Issues with using SharePoint 2010 for Records Management

By Mark Jones posted 01-11-2013 04:26

  

Although SharePoint 2010 has improved as a record management solution it still introduces challenges to organizations that are heavily regulated by governments and governing bodies. For example, in the UK the Freedom of Information Act 2000 resulted in a working ‘Code or Practice’ governing how records need to managed. If SharePoint is to be able to meet these requirements customization or third party Records Management solutions are needed.

In a recent UK Government report entitled ‘Records management in SharePoint 2010: implications and issues’ the report states the following areas where SharePoint needs to be either governed very tightly, or utilize the services of a 3rd party tool.

The remainder of this post discusses each issue (raised in that report) and attempts to mitigate or provide a workable solution - most of which require custom development or the procurement of 3rd party software.  

Deleting sites containing records

ISSUE

It must not be possible (either on purpose or accidentally) to delete sites containing documents declared as records as this would effectively remove the document, history and audit log contained with the site. 

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

Firstly, it is recommended to store records in a separate site collection and provide very tight governance, security and control around that particular site. In-place records management – although very easy for the end-user - can lead to greater risk of the record being removed. "Document Links" that point to the document in the secured site and "Send To" locations should be implemented for extra ease of use.

Ultimately, (as with many solutions) it is still possible to delete a document or site given the correct privileges, so a solution should be put in place to alert users if a site is deleted. The link below offers a free solution that will cause an email to be sent if a site gets deleted.

Link : How to send an email when a site is deleted.

Obviously, if it gets to the stage where an email has been sent (because a site is deleted), then it is also recommended that a granular back-up solution be used to ensure that documents can be easily recovered. 

Link : DocAve Backup and Restore

Moving records must maintain metadata, history and library configuration

ISSUE

If a document is moved to another library, or site (records center), it is imperative that all its associated metadata, history and necessary library configuration also moves with that document. To aid in easier management, SharePoint generally forces changes made to a permission or group - at a site level - to flow all the way down to a document library and document. Due to this, it’s very easy for a document to be accessible by one group of users in one location and then a different set when it's moved. Likewise metadata can also be passed down based on location.  When the document is moved, this can lose characteristics and contextual information about the originating document, which removes vital information about the record.

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

There is no direct solution for this "out of the box" however, tools like PDF Converter (provided by Muhimbi can convert many document formats to PDF and can also embed the metadata within the PDF). This solution would require custom development, but once implemented, contextual information, security applied, version history along with metadata could all be embedded within the converted document).

Once all this information is embedded within a single PDF document, this makes it ideal for transferring off-site, off-line storage or to other records management systems.

Link : Muhimbi PDF Converter

Transferring records to other organizations

ISSUE

At some point one or more of and organizations records will be need to be transferred to another organization or 3rd party. SharePoint doesn’t offer a nice way to transfer the metadata (columns of associated information) along with the document (which is usually a PDF).

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

See previous solution.

Disposal of Records

ISSUE

When records need to be destroyed, it is more likely that an organization will want to set a retention policy based on external factors such as a particular date, e.g. after an audit / financial year end (and so on). SharePoint only offers ways to dispose of documents based on the type of document (content type) and the date offset from when it’s created or modified. It should also be possible to delete records related to each other. SharePoint offers document 

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

SharePoint supports custom retention policies to be developed, which require minimal code. As these can developed in-house, it's fairly easy to set whatever retention policy is needed. 

Link : Creating custom retention policies for 2010 document libraries

Email

ISSUE

Emails provide vital contextual information that should be stored along with the main record. There is no easy way to integrate email clients with SharePoint.

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

To store emails associated with a record conveniently (and easily) a 3rd party solution would need to be purchased. An alternative, but resource intensive approach is to save the email (and attachments) to disk and upload as a document into SharePoint.

If a 3rd party solution is an acceptable approach, then Harmon.ie is a good tool that allows emails and SharePoint document libraries to be closely integrated. Harmon.ie also supports multiple devices.

Link :  Harmon.ie

A Records management solution must be supportable long-term

ISSUE

The sheer nature of keeping records management requires that records must exist for many years after they were originally created. If the records are all stored digitally, they must be discoverable, viewable and transportable by the system that stores them. This means that an organization must maintain a supported version of SharePoint for as long as the records are needed.

SOLUTION / MITIGATION

To act as a true records management system, SharePoint must be customized and configured. To mitigate against the risk of not losing support and ensuring SharePoint can be upgraded, customizations must be well thought out and governed well. Documents should also be stored in formats such as PDFto meet ISO standards, which will in turn ensure it's always viewable. 

Complete Records Management Solutions

The following list of tools offer complete records management solutions that integrate with SharePoint.



#SharePoint #ElectronicRecordsManagement #SharePoint.
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