October 26, 2016

SharePoint 2016: How is SharePoint Records Management Impacted?

6 minute read

Now that SharePoint 2016 has rolled out, let's discuss its impact on records management. As with any long-awaited release, there were rumors and speculation around what features would or wouldn't be included. How will these features and changes affect the overall information governance of your records? We all know SharePoint records management is a priority for all organizations. We have compiled a list of the new or updated features and what effect it will have on records management.

SharePoint and Office 365: The Future is Hybrid

One major goal for Microsoft is to make SharePoint and Office 365 have even deeper integration. For example, hybrid cloud search. This will provide a unified search experience where the Office 365 search will take-on your SharePoint search index so that you can see results from both for the same query. However, this will only work from Office 365 Search. If a user searches from SharePoint On-Premise against their On-Premise search service, they will only receive local results.

OneDrive redirection has been improved as well. You can now redirect your My Sites to your existing Office 365 subscription's OneDrive for Business. If a user clicks on OneDrive, they will be redirected to their Office 365 My Site and not the On-Premise.

Additionally, a user can follow both On-Premise and Office 365 sites and see them all in one place under the "Sites" app.

In an effort to continue this integration visually, SharePoint 2016 is introducing the App Launcher and implementing an almost identical interface to that of Office 365. This will help to improve the user experience as most are familiar with the Office 365 UI.

Infrastructure and Performance Improvements

Of course performance increase is a factor with any new release and SharePoint 2016 is no exception. Bill Baer, the Senior Technical Product Manager for the SharePoint team is quoted as saying "SharePoint 2016 was built from the Cloud-Up". There are a host of new and improved features in this category.

For example, you can now install just the role that you want on particular SharePoint 2016 servers. This process will only install what's required and ensure that all servers that belong to each role are compliant. You will also be able to look at the services running on the server and see if they are also compliant. The new version of SharePoint 2016 is also leaner and there is now zero downtime required to update the servers.

One feature that was troublesome in the past was the 5,000 document view limit for end users who were unaware they had to index their columns. This was done to ensure consistent performance on the server, but caused confusion for some. SharePoint 2016 added the Automatic Index Management feature, which automatically creates Indexed Columns once the limit is reached.

Although it is not ideal to store particularly large files in SharePoint, 2016 has increased the old 2GB limit to essentially unlimited, though Microsoft does recommend files no larger than 10GB. Finally, by using a template administrators can create Site Collections in seconds.

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In today's world of mobility and remote workers, collaboration is a necessity, especially on mobile devices. Luckily, SharePoint 2016 comes with a touch friendly interface that is consistent across devices. It also provides the latest technologies and standards for mobile synchronization.

Improved sharing is another key feature. The Share button at the top right of every page makes it easy for users to share sites and files. 2016 still uses permission levels, groups and inheritance to control documents but the users don't need to understand these concepts to simply share during their work day.

The OneDrive for Business area aims to bring users to one place to help them work on files regardless of where they are. Now, you'll also be able to navigate to your Sites and their libraries from there.

New Compliance Center

Many of the compliance features in Office 365 will be able to be leveraged with SharePoint 2016. The In-Place Policy Hold Center and the Compliance Center allow you to build policies and apply them within the environment. These policies are very basic and allow for things like deleting data in OneDrive for Business after x number of years.

Although these policies just barely scratch the surface of a true information governance program, it is a step in the right direction.

What does this mean for records management?

Overall, these improvements to SharePoint 2016 will increase efficiency and performance while delivering a consistent interface. Both administrators and everyday users will likely benefit with the eventual adoption of this new release.

From a SharePoint records management standpoint however, not much has changed. While the Compliance Center and In-Place Policy Center are interesting features, they leave much to be desired to reach true records management:

  • You can indeed manage records in place, but SharePoint drives records retention and disposition using content types which is incredibly cumbersome
  • Most organizations need hundreds of content types at a minimum to support their retention schedules; which is why this method is flawed
  • This prevents real records management with actual, system-enabled retention and disposition according to the retention schedule

In fact, we wrote a blog post that is still relevant despite these updated features. You can check it out here.

Going Forward

SharePoint 2016 certainly looks to change the way its records management is handled going forward, and a conscious effort to understand those needs by Microsoft is a good step.

So, not only can SharePoint out of the box not fulfill the needs of a complex records management program, we haven't even scratched the surface of all the other places your organization may be storing data that needs to be governed. This includes email, file shares, Office 365, third-party cloud storage or even physical locations. Having a central file plan that can be applied to all of your records is true records management, or as we like to say, complete information governance.

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