SharePoint is very well positioned as an active repository. The amount of SharePoint tools and apps within the SharePoint environment that the users have little or no understanding of is incredible. However, in many cases companies allow their SharePoint sites to become a virtual dumping ground. How do you avoid this? As a SharePoint developer here at Segue, I get asked this question a lot.
IT departments have had a long standing policy to allow the user to retain items on large expensive (expansive?) network drives. This has happened for three reasons:
- the inability to apply governance to these storage devices,
- no versioning capability
- the inability to police/report item activity
Now we have moved from these network drives onto SharePoint. However, in many cases the same practices that had the IT departments struggling with the growth of network drives is taking place on the SharePoint environment. How do you fix this issue?
The first question to ask your organization is: Do we have a lot of data that should not be in there? In almost every case the answer will be yes. With that said the next questions that need to be asked are: How did it get so out of hand and how do we fix this problem?
With the rise of the new SharePoint 2013 platform, a new social media integration aspect will be introduced into the SharePoint environment. With this will come the need to retain additional items- like blog posts and a media feed, among other new features. How do you prevent these new additions from creating an even bigger retention problem? The best answer to the question is end user training, legal adoption for retention, and proper tagging and organization.
End User Training: If you do not teach the users how to use the SharePoint document management and storage retention functionality the problems will continue. The best example that comes to mind is using versioning control correctly; you do not need to have ten or more Status Reports named based on a date. Teaching this practice will reduce the storage from ten individual items to one, with the changes housed in the versioning control function. Each version can be opened, reviewed and compared using the office product.
Legal Adoption for Retention: How long does something need to be retained? Archives should be based on policy not feelings. Users should ask themselves, “How long legally do we need to keep certain types of items?” Also, if your company is following any type of methodology (such as CMM,CMMI,etc.) this may place limits on the amount of versions your company needs to retain. These totals could range from ten years to 30 days but does that mean you have to keep 30 versions of the same document? Once these questions are answered and the limits and standards are set, you can begin using the SharePoint functionality to its fullest potential. Using SharePoint, or SharePoint in conjunction with a third party application, can also start your company on the road to proper archiving.
Proper Tagging and Organization: Moving them out of SharePoint into a BLOB or Tape storage with stubs which will offer easy recall of archived data. This will allow users to still search across SharePoint data points. Consistency matters! Putting a Governance model in place with legal help will reduce the need for a user to make the claim that I need all of my documents and all of the versions.