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Managing records in SharePoint: how does it work?

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Today, most organizations use Microsoft SharePoint to manage their daily collaborative projects and the content produced by their teams, because this collaboration and document management solution is easy to use and replaces network drives. Many documents in your SharePoint libraries are actually business documents that you need to manage and protect properly.

This article explains the document management feature provided by Microsoft to facilitate the management of activity documents in SharePoint. It also explains what you need to use it most effectively.

Traditional Approaches to Records Management in SharePoint

SharePoint offers two traditional approaches to records management:

  • On-site records management – ​​Records are stored in the libraries where they were created. The advantage of this approach is that users can get their work done without worrying about where documents are located. However, managing in-place records is a heavy burden for the administrator responsible for them because they are spread across multiple sites and site collections. To ensure proper audits and controls, including managing retention periods, all site collection administrators should coordinate their efforts. The larger the organization, the greater the challenge.
  • SharePoint Records Center – Records are transferred to a central location for storage and management. This option makes governance and compliance much easier for administrators. However, moving records out of their original library can make it difficult for users to find the data they need. The solution is to configure SharePoint to leave a stub when content is declared as an activity document and is moved to the Records Center; this stub serves as a link that users can follow to access the document, which minimizes the impact on their user experience.

Both of these traditional approaches have serious drawbacks. First, they require staff to be properly trained and disciplined in reporting records, especially as the business grows and accumulates more and more electronic data and less and less physical records. . Since most people don't want to spend too much time declaring records, it is often very difficult to ensure good information management. Additionally, if you choose the Records Center to manage activity records, people often delay reporting records for fear of losing access to the information they need.

Other challenges arise if you're implementing records management after years of using SharePoint. Managing records in SharePoint requires well-structured document libraries with accurate metadata, which most SharePoint environments lack. And of course, the number of backlogged files in SharePoint is colossal; who has the time and the will to examine them all in order to determine which ones must be declared as documents of activity?

A modern approach

A better approach is to give the SharePoint Records Center ownership of the documents while allowing the files to remain in their original location. This federated approach is quickly becoming the preferred strategy for organizations using SharePoint as part of their Office 365 implementation. The Office 365 solution includes a Security & Compliance Center that enables this modern approach to policy management information management. Organizations can create retention policies that apply at the site or email address level. They can also apply retention labels to any type of item or content in Office 365, from emails to documents,

Improve records management in SharePoint

The Records Center and Security & Compliance Center can meet the legal needs of most organizations – once records are collected and classified. The challenge is this: Organizations need a way to make it easier to identify and report records. If you put this load on users, your system will not be used.

Automatic business document classification will relieve your workers of the knowledge of document reporting burden while increasing the accuracy and consistency of your document classification. Over time, as you refine your tool, you can reassess content already classified in Microsoft SharePoint to correct misclassifications and find overlooked content, ensuring that your organization's policies for records are properly followed.

Tools like Netwrix Data Classification can automatically identify, classify and report records. While self-classification tools don't eliminate the need to train users or manually report records, they help you achieve the required level of compliance and prove it to auditors and your legal department.


The best approach to implementing records management is to use a Records Center, making sure to plan and organize it carefully. Train your staff on records management and processes, but use an automatic classification tool to classify records accurately and consistently when deploying SharePoint. Thus, you will overcome chaos.

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