Archive for the ‘Retention and disposal’ Category

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

 

Sentencing and disposing of records in SharePoint 2010

August 28, 2014

This article applies only to on-premises installations of SharePoint 2010. 

SharePoint’s ‘Records Centre’ was, in theory, a place to send records from various sites for long term storage, sentencing and disposal. The idea was that you could automatically, via Content Type rules, or directly, via the ‘Send to Records Centre’ option, transfer records out of team (and other) sites into the Records Centre. 

While the theory made sense, in practice there were several problems with the model, not the least being that ‘transferred’ records were not actually transferred but copied and effectively re-registered as new records in the Records Centre. They also lost previous versions, and so on. 

We needed to find another way to manage the sentencing and disposal of records. SharePoint 2013 has the (information management) option to apply a sentence on an entire site, which is great if you want to do that, but in most cases the requirement is to sentence parts of a site, including whole libraries or lists. 

As our document-based records are stored in document libraries, and these libraries generally (but not always) have names that make sense (if you can stop people using the generic ‘Shared Documents’ default library), it seemed a good idea to focus on how we could apply retention and disposal policies to document libraries. 

The first problem is visibility of all those libraries, created across multiple site collections. The only way to see all of them was to be the SharePoint Administrator or have Site Collection Administration privileges across all sites. But it was cumbersome to have to open every site to see what was stored in them. 

I put this problem to our SharePoint Administrator and developer (Eric Fang – blog here: http://fangdahai.blogspot.com.au/) . Using PowerShell scripts, Eric developed a method to display all document libraries across all Sharepoint sites in a list. The list updates on a regular basis.

NOTE: You cannot create this type of list ‘out of the box’, it requires PowerShell scripts, and that will need to be maintained over time. This is not a skill that is normally found with most SharePoint Administrators. 

The list displays:

  • The library GUID
  • The library name and URL
  • The site collection and sites, including URLs
  • The number of items stored in each library
  • The date the library was created and who created it
  • The date any item in the library was last modified

The first, immediate, benefit we could see from this method of displaying libraries was the number of libraries that had been created but not used. We could immediately see the ability to reduce the number of libraries, especially if these had not been used for a given period (say, one year).

The next benefit was the ability to group libraries by site collection. As many of our site collections map to business functions, we could start to see the volume of content that was stored for each function, by library – many of which were created to store documents created through various activities.

For example, a common document library is ‘Meetings’. We can now filter the view to see all libraries that contain documents relating to meetings. We can also see types of libraries that have specific retention and disposal requirements.

While the list of all libraries has provided an excellent way to view all our libraries, we are now working on a method to apply retention and disposal actions to these libraries. One way to do this would be to add an extra column in the list for retention and disposal information (class number, class decription, disposal action, expected disposal date, approved by, etc).

Once a disposal action had been applied to the list, we can then review it when the disposal action became due to determine if the library could in fact be destroyed. If it can be destroyed, it would be possible to export the original library metadata columns to a spreadsheet to keep a record of what was destroyed, and when.

SharePoint 2013 Site Disposal Policies

May 18, 2013

SharePoint 2013 includes the option to set a disposal date on site collections. This article describes how to configure a SharePoint 2013 site collection to include a site disposal policy.

Default settings

A site cannot be deleted (either manually or automatically) unless a Site Policy has been set up (exception – the SharePoint Administrator has permissions to do this).

Without a Site Policy, the default settings under the Site Closure and Deletion option (see below) are as follows:

  • Site Closure – ‘Close this site now’ click box default: greyed out.
  • Site Deletion – ‘This site will be deleted on:’ Default: ‘Never’.
  • Site Policy – Default:  ‘No Site Policy’.

Setting up a Site Policy

New site policies are created under Site SettingsSite Collection AdministrationSite Policies. Once created, the policy is applied under Site SettingsSite AdministrationSite Closure and Deletion. While you can create multiple policies, only one policy can be selected at a time under the Site Closure and Deletion option.

There are no default policies; the first time Site Policies is opened, the Site Policies section provides only one option – ‘Create’. Each policy must have a Name and may have a Description. The name and description can be the class description from a records retention schedule, using ‘after date created’ or ‘after date closed’ as the triggers (see below).

Site Closure and Deletion options

There are three options under Site Closure and Deletion:

  • Do not close or delete site automatically. The default option.
  • Delete sites automatically. This option deletes a site on a pre-defined date after it was created or closed.
  • Close and delete sites automatically. This option first closes the site and then deletes it on pre-defined dates.

