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Online vs. On-Premises: How Does Cloud Adoption Affect SharePoint Records Management?

A recent study by Sharegate highlights the growing popularity of SharePoint online across organizations. Not surprisingly given the overall IT culture today, SharePoint Online adoption is increasing.

Study Results

In fact, 61% of companies surveyed are running either full cloud or hybrid SharePoint environments. Additonally, 42% said their budget in this area is increasing. Of course, any change in the status quo is not without resistance. Overall, 36% said that security concerns are keeping them from migrating to the cloud.

Overall migration to completely new versions has predictably been slow as evidenced by the fact that 82% of organizations are still using SharePoint 2013 in some way. Companies are also adapting SharePoint to their specific needs as 82% stated they are personalizing their environments for look and feel, with Workflow, Search and Site Provisioning following behind.

When it comes to Office 365 workloads being used, 79% said they are using Team/Intranet sites, which was almost as much as email. Clearly, SharePoint is an essential business tool. Also, plans to use OneDrive for business in the future are increasing as 44% said it was in their objectives.

As the adoption rate of cloud increases, so does the way in which companies are running Active Directory. In fact, 31% are using a Hybrid Active Directory.

How Does This Affect SharePoint Records Management?

Let's explore a few areas that are particularly high risk and can be solved by a complete SharePoint records management program, regardless of whether it is online or on-premises.

1. Email

While the information governance community has made advancements in other areas, email is sorely lacking behind. Despite the fact that email creates nearly five times as many documents that can be classified as records compared to other document types, the records and retention management system for email in most organizations is insufficient. Furthering the problem is the abundance of emails sent from mobile devices which often provide incomplete records of where emails were sent and which attachments were involved.

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The servers themselves have been unreliable as well according to the AIIM report as there has been poor coordination between SharePoint and Exchange developments. The overall lack of consistent and universal policies around email is at the core of these issues. Emails are quite often used as evidence in legal cases, so their importance should not be understated. It is a critical area for every organization to consider when implementing their information governance program.

2. Retention Management

Data retention and reducing storage are key elements of any information governance program. According to the AIIM report, however, only a small portion of the content stored by most organizations is correctly tagged and typed and thus has a defined retention period. The remaining content is often redundant, trivial or obsolete, also known as ROT. We discussed ROT in a previous blog post.

Despite the best intentions of most organizations, the numbers from those surveyed who are practicing effective retention management is staggeringly low. For example, only 11% of file share systems, 28% of SharePoint records management systems and 18% of cloud share systems had proper retention periods in place. In fact, only 67% of record management systems have effective retention management.

3. Legal Holds

We all know the importance of legal holds and the potential ramifications of extensive eDiscovery. We wrote a blog post about a while back with some pretty sobering statistics. Many organizations have discovered the unfortunate reality of being unprepared and scrambling to recover the needed records in the event of a lawsuit. In fact, 31% of large organizations are managing multiple holds at a time. However, even mid-sized and small businesses need to have a legal hold system in place. One lawsuit could cripple their financial future or at the very least cost an incredible amount of time and undue stress.

As with the other areas, legal holds are a crucial part of an organization's overall information governance strategy and should be considered at every stage and throughout all parts of the organization. Ensuring that these holds are able to be placed on all types of records within SharePoint is another key consideration.

 

Where To Go From Here

The good news is that as technology has continued to improve, solving these challenges has become easier. Companies are also more open to moving their records to the cloud as evidenced by the statistics mentioned above. This has also allowed SharePoint records management to become part of the overall information governance strategy. Let's go over a plan of action.

1. Reduce volume

Data is being created at exponentially increasing rates and new data is being added to the existing ROT data clogging up a company's storage. This means an organization needs to establish an overarching and complete SharePoint records management plan that involves every business unit.

Automation is also a requirement given the amount of data which needs to be governed. This ensures less reliance on employees to not only take the time to classify records, but to do so correctly. Additionally, integrating this program into existing workflows will drastically increase adherence and compliance.

By not forcing your users to greatly alter their daily activity, they are more likely to participate fully. Clear and simple direction on the process and expected outcomes of your data governance program will also keep everyone on the same page.

2. Locate your information

The business must understand where their data, especially those classified as records, is located and what the stages of those records' lifecycle look like. It is also important to know who is generating this data, who has access to it and how it is being transferred. There must be a complete picture of what a record looks like throughout it's useful life and what is done with it after its usefulness has expired.

As a basic example, keeping personally identifiable information (PII) separate and locked down to only certain departments or employees is a simple step that must be taken for not only the potential harm to an individual but the liability the organization could face in the case of a breach.

3. Structuring data

Most data is unstructured within a typical organization. This is the root of the problems faced when attempting to retrieve the proper information. The first step is working with the department directors to establish which types of documents are critical and declared as records.

Once that has been established, these content types will need to be included in the overall file plan and the proper metadata must be included when these records are being declared. This not only eliminates confusion, it is the engine that allows an automated software like RecordLion to correctly apply policies to records, throughout the SharePoint records management process.

4. Legacy data

As for the legacy data your company currently has, the decision on how that should be handled is best done case-by-case. Sometimes, an entire obsolete repository or library can be disposed of without fear of lost business critical information but unfortunately, it is rarely that simple.

5. Just get started

Regardless of where you are in your SharePoint records management journey, the most important thing is to take that first step! Every day, more and more data is being created and the hole you're digging is getting deeper and deeper.

Here at RecordLion, our software allows for true in-place information governance, meaning that an organization does not need to move their records regardless of the repository in which they may be located. This means you can apply governance policies to all information, records and files throughout the enterprise whether data resides in SharePoint, Office 365, File Systems, Email, cloud storage, SQL Server, ERP, CRM, or other business systems.

By Andrew Borgschulte

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