, publishing and other ‘traditional’ site types created via the SharePoint Admin portal, under the ‘/sites’ or ‘/teams’ paths.
  • Office 365-Group based sites, created from the SharePoint Portal, which also creates a Group and all associated elements. Alternatively, O365 Groups created in the ‘Groups’ section of the Office 365 Admin portal, that create O365-linked SharePoint sites. The latter option is preferred to maintain naming conventions and restrict uncontrolled growth and inconsistent naming of both Groups and SharePoint sites.
  • Communication sites, created from the SharePoint portal.

Traditional, multi-level intranets will almost certainly need to be discarded in favour of multi-site based intranet content, unless the organisation is prepared to use standard sub-site (modern) page layouts to present information to users.

Organisations that continue to want to have complex intranet sites may need to explore the SharePoint Framework and engage third-party vendors who can support this model.

Whichever option is selected, an important element not to lose sight of is the ability to access (and if necessary, add to or edit) content via a mobile device. The more complex the site, the harder it will be (without considerable extra cost) to present it on a mobile device.

 

 

 

 

Applying (new) Retention Policies to Office 365 Content

April 30, 2017

From time to time I’m asked about the way records retention policies ‘work’ in SharePoint. A common criticism has been that SharePoint’s retention model is based on applying retention policies to individual records (e.g., documents in a library or individual emails) rather than to aggregations of records, the most obvious of which is a document library.

The idea of storing and managing related records together in a single aggregation derives from the management of paper records – in files, boxes, and series. This model (of aggregations containing all records relating to a given subject) was largely replicated in electronic document management systems (EDMS – many of which were used to register paper files and boxes previously) when they appeared or were modified to manage digital records in the late 1990s.

In fact, many EDM systems did not actually manage records in an aggregation; the actual digital records were stored in a secure network file stored, and presented in the EDMS user interface though a common ‘file number’ (or similar) ID.

In any case, the ability to store all digital records on the same subject together in the one system (e.g., EDMS) was always hampered by the fact that (a) email and documents were created by different systems, (b) stored in different locations (servers), and (c) use of network file shares continued more or less unabated.

The increasing complexity and types of digital records underlines the difficulty of ever storing, let alone managing or applying retention and disposal actions, to them in a single aggregation.

Until recently, Microsoft’s retention and disposal options reflected the fact that applications used to create digital records stored them in different locations (servers) – Exchange and SharePoint. Retention policies targeted individual records stored in those applications, rather than aggregations.

In March 2017, Microsoft introduced a new, single central way to create and apply retention and disposal policies to most Office 365 content, wherever it was stored – Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Groups, and Skype for Business.

This post:

  • Summarizes the existing ‘out of the box’ retention and disposal options in SharePoint, but not Exchange (see my earlier post on this subject).
  • Discusses issues with existing retention and disposal options in SharePoint.
  • Describes how the new centrally-managed retention policies and labels can be applied to most content in Office 365.
  • Discusses why applying retention policies to individual records rather than aggregations may be a better option in the digital world.

Records managers working in organisations that use Office 365 to manage records should familiarize themselves with the way these new retention policies work.

Note: The details in this post are based on the Australian recordkeeping context, which may be different from your specific location.

SharePoint out of the box (OOTB) retention and disposal options

Until recently, the only available OOTB options to apply retention and disposal actions to SharePoint were to:

  • Apply an information management policy to an entire site via the Site Collection Settings. This option is suitable for short-lived sites such as project or closed, archived sites, but less suitable for long-lived team sites which might have a range of different content.
  • Create a retention policy using the information management policy settings in Content Types. This option applies the policy to individual records. Content Types also include the ability to ‘transfer’ (actually copy) records after a defined period to another location, such as a Records Center.
  • Use a folder-based information management policy. This option requires the default Content Type-based policy on a document library to be changed via Library Settings – Information Management Policy Settings, to Library and Folders.

Another option was to adopt a form of ‘retention in place’ and regard each library as a logical aggregation of records, the equivalent of a ‘file’, and manage retention and disposal manually or using PowerShell scripts to identify libraries for potential disposal based on the last modified date of the records. Some vendors have developed a similar model to manage retention policies on libraries using a central ‘console’.