In addition there is a check box ‘Site Collection Closure’ that allows the site collection to be made read only when it is closed.

Delete sites automatically

When this option is selected the following appears:

  • Set Deletion Event. The two options provided are ‘Site closed date’ and ‘Site created date’, plus n days, months, or years.
  • (Check box) ‘Send an email notification to site owners this far in advance of deletion:’ (i.e., to warn them of the pending deletion) – n days, months or years. Default setting is 3 months.
  • (Check box) ‘Send follow-up notifications every:’ (i.e., to remind site owners of the pending deletion) – n days, months, or years. Default setting is 14 days.
  • (Check box) ‘Owners can postpone imminent deletion for:’ (i.e., to postpone the proposed deletion) – n days, months or years. Default setting is 1 month.

Close and delete sites automatically

This option is identical to Delete Sites Automatically except that it also includes a date when the site can be closed – after which a deletion event date is set followed by the same three options above.

Site Closure and Deletion

As noted above, a Site Policy must exist before a site can be closed and deleted using these options. The Site Policy must be selected otherwise the default options (see above) apply.

  • If the Site Policy is based on the Delete Sites Automatically option, the option to ‘Close this site now’ becomes available. If the option ‘Site Closed Date’ was selected, the site will not be deleted (at the pre-defined time) until this option is selected. If the option ‘Site Created Date’ was selected there is no requirement to ‘manually’ close the site.
  • If the policy is based on the Close and Delete Sites Automatically option, the option to ‘Close this site now’ becomes available. This allows the site to be closed earlier, otherwise the deletion date will be automatically calculated from the site policy setting and displayed next to the Site Closure and the Site Deletion options.
  • If no policy is selected, the default settings will apply; this means that the site cannot be closed.

Further reading

Overview of site policies in SharePoint 2013 (Microsoft).

Managing Physical Records in SharePoint 2010

May 7, 2013

It is sometimes said by records managers that one of the drawbacks of SharePoint 2010 (and SharePoint 2013) is that it doesn’t manage physical records, or at least not very well.

This article describes how to manage physical records in SharePoint 2010/2013 using a list that includes barcodes.

Up front and out of the box, the main limitations are the ability to: (a) print labels for paper files and boxes (including labels with barcodes) (b) attach a portable scanner to scan barcodes and (c) maintain a chronological history of file movements. These limitations may not be a problem for many organisations seeking a low-cost way to manage mostly inactive files and boxes, especially if they currently use an Access database or Excel spreadsheet to do this now.

Options to address each of these limitations are discussed in this article.

Metadata options

There are almost no limitations on the type of metadata you can use to describe physical records. I would suggest having the following metadata:

  • Title (e.g., name on the file or box)
  • Record Type (drop down list – file, box, etc)
  • Reference ID (manually entered unless you use the default ‘ID’ option, possibly with a separate ‘year’ column)
  • Date created (date first registered, default system date)
  • Start date (start of date range)
  • End date (end of date range)
  • Business Owner
  • Current location (can be a custom list of pre-defined locations)
  • Date at current location
  • Record status (drop down list: active, inactive, missing, destroyed etc)
  • Internal barcode (if one exists)
  • External barcode (usually the one provided by a storage provider)
  • Records description (description of contents, usually of a box)
  • Box number
  • Box barcode (may be the same as the Internal or External Barcode)
  • Retention schedule (can be from a pre-defined list)
  • Disposal action (can be from a pre-defined list)
  • Date to be destroyed (manually entered based on retention schedule and disposal action)
  • Destroyed? (checkbox)
  • Date destroyed (manually entered date)
  • Legal hold? (checkbox)

If physical files are registered in the system, then only details of the box and disposal action would need to be entered. When the box is ready to be sent offsite, details from the offsite storage provider’s label (often provided in advance) can be entered in the external barcode and other metadata (including current location) updated.

An optional barcode can be obtained by checking ‘Barcode’ in the Information Management Policy settings for the list item. Once checked, the barcode appears when the item is displayed in view but not when it is edited or exported.

Printing labels

All list metadata (except the barcode) can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet, which can then be used to print labels. Microsoft provide details how to create and print labels for a list in Excel here:

Scanning

Using a portable (or attached) scanner to scan barcodes and update your records register, especially with a new location (or during a physical records audit) saves a great deal of time instead of entering details manually. It is possible to scan directly to an Excel spreadsheet however several steps may be required to match or validate the barcode with the details in the SharePoint list.

