I figure, if you’re reading any of the fine posts here in the AIIM SharePoint Community you likely have a pretty good idea of what SharePoint is, what it does, and maybe some of what it does not do, so what I’m about to say should come as no surprise: SharePoint is an information management tool. It allows people to store, share and use information, lots of information… sometimes too much information.
When talking with SharePoint users I love asking the question, “How many sites do you have?” and then quickly following that up with, “So how many terabytes do you think you have in there?” It would be fair to say I am obsessed with volumes of information, but I am a firm believer that if you know what you have it is far easier to manage.
I particularly loved asking the two questions during the thrilling and meteoric rise of SharePoint 2007, mostly because no one really had a clue and that allowed me to ask another question, “So do you think you’re aware of all the sites and all the content you have in SharePoint within your organization?” I know, that one is sorta mean, but after asking the first two questions and getting answers like, a few hundred sites or so, maybe 20 or 30 terabytes, it was no surprise to me that the most common answer to my third and final question was, probably not. You gotta love honesty.
If you are considering a migration to SharePoint 2010 I would suggest getting answers to these questions before you do anything else.
We were all thinking about SharePoint sprawl with 2007 but as a former records guy I was really wondering if these fine IT folk had considered all the compliance and risk mitigation factors or information governance issues that might be lurking about. Although the new capabilities of SharePoint 2010 have helped mitigate a lot of the concerns we had with 2007, there are still a few who would say that migrations to SharePoint 2010 will just add to the pile that 2007 created. To this latter group, I beg to differ. Consider your migration to SharePoint 2010 an opportunity to make a fresh start.
To begin with take a broad look at all the content spread across your information infrastructure and rationalize what information belongs in SharePoint and what does not. For example, you may be trying to centralize access to active content by moving content living in older versions of SharePoint, file shares, network drives, etc. into SharePoint 2010. Also, you might have the requirement to retain and manage content against industry regulations or corporate policies for long periods of time. Add to this the piles of garbage you’ll undoubtedly unearth as you roam across your environment – the music libraries, the duplicate files, PowerPoints from TechEd 2002 and so on.
Doing a large scale audit of your information might sound a little daunting, but don’t sweat it too much. There are a lot of fine tools out there that let you crawl and index content spread across existing SharePoint farms and sites, and even a few that will allow you to trundle across your entire information infrastructure and near surgically find and sort specific types of data.
Once you’ve figured out what you have, you’ll need to outline a plan for what you want to do with it. In my experience the most practical way to start is to outline three buckets that I have already alluded to: active content, inactive content that has compliance obligations, and garbage. Obviously the active stuff can go straight into SharePoint and if you have a lot it can be externalized to reduce the burden on SQL. The inactive stuff can be kept in SharePoint as well, but again if you have a lot (and industry averages seem to suggest something between 25-30 percent of SharePoint content is inactive) I would recommend you look into an archival solution that allows you to take advantage of the cost savings attributed to tiered storage. And for all the garbage - if you have the courage - press the big red delete button and reclaim some of that storage space.
A simple process like this will help you in the long run because it will provide you with a solid understanding of what information you have and enable you to move only the relevant content to your shiny new SharePoint 2010 deployment while concurently enabling ongoing archival and compliance policies. The benefits are pretty obvious: you reduce the amount of junk you’re moving over, get the benefit of centralized management if you consolidated SharePoint and file content, and you’ll significantly reduce the risks associated with content living unmanaged in the wild.
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