Applying retention and disposal actions to individual records

Both the Content Type and folder-based options noted above apply the retention policy to individual records in the library, not the library (aggregation/container) as a whole.

That is, disposal was based on a time period after which each individual record was created, modified, or declared a record. The logic behind this model appears to be that a document library may store multiple record types each with different retention requirements. This may not be true for all document libraries, but it usually is for many.

Applying automated disposal actions on individual records (rather than an aggregation of records) is probably counter-intuitive for most records managers. The main concerns, from a recordkeeping (and possibly also archival) point of view are the absence of (a) a documented review and approval process before the records are destroyed, and (b) a metadata record of what was destroyed. That is, the records simple disappear from the document library, removing records that may would be relevant to the context of the original aggregation. This, of course, assumes that all records relating to the subject were stored in a single aggregation which, as noted above, may not always be the case.

Global Retention Policies and Labels in Office 365

In March 2017, Microsoft introduced two new ‘global’ retention options – retention policies and labels – to Office 365. The two options allow organisations to apply centrally set and apply retention policies to the same type of record, in whatever form and wherever they are stored – emails in Exchange, documents and lists in SharePoint, conversations (in Office 365 Groups and Skype)..

Examples of ‘types’ of information could include:

  • Corporate records that must be kept for the life of the company.
  • Financial records that need to be kept for 7 years.
  • ‘Working records’ that could be deleted after a minimum period of time.
  • Personnel records or staff files that had to be kept indefinitely.

As Tony Redmond noted in this recent article, these new retention policies build on the type of retention policies first released in Exchange 2010 using folder, system, personal and default tags. The article suggests that organisations that have applied Exchange retention policies may need to consider the impact of these new types of policies. In particular, the ability to move email to archive mailboxes is lost, replaced with a retention policy.

How Retention Policies work

Retention policies in Office 365 are created by authorized users (ideally, records managers) in the Retention section of the Security and Compliance Center.

Creating a new retention policy

Each policy has the following options: Name, Settings, Locations and Preservation Lock.

Name

The name of the retention policy should reflect the class name or number in the records retention schedules so that it can be easily identified and applied to content wherever it can be applied in Office 365 (see below for ‘Locations’).

Settings

The two Settings options are based on two questions:

  • Do you want to retain the content? 
    • If ‘Yes, I want to retain it’ is selected, the choices are either ‘Forever’ or a configurable ‘n days/months/years’ (e.g. 7 years). The administrator must then decide if, once it reaches that point, the record should be deleted or not. If ‘Yes’ is selected, the content will be deleted from where it is currently stored as described in the next two points.
    • >>For SharePoint content there are two options when the retention period expires. (1) If the record has not been modified or deleted it will be deleted from the original library where it was stored, and then remain in the two-stage Recycle Bin for up to 90 days. (2) If the content has been modified or deleted, it is transferred to the hidden Preservation Hold library that is created when the retention policy is applied to a SharePoint site and deleted from that library. In this case, the administrator has only 7 days to recover the content before it is deleted permanently.
    • >>For Exchange content there are also two options. (1) If the item is modified or permanently deleted by the user during the retention period, the item is copied (if modified) or moved (if deleted) to the Recoverable Items folder. The retention policy process identifies and deletes items whose retention period has expired within 14 to 30 (configurable) days of the end of the retention period.  (2) If the item is not modified or deleted during the retention period, the same process runs on all folders in the mailbox and identifies items whose retention period has expired. These items are also permanently deleted within 14 to 30 days of the end of the retention period. (Note: If a user leaves the organization, and their mailbox is included in a retention policy, the mailbox becomes an inactive mailbox. ‘The contents of an inactive mailbox are still subject to any retention policy that was placed on the mailbox before it was made inactive.)
    • If ‘No’ is selected, the content will be left in place and must be manually deleted at some point.
  • No, just delete the content that’s older than … The options are to delete: (a) after ‘n days/months/years’, and (b) based on when it was created or modified.