For example, if series of files are being scanned to a box (or location), the usual practice is to scan the box (or location) barcode first, then scan each individual file. If scanning directly to an Excel spreadsheet, you would do it the other way around – have the list of existing files in the spreadsheet, then scan the box or location barcode to the cell next to the file number. This detail can then be copied and pasted back to the SharePoint list.

Chronological movement history

The only option to maintain a chronological movement history, out of the box, would be to add versioning to the list. This means that each time the item is edited, a new version is created, keeping the previous details. The movement history will not display in a single view in the list but clicking on ‘Version History’ will show any changes made in single view. Only ‘major’ version numbers are supported in lists (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4).

SharePoint 2010 – Send to Records Center / Centre

March 27, 2013

SharePoint 2010 includes the option to send a document from the site where it was stored to the Records Center (Records Centre in Australia), and other locations. The option is set at the Central Administration Web site under General Applications – Configure Send to Connections. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee424395(v=office.14).aspx for the details of how to configure this option.

The ‘Send to action’ list offers three options when a document is sent to the Records Centre (options which are then available across the farm):

  • Copy the document (which simply makes a copy)
  • Move the document (which appears to remove the document entirely. Microsoft state that ‘users will no longer be able to access the document from its original location’, suggesting it is not actually deleted from the original location)
  • Move and leave a link (see below)

Microsoft state (in the link above) that this option will ‘… delete the document from its current location, move it to the destination repository, and leave a link at the current location indicating that the document has been moved’. If Document IDs have been enabled, the Document ID will disappear next to the document icon, which then shows a hyperlink ‘hook’ to the document in the Records Centre. A user clicking on that link will be advised that the document has been moved.

The impact of versioning, and metadata, on ‘Send to’ moves

There are a number of issues, and potential problems, with the ‘Send to ‘ move option that need to be understood. Some of these might be sufficient to decide against using the Send to Records Centre option (or even using the Records Centre).

  • Versioning. If versioning has been applied to the document library, and versions exist, only the most current version will appear in the Records Centre. The Document ID will be the same as the current version. However, any previous versions remain in the original library. In one sense, it is good to show previous versions, however any of these previous versions can be restored. When this happens, the version that is restored now appears, with the original document number (and a ‘hook’ still on the icon). The logic of this appears to be that, if a previous version is restored, the version that has been sent to the Records Centre is no longer the current version. However, it remains – with the same Document ID – in the Records Centre.
  • Metadata. Any additional, local metadata that has been added to the Content Type in the original Site Library will disappear when the document is moved. Metadata in Content Types stored in the Content Type Hub will remain.
  • Created date. The ‘Date Created’ field in SharePoint is the date the document was created in SharePoint. When the document is sent to the Records Centre, it is assigned a new ‘Date Created’. The date created field on the original document remains unchanged.
  • Permissions. Any permissions that may have been applied to the document, via inheritance from the Library or Site, are removed and the document inherits the permissions of the relevant library in the Records Centre.

The implications for ‘Send to Records Centre’

The issues documented above could affect planning and decision making regarding use of the Records Centre and the ‘Send to’ functionality. Some issues to consider include:

  • Loss of versions when the document is moved
  • Ability to restore a previous version (and confusion about which is the current version)
  • Loss of metadata applied locally to content types
  • Changes to access permissions

If any of these are concerns for the organisation, consideration might be given to leaving documents in place where they were stored and managing them in that way. The Record Centre could instead be used to archive and apply retention policies to content from network drives.

Recordkeeping functionality in SharePoint 2013 – What’s New?

September 9, 2012

By all accounts so far, SharePoint 2013 does not have a lot of new records management functionality, but the new functionality it now has is an important step forward.  It includes:

  • Records management in the cloud, but a parallel universe to existing on-premises deployments of things like the Records Centre, Content Type Hub, and Managed Metadata.
  • The ability to apply retention policies to entire sites.
  • Better integration with Outlook, including site mailboxes.  All other email will still need to be managed.
  • Better support for eDiscovery.

Records management features in Office 365

It will now be possible to do most on-premises records management activities online in Office 365 (i.e., in SharePoint 2013 online). This includes the ability to create and use Records Centres, Content Type Hubs, Managed Metadata, and in-place records management. (See Don Lueders’ interview with Adam Harmetz from Microsoft here for more information.)