The (subtle) difference between these two options is that the first option (Yes) ensures that records are not permanently deleted before the end of the retention period, while the second option (No) just deletes records permanently at the end of the retention period.

Advanced retention settings are also available these allow the administrator to create a search query with specific words phrases, or link the policy with the same sensitive information options found under DLP policies, e.g., financial, medical and health, privacy, and custom.

Locations

The Locations section sets where the policy will be applied. By default this is all locations across Office 365, including content in Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Office 365 Groups and Skype for Business.

  • Office 365 has a limit of 10 organisation-wide policies and entire-location policies combined per tenant. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to what specific types of record need a global policy, especially given that not all types of records will be found globally across the organisation.

The alternative option is to apply the policy only to specific locations or users. In most cases this is likely to be Exchange and SharePoint where the majority of key records are created and stored.

  • A retention policy that includes or excludes over 1,000 specific users can contain no more than 1,000 mailboxes and 100 sites. A tenant can contain no more than 1,000 such retention policies. According to Microsoft ‘… you can get over these limits by applying either an org-wide policy or a policy that applies to entire locations’.

Retention policies applied to a SharePoint site or OneDrive account result in the creation of a hidden Preservation Hold library as noted above.

Retention policies applied to Exchange user mailboxes apply the policy to the mailbox. For public folders, the retention policy is applied at the folder level.

Preservation Lock

Finally, the administrator has the option to apply a Preservation Lock, which prevents anyone from changing or deleting the policy after it is turned on. This option should only be applied in specific circumstances as it cannot be turned off or made less restricted (by anyone, including the administrator) after it has been applied. .

Review and save

Finally, the new retention policy should be reviewed, may be saved for later, or published.

Labels

A separate option for managing retention and disposal is to use (retention) labels, which should not be confused with security labels. This option is designed to replace the following:

  • Exchange Online retention tags and retention policies, also known as messaging records management (MRM).
  • In SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business: (a) in-place records management, (b) the Records Center, and (c) information management policies.

Labels are used to manage retention policies for specific types of content across the Office 365 environment. Labels can be applied automatically to content if it matches certain conditions or keywords (E5 licence only), or manually by users to emails, documents, or Office 365 Group conversations.

See below for the relationship and priority between retention policies and labels.

Who can create labels

Labels are created by individuals (ideally records managers or similar) assigned to a compliance role in the Security and Compliance Admin portal in Office 365.

Creating Labels

Labels are created in the Security and Compliance Admin Portal under ‘Classifications’. Labels may also be created without having an associated retention policy; that is, a label can be created and applied to content as no more than a visual ‘tag’. A policy can be added to it at a later stage.

If the ‘Retention’ option is enabled for labels (on/off switch), a new section appears titled ‘When users apply this label to content’. This section is where the retention policy is defined with two options:

  • Retain the content. The choices are either ‘Forever’ or ‘n days/months/years’ (e.g., 7 years). The administrator must decide if, once it reaches that point, the labelled record should be deleted or not. The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ options are the same as for retention policies, described above.
    • If ‘Yes’ is selected, the record will be deleted from where it is stored. Administrators have 93 days to recover records that have not been edited or deleted, or 7 days to records that have been edited or deleted (and moved to the Preservation Hold library).
    • If ‘No’ is selected, the content will be left in place and must be manually deleted.
  • Don’t retain the content. The choices are to delete (a) after ‘n days/months/years’, and (b) based on when the record was created, modified, or labelled.

If the first option (‘Retain the content’) above is selected a check box option allows the administrator to use the label to classify content as a record. If the content is classified as a record, users are unable to change or delete the content or change or remove the label. They may still, however, edit the metadata.

The final step in the process is to review the settings. Once created, the administrator is returned to the main Labels screen which displays the label that has been created, allowing the administrator to then publish it.

Label limitations when used on a SharePoint document library

There are some limitations to applying a default label to a SharePoint document library:

  • It applies the label to all records except those that already have a label and those contained in document sets.
  • If the default label is removed, it removes the label from all records except those that have a label and those contained in document sets.
  • Labels cannot be applied to folders in SharePoint or OneDrive (but can be applied to folders in Exchange).
  • If the record is moved to a different library that has a different default label, it will inherit that label. Conversely, if it is moved to a library with no label, the existing label will be removed.

Note: When labels are published to an Office 365 group, the labels appear in both the group site and group mailbox in Outlook on the web. The experience of applying a label to content is identical to that shown above for email and documents.

What about legal holds?

eDiscovery in Office 365 is based around the creation of ‘cases’ in a SharePoint eDiscovery site. Cases are generally established in response to litigation (or potential litigation) and can be used to search across a range of sources. Once found, the information that forms part of the case can then be placed on hold, overriding any retention policy. However, once the hold is released, retention policies on records continue.

For more information on this subject, see:

https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Add-content-to-a-case-and-place-sources-on-hold-in-the-eDiscovery-Center-54d70de9-1ec2-4325-84f3-aeb588554479?ui=en-US&rs=en-GB&ad=GB

What’s the relationship between retention policies and labels?

Retention policies and labels do the same thing but the former is more likely to be set centrally, while the latter is set by the end user. This means that a record could have more than one retention policy applied to it.

According to Microsoft’s documentation (link below), records will be retained until the end of the longest retention period applied to it, regardless of whether that policy was based on the retention policy or the label.

Are retention policies and labels better than previous retention options?

One of the primary benefits of the new retention policy regime in Office 365 is that it enables organisations to apply retention policies centrally rather than do this separately for each application (e.g., Exchange, SharePoint) as was the case until recently. It also allows end users to apply retention policies via labels.

Retention and disposal continues to be based on the individual record, or type of record (as defined by the policy or label), not logical aggregations or containers of records such as a document library.

As noted above, the concept of an aggregation that contains all the records on a given subject is ill-suited to the digital world. The reality is that records may be created using different applications (e.g., email in Exchange, document, list item or page in SharePoint, conversation in Groups, discussions in Skype etc) and stored in multiple application locations (e.g. in Exchange folders, SharePoint libraries, etc).

The dilemma for many records managers using Office 365 is how to store or manage records together in context, including based on the organisation’s File Plan or Business Classification Scheme (BCS) terms. The need to keep records together has been the driver behind the integration of EDRM systems with email applications, allowing email to be ‘captured’ in the EDRM along with other types of documents. This has rarely been successful in practice and, in most cases, emails are duplicated and remain stored in the email server.

The new Office 365 retention policies, including those applied as labels to specific types of content, may well be the answer to this dilemma. Rather than try to capture all types of records (e.g, document email, list item, conversation) in a single aggregation or container, Office 365 allows the option for them to be stored wherever the user prefers, with the same retention policy applied.

If necessary, all records with the same label can then be found using a content search in the ‘Search and Investigation’ section of Office 365.

In my view, there are still some shortcomings in basing retention policies on individual record types:

  • Individual documents, rather than logical aggregations of documents, will be continue to be subject to disposal actions.
  • Records that may provide context to other records (including those stored in different locations) may be destroyed.
  • Appraisal options may be limited and appropriate review and approval steps before disposal may not be possible.
  • Disposal actions may be automatic and unrecoverable.
  • There may be no record kept, including the metadata, of the individual records that were destroyed.
  • It is not known how courts might view the automatic disposal of records without prior review and approval.

Final thoughts

The new Office 365 records retention policy and label options centralise the management of retention and disposal for most types of records across Office 365, reducing complexity.

Retention and disposal continues to be based on individual records rather than aggregations, but this may be better suited to the digital world in which aggregations of records may not always be achievable.

Records managers working in organisations using Office 365 need to understand and provide guidance to IT on how records retention schedules can be applied as retention policies, and how they can be directly involved in decisions regarding the new options.