However, as Mike Alsup from AIIM points out here, on-premises and cloud-based environments will remain completely separate. It will not be possible to send records from Office 365 to the on-premises Records Center, and vice versa.

Retention policies for entire sites

This is a welcome feature as the only realistic alternative in SharePoint 2012 was to make a site read only and then ‘archive’ it.

See Microsoft’s introduction and overview to this issue for more information.

Better integration with Outlook

This is a very interesting move by Microsoft who have made it very clear that they believe content should be kept where it belongs – email in Exchange and documents in SharePoint.

In SharePoint 2013, teams can have a site mailbox that is visible from Outlook as well as the site. Documents attached to emails can be saved easily to a SharePoint document library. With retention applied to an entire site, this means that the emails in the site mailbox will be kept – in its business context – along with the rest of the relevant content.

This leaves ‘Messaging Records Management’, a feature that has not changed in Exchange 2013, to cater for all other emails.

Better discovery

SharePoint 2013 includes new eDiscovery sites. Some might say this is not a records management feature but a feature for lawyers. In any cases, both are likely to find this new feature compelling.

Applying recordkeeping policies to email – Microsoft Messaging Records Management (MRM)

June 1, 2012

The problem

The problem of managing emails as records is summed up in the following statements:

“Many organizations have yet to define an email retention policy. More than one‐quarter of organizations have not yet established any sort of email retention policy despite the fact that there are a growing body of statutory requirements and legal obligations to preserve business records, including those stored in email. Among the nearly three‐quarters of organizations that have established an email retention policy, only two‐thirds of these organizations indicate that their users are fully aware of the policy.” Michael Osterman, “Messaging Archiving and Document Management Markets Trends, 2009-20112”, dated May 2009.

‘Over 40 years after the invention of email, relatively few institutions have developed policies, implementation strategies, procedures, tools and services that support the longterm preservation of records generated via this transformative communication mechanism.’  Christopher J Prom, ‘Preserving Email’, DPC Technology Watch Report 11-01 Decemer 2011. www.dpconline.org/component/docman/doc_download/739-dpctw11-01.pdf

Storing business records in context

Traditional records management theory recommends that there should be a clear relationship between records about a particular subject or issue, regardless of format, and the business context that originated it. (AS ISO 15489-2002: 9.3 Records Capture)

In the paper world, this was achieved by the co-location of related records in a physical file.

In the electronic world, this is usually achieved through the application of metadata. Business classification and naming systems applied to electronic folders generally achieve this; as well, electronic systems also allow for a range of cross-subject metadata that allows records to be organised in different contexts.

Additional, business context-specific metadata can be applied to emails (including from integrated business applications – for example, an email saved to TRIM will show the TRIM record number in its email metadata properties).  However, this ability (as with Properties in Office documents) is rarely enabled or used.

Instead, and as with Office documents, we tend to let users ‘categorise’ their emails (and documents on network shares) through folders – although not all users do this.  (Interestingly, online email systems like Google’s gmail use tags instead of folders).

Are emails documents?

The short answer is yes (in the Australian legal evidence context), but they are documents that, in a way like xml-based Office documents like docx, are made up of structured data that displays as a single ‘document’.

Part of the problem with emails as records is the perception (on the part of users who have never had to face court) that they are not documents, but messages.  The ability to use the system to send or receive ‘private’ messages exacerbates this perception.

The problem of storing emails as records

Emails have been a constant problem and challenge for records managers and recordkeeping since they first appeared in the early 1990s.

The three main approaches to keeping emails have been to (a) print to paper, (b) save to a recordkeeping system, and (c) save to a drive.

Print to paper, while relatively common in many organisations even now, is probably the poorest (and some might say ‘silliest’) option in the digital world as (a) it is dependent on users, (b) emails usually lose their message headers, (c) emails are unsearchable in their electronic form, (d) emails remain on the Exchange system and are discoverable.

Saving emails to a recordkeeping system, while better than printing, is an inadequate option because (a) it is usually dependent on users to do it, (b) the email still remains in the Exchange system, and (c) it can sometimes result in the email being saved in a different format that is not necessarily suitable for long-term preservation (e.g., TRIM’s .vmbx).  There is also the problem of users saving ‘dumb’ emails with (valuable) attachments, which can make the attachment harder to find, identify or access.  Some systems (such as SharePoint 2010) include email-enabled storage locations.

Chris Prom, in a blog posting titled ‘Practical E-Records ‘Facilitating the Generation of Archives in the Facebook Age’, notes that:

‘…the formal recordkeeping systems previously used by many organizations for electronic records have died or have one foot firmly in the grave.  At the same time, the habits that individuals use in producing, consuming, storing, filing, searching, and interpreting records are themselves undergoing constant change.  People adopt new communication technologies at an ever-quickening pace.   Divergent personal practices, rather than the centralized electronic systems, are the harsh reality that confronts our profession’.

Saving to a drive is also a poor option, and is usually based on user preferences to want to ‘keep’ emails.  Emails saved to drives (a) will still remain in the Exchange system, (b) may lose their header information, and (c) are not necessarily saved in appropriate or accessible formats.

In relation to the last point, Outlook does not make it easy for an end user to decide, with usually five options to choose from – which is the right one?  Users will usually choose whatever is the default (.msg), but this isn’t necessarily the best long term option (which is MIME or EML – the latter described by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) as ‘an acceptable open file format for long term storage).

In all cases, keeping these emails in the business context to which they relate has been a constant problem for records managers.  As a consequence, there is a tendency on the part of almost all businesses to leave and manage emails where they are (i.e., in Exchange).

Microsoft Exchange 2010 – Messaging Records Management

To try to address this problem, Microsoft introduced ‘Mailbox Manager Policies’ in Exchange Server 2003.

This was followed by ‘Message Records Management’ with Managed Folders in Exchange Server 2007 (a feature that remains in Exchange 2010).

Exchange Server 2010 includes a new model of managing emails as records, called ‘Messaging Records Management’.  Microsoft describe it as follows:

‘Messaging records management (MRM) is the records management technology in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 that helps organizations reduce the legal risks associated with e-mail. MRM makes it easier to keep the messages needed to comply with company policy, government regulations, or legal needs, and to remove content that has no legal or business value. This is accomplished through the use of retention policies or managed folders’. (Source: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd335093)

As Microsoft notes, however (on the same page), MRM does not prevent users from deleting messaging; it is really only designed to remove them at the end of a given period.  Microsoft recommend ‘journaling’ emails where there are specific business reasons to keep them for longer (such as legal proceedings or the need to ensure specific email is kept), or applying the Legal Holds functionality.

The key elements of MRM are Retention Policy Tags (RPTs) and Retention Policies.

There are three types of Retention Tags: (1) Default Policy Tags (DPT), (2) Retention Policy Tags, and (3) Personal  Tags (which are an ‘opt-in’ on the email client).

  • Retention Policy Tags (RPTs) are used on default folders (e.g., inbox, junk mail, sent, deleted). Users cannot change the RPT but can override it with a Personal Tag.
  • Default Policy Tags can be applied by users to untagged items.  A Retention Policy can contain only one default policy tag.
  • Personal Tags can be applied by users to their own custom folders or individual emails.

In most cases, users make the decision, and the retention applies on where the email is located.  If there is actual or anticipated litigation, a Retention Hold can be applied to the user’s mailbox; however, this does not prevent users deleting emails, it only overrides any retention policies.  The Legal Hold option should be applied to prevent deletion.  Once this option is applied, Legal Hold ‘captures any deleted or edited items into a special folder that’s neither accessible nor changeable by the user’.

All retention tags include: a Tag Name, a Tag Type, an age limit (in days) with an action to take, and comments.

The actions available are:

  • Delete And Allow Recovery – This action will perform a hard delete, sending the message to the dumpster. The user will be able to recover the item using the Recover Deleted Items dialog box in Outlook 2010 or Outlook Web App.
  • Mark As Past Retention Limit – This action will mark an item as past the retention limit, displaying the message using strikethrough text in Outlook 2007, 2010 or Outlook Web App.
  • Move To Archive – This action moves the message to the users archive mailbox.(see below)
  • Move To Deleted Items – This action will move the message to the Deleted Items folder.
  • Permanently Delete – This action will permanently delete the message and cannot be restored using the Recover Deleted Items dialog box.

Once the tags are created, they can be added to a Retention Policy and this policy, in turn, is then applied to specific mailboxes – one policy per mailbox.

The ‘auto-tagging’ feature, once 500 items have been tagged, will automatically tag items in a user’s mailox based on their past tagging activities.

So, is MRM the answer to managing emails as records? 

Yes and no.  From a recordkeeping perspective, MRM:

  • Does nothing to ensure that records are kept in the business activity or functional context to which they relate, unless (of course) the emails are the only form of record that exists for the business activity.
  • Does not stop users from deleting emails.