For more information: –

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Overview-of-retention-policies-5e377752-700d-4870-9b6d-12bfc12d2423

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Overview-of-labels-af398293-c69d-465e-a249-d74561552d30

 

Office 365 & SharePoint Online – Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

March 17, 2017

Summary

Office 365 includes a range of information security and protection capabilities. This post focusses on the configuration and implementation of Data Loss Prevention (‘DLP’) capabilities in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business (ODfB).

Note: Microsoft have advised that the Office 365 DLP framework will apply to both Exchange and SharePoint/ODfB in the near future. For Exchange settings see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj200706(v=exchg.150).aspx and https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj150527(v=exchg.150).aspx for more information.

Purpose of DLP

The purpose of DLP is to protect specific and definable types of sensitive company or agency information by preventing (or monitoring) its deliberate or inadvertent exfiltration from the organisation.

Examples of exfiltration methods where DLP can be used include:

  • Attachments to emails.
  • Uploads to web-based systems.

Examples of the types of sensitive information that can be protected with DLP include:

  • Financial data. For example, bank account numbers, tax file numbers, credit/debit card numbers.
  • Personal and sensitive information (PSI). For example, driver’s licence numbers, tax file numbers, passport numbers.
  • Medical and Health records. For example, medical account numbers.

The requirement to protect sensitive information is the subject of legislation in a number of countries.

Enabling Data Loss Prevention in Office 365

DLP in Office 365 enabled through policies that are set in the Security and Compliance Admin Centre of the Office 365 Admin Portal, under ‘Threat Management’ > ‘Data Loss Prevention’.

DLP policies are set by the Office 365 Global Administrator, as well as the Compliance Administrator and/or the Security Administrator if these roles have been configured in the Security and Compliance Admin Centre.

To create a DLP policy, the Administrator clicks on the + icon in the Data Loss Prevention screen. This opens a new window with the following options displayed.

DLP1

A custom policy is one that is defined by the organisation. It would normally be for content that contains specific values.

The options ‘Financial regulations’, ‘Medical and health regulations’, and ‘Privacy regulations’ include default Microsoft-provided policies. Each of these default policies includes a description, coverage (e.g., what information is protected), and where the information is to be protected (e.g., in SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online).

Enabling and modifying default policies

After selecting a default policy, the authorised user must then identify the services that may store the information that need to be protected – SharePoint Online, OneDrive.

DLP2

Note: The option to choose Exchange Online is (as of 13 March 2017) still unselectable.

The next option allows the Administrator to customise the rule that has been chosen. If a default policy has been selected in the previous dialog, options for that policy will display; these may include ‘count sensitivity’ (i.e., how many times the sensitive content is identified. Low count means high sensitivity to sensitive content.

The Administrator may add a new rule or edit one of the default options.

The Administrator may modify the conditions, actions and what happens when there is an incident for each of the default policies – see below for further details.

Defining custom DLP policies

If a custom policy is required, the Administrator clicks on ‘Custom Policy’ from the ‘Data Loss Prevention’ opening dialog screen, and then ‘Next’ at the bottom of the screen. The Administrator must define which services are to be protected (same as for default policies, above).

The next screen allows the Administrator to create a new policy, via the + icon.

In the new window that opens, the Administrator can then must define the new DLP rule through Conditions, Actions, Incident reports and General.

Conditions, Actions, Incident reports, General options

For either default or custom policies, the Administrator must set the following rules:

  • Conditions – what will cause the policy to run?
  • Actions – what will happen when the policy runs?
  • Incident reports – how is reporting managed?
  • General – any other points.

Conditions

For default policies, conditions are pre-defined and are based on (a) the type of content (e.g., credit card numbers, bank account numbers) and (b) whether the content is shared internally or externally.

DLP4.png

These pre-defined conditions may be removed or edited, and new conditions may be added. Editing options include the number of times the sensitive content is found (‘Min count’, ‘Max count’), and both maximum and minimum percentage-based ‘confidence levels’.

For custom policies, the Administrator must define which conditions are to be met:

  • If you choose ‘Content contains sensitive information’, you must define the information through a + option. This brings up all the default choices provided by Microsoft.
  • If you choose ‘Content is shared with’, it allows you define if the information is shared with people inside or outside the organisation.
  • If you choose ‘Document properties contain any of these values’, you must define the values that would be found in a document. Note that, if this option is selected, the property must be configured in the SharePoint Online search settings.