On a positive note, MRM:

  • Attempts to address the problem of email retention.
  • Allows the application of a retention policy to emails that might be stored in a business context Outlook mailbox or fold As well, Exchange features like Legal Hold and Journaling allow further controls to be implemented.

Archiving

Exchange 2010 now includes a ‘personal archives feature’, which allows users to save emails to their own archive instead of saving emails to drives or using Personal Storage (.pst). A good article on this subject can be found at this location: http://mohamedridha.com/2011/11/07/exchange-2010-online-archiving-and-retention-tagspolicies-a-practical-example/

Sources (all retrieved 1 June 2012)

SharePoint 2010 vs network shares for managing documents and records

May 8, 2012

I am often asked, or asked to justify, why users should use SharePoint 2010 instead of network drive folders (shares), which they love and have been using for 20+ years, to manage their documents and records.

Here is a summary:

User interface & naming

  • Network drives: Nested folders. Users will give a document a name that makes sense to them. Not necessarily anyone else.
  • SharePoint: Users access their information via browser based ‘sites’. Sites not only store documents but also include a wide range of other functionality, including information about (or for) the business area storing the documents, calendars, tasks, discussions, announcements etc (the range is more or less unlimited). Users will also give a name that makes sense to them.

Metadata

  • Network drives: Although additional metadata options are available, very few users use it.
  • SharePoint: Business areas can define what (unlimited) metadata, in addition to the name, is required and can make some of it mandatory. Metadata can be pre-defined centrally, automatically attached to documents, control how a document will be used, or it can be user-defined (‘folksonomy’). Metadata fields can be displayed in a document (e.g., as a template), and can be used in various ways to search for and display information.

Storage options

  • Network drives: Business user (or user) defined folders with no control over naming of folders. Frequent duplication.
  • SharePoint: Documents are stored in browser-accessible sites, in document ‘libraries’ or document sets in libraries. (Document sets are similar to folders but with unique IDs and their own, inheritable, metadata and access controls). User defined folders are available but not recommended (as it is hard to navigate). Document Libraries can be displayed as network drives, allowing drag and drop from drives.

Single source of truth

  • Network drives: Copies of documents everywhere (including as attachments to emails), hard to identify the single authoritative version.
  • SharePoint: Single copy, with a unique ID, accessible by anyone with permission.

Numbering

  • Network drives: Documents do not have unique IDs.
  • SharePoint: Documents have persistent, unique IDs. This aids in identification and retrieval.

Hyperlinks

  • Network drives: Documents do not have hyperlinks. As a result, to let someone know about a document, common practice is to attach it to an email (rather than send a description of the folder location). Copies of documents are everywhere.
  • SharePoint: Documents have hyperlinks. Users can include the hyperlink in other documents, and send the unique ID hyperlink to the single document that anyone can access. Reduced duplication.

Version controls and history

  • Network drives: Version controls exist (in Windows 7) but are generally not used and not visible. ‘View previous versions’ is an option.
  • SharePoint: Minor (0.1, 1.1) as well as major (1.0, 2.0) version controls. Version numbers are visible (as is ‘Last modified by’). Previous versions are all accessible and can be ‘promoted’.

Check in/out

  • Network drives: Documents are editable by anyone, at any time.
  • SharePoint: Check out allows a user to lock down a document while it is being edited; the user to whom the document is checked out to is clearly visile. When checked back in, the user can choose to create a new version or override the existing version.

Workflow

  • Network drives: The only ‘workflow’ available to most users is to attach the document to an email.
  • SharePoint: Includes simple ‘approval’ workflow out of the box, as well as a couple of other simple workflows allowing, for example, the user to request anyone else to review a document, with that approval recorded in the workflow. Visual displays of the current status of a workflow.

Access controls/permissions

  • Network drives: Access controls are difficult to maintain and not easily visible.
  • SharePoint: Access controls are easier to maintain by business areas, and are ‘inherited’ downwards (and can be restricted/widened at any level).

Audit trails

  • Network drives: No audit trails to show who saw, or did what, to a document.
  • SharePoint: Audit trails can show (if enabled) everything that was done to a document, by whom.

Alerts

  • Network drives: No alerts when something changes.
  • SharePoint: Extensive alerts available, including at the document, document set, library or site level.

Records management

  • Network drives: No records management capability.
  • SharePoint: Incorporates records management capability (including records retention requirements), mostly invisible to end users.