Actions

For default policies, the actions to be taken are pre-defined and are based on sending a notification.

For custom policies, the Administrator must first decide whether the action will be to (a) block the content or (b) send a notification.

If ‘Block the content’ is selected the user will be unable to send an email or access the shared content.

If ‘Send a notification’ is selected it offers the same options as for custom policies. Note the ability to customise the email notification.

DLP7.png

Incident Reports

When ‘Incident Reports’ is selected for both custom and default policies, the following options are available. Incident reports should be sent to the Administrator/s.

DLP8

General

Default policies are pre-named but the name can be modified. This is also where the policy can be disabled.

Custom policies must be named and a decision made whether to enable it, test it, or turn it off. As noted below it is possible to test the policy first, to collect data.

DLP9

DLP Reporting

Reporting from the DLP policies is accessed from the Security and Compliance Centre > Reports > Dashboard.

Applying information security and protection capabilities in Office 365 & SharePoint Online

March 12, 2017

Office 365 includes a range of information security and protection capabilities. These capabilities are first set in Azure and then applied across the Office 365 environment, including in Exchange and SharePoint Online. This post focuses on the application of these capabilities and settings to SharePoint Online.

AzureInfoProtClassLabels

Enterprise E3 and E4 plans include the ability to protect information in Office 365 (Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft OneDrive for Business). If you don’t have one of those plans you will need a subscription to Microsoft Azure Rights Management.

Enabling Information Protection in Azure

The following steps must be carried out the first time Information Protection is enabled on Azure:

  • Log on to Azure (as a Global Administrator).
  • On the hub menu, click New. From the MARKETPLACE list, select Security + Identity.
  • In the Security + Identity section, in the FEATURED APPS list, select Azure Information Protection.
  • In the Azure Information Protection section, click Create.

This creates the Azure Information Protection section so that the next time you sign in to the portal, you can select the service from the hub ‘More Services’ list.

Default Azure Information Protection policies

There are four default levels in Azure Information Protection:

  • Public
  • Internal
  • Confidential
  • Secret

Once set, these levels can be applied as labels to information content. Sub-labels and new labels may also be created, as necessary via the ‘+ Add a new label’ option.

The configuration settings are shown below:

AzureInfoProtClassPortal.png

Each of these label/level settings may:

  • Be enabled or disabled
  • Be colour-coded
  • Include visual markings (the ‘Marking’ column)
  • Include conditions
  • Include additional protection settings.

Each includes a suggested colour and recommended tip, which are are accessed via the three dot menu to the right of each label.

Markings

When selected, this option will place a label watermark text on any document when the label is selected.

Conditions

Conditions may be applied, for example, if credit card numbers are detected in the text. It allows the organisation to define how conditions apply, how often (Occurrences), and whether the label would be applied automatically or is just a recommended option.

AzureInfoProtClass2

Global Policy Settings

In addition to the settings per level, there are three global policy settings:

  • All documents and emails must have a label (applied automatically or by users): Off/On
    • When set to On, all saved documents and sent emails must have a label applied. The labeling might be manually assigned by a user, automatically as a result of a condition, or be assigned by default (by setting the Select the default label option).
  • Select the default label:
    • This option allows the organisation the default label to be be assigned to documents and emails that do not have a label.
    • Note: A label with sub-labels cannot be set as the default.
  • Users must provide justification to set a lower classification label, remove a label, or remove protection: Off/On [Not applicable to sub-labels]
    • This option allows you to request user justification to set a lower classification level, remove a label, or remove protection. The action and their justification reason is logged in their local Windows event log: Application > Microsoft Azure Information Protection.

Custom Site

A custom site may be set up for the Azure Information Protection client ‘Tell me more’ web page.

Unique ‘Scoped’ Policies

In addition to the default policies listed above, a unique policy may be created. These are called Scoped Policies.

Enabling (and Disabling) Azure Information Protection

The steps above are used to set up the labels. They must then be enabled to provide protection. The steps below also allow protection to be removed.

From the Azure Information Protection section, click on the label to be set, then click on Protect. This action opens the Permission settings section.

Select Azure RMS and ‘Select template’, and then click the drop down box and select the default label template. This will probably show as, e.g., ‘(Your Company Name) – Confidential’.

Click ‘Done’ to enable this label and repeat for the others.

Note: If a new template is created after the Label section is opened, you will need to close this section and return to step 2 (to select the label to change), so that the newly created template is retrieved from Azure.

Removing Protection

Users must have the appropriate permissions to remove Rights Management protection to apply a label that has this option. This option requires them to have the Export (for Office documents) or Full Control usage right, or be the Rights Management owner (automatically grants the Full Control usage right), or be a super user for Azure Rights Management. The default rights management templates do not include the usage rights that lets users remove protection.

If users do not have permissions to remove Rights Management protection and select this label with the Remove Protection option, they see the following message: Azure Information Protection cannot apply this label. If this problem persists, contact your administrator.

Additional notes

If a departmental template is selected, or if onboarding controls have been configured:

  • Users who are outside the configured scope of the template or who are excluded from applying Azure Rights Management protection will still see the label but cannot apply it. If they select the label, they see the following message: Azure Information Protection cannot apply this label. If this problem persists, contact your administrator.
  • All templates are always shown, even if a scoped policy only is configured. For example, a scoped policy for the Marketing group; the Azure RMS templates that can be selected will not be restricted to templates that are scoped to the Marketing group – it is possible to select a departmental template that selected users cannot use. It is a good idea (to help troubleshoot issues later on) to name departmental templates to match the labels in the scoped policy.

Once these settings are made, they need to be published (via the ‘Publish’ option) to become active.

Enabling Information Protection in Office 365

Activating Information Protection in the Office 365 Admin Portal

Once they have been configured and published, it is then necessary to enable the required settings in the Office 365 Admin Portal (Settings > Services & add-ins > Microsoft Azure Information Protection).

To do this, log on to the Office 365 Admin Portal (as a Global Administrator) then click on ‘Services & add-ins’ under Settings. Click ‘Activate’ to activate the service.

Activating Information Protection for Exchange and SharePoint Online

Once the service is activated for Office 365, it can then be activated in the Exchange and SharePoint Admin Centres. In SharePoint Online this is done via the Admin Center section ‘Settings’ and ‘Information Rights Management (IRM)’.

Configuring SharePoint and SharePoint Libraries for IRM

As at 12 March 2017, it is only  possible to link Azure Information Protection classification policies with SharePoint Online if a new site is created via the SharePoint end user portal, as it appears as an option when enabled. Sites created via the SharePoint Admin Portal do not (yet) include the option to apply a protection classification.

If the creation of sites via the SharePoint end user portal is enabled, users with appropriate permissions (e.g., Owners with Full Control) can apply Information Rights Management to SharePoint libraries in their sites.

IRM is enabled on each individual library or list where the settings will be applied via Library Settings > Information Rights Management, under Permissions and Management.

SP_IRM_LibrarySettings.png

Check the box to ‘Restrict permissions on this library on download’. Only one policy can be set per library.

Assigning Information Protection labels to Office documents

[NOTE: for clients that have installed versions of Office, the Azure Information Protection client needs to be installed on the desktop. See this site for more information: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/information-protection/get-started/infoprotect-tutorial-step3%5D

When labels are configured and enabled, they can then be be automatically assigned to a document or email. Or, you can prompt users to select the label that you recommend:

  • Automatic classification applies to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint when files are saved, and apply to Outlook when emails are sent. It is not possible to use automatic classification for files that were previously manually labeled.
  • Recommended classification applies to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint when files are saved.

Applying the policies to Exchange and office

The site below describes how to apply these policies to Exchange and Office applications. These are not discussed further here.

https://github.com/Microsoft/Azure-RMSDocs/blob/master/Azure-RMSDocs/deploy-use/configure-applications.md