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Enterprise Content Management with Microsoft SharePoint: Content Control

Preservation

Preservation of content is an aspect of delivery, because typically preservation is a process of document conversion and movement to another location.

Preservation focuses on content that has historical importance to your organization. The types of content can be diverse and vary depending on the type of organization, enterprise governance, and any regulatory considerations you might have to contend with. The breadth and depth of preservation is very noticeable in the government arena, where many documents have historical importance and, in some cases, need to be kept forever.

For example, the documents associated with city planning could have a life cycle that requires them to be kept forever, to retain the historical significance of when, where, and how land use decisions were made. It’s key to understand where SharePoint ECM begins and should end in terms of active content and archiving.

In the case of historical documents, the importance of managing a content life cycle does not generally have an impact for a SharePoint ECM solution, because many of the historical documents should be stored either on permanent media or on microform.

Even if preserved content is still a part of SharePoint, it’s recommended it be moved to a completely different SharePoint farm or, at minimum, to a site collection. The reason for this is that SharePoint is built for high activity and interaction from users, whereas preservation is about content that is interacted with very rarely or only for research purposes.

If you are keeping this content in the active SharePoint environment, there is a large opportunity cost that is taking valuable resources away from other high-value content. It is taking up space from your primary storage that should be dedicated to active content. Also, it could be impacting the performance of the farm, but most importantly, it’s accessible by users who might or might not know the difference between preserved content and active content.

We recommend the following steps when determining how content moves from the active portion of its life cycle to the preservation stage:

  1. Determine where the preserved content will live. It is assumed that as a part of the process of preservation the content will move. If you are saying to yourself that preserved content will simply be placed in a separate library in the same location as active content, this alone is not considered preservation.

  2. Determine the long-term preservable format that the content requires.

  3. Determine the automated or manual process that will move and convert the content.

  4. Determine a custodian for preserved content. This will be an individual or external organization.

  5. Determine the format of metadata for preserved content, and include in that metadata the last location where the content was saved in SharePoint. This is important to establish the chain of custody.

If you choose SharePoint as the final location for preserved content, consider methods of remote blob storage (RBS) for the preserved content. RBS is a database configuration that allows certain content to live outside of the SharePoint database while maintaining its accessibility through SharePoint. This allows you to keep the content in the SharePoint user interface without the load on the database. Using RBS is not recommended for active content but only for site collections where you have moved or are referencing preserved content.

It is a great practice for organizations to start either preserving or offloading inactive content, or disposing of it according to a predetermined retention schedule. This ensures the efficiency of the system and prevents users from being overloaded with content that is no longer relevant. This should be done in accordance with the following activities performed by an experienced Records Manager:

  1. Create a records inventory to determine the breadth and depth of all your organizations records, both physical and electronic.

  2. Create a retention schedule that clearly outlines the definitions of content, based on several parameters that are relevant to your organization. At a minimum, this usually includes document type, records series, retention period, active date, and inactive date.

    Legal Holds can also be established for items identified during litigation discovery processes. These are known as Interrogatories and Requests for Production (ROGs). In this case, content objects can be placed on hold with a timer. If they are touched or further requests are made before expiration of the timer, it can be reset accordingly.

  3. Create a records retention policy that clearly outlines the procedures and governance of records for your organization. This usually includes the review and blessing of your legal department and executive branch.

After these activities have been performed, you can use the information in the retention schedule to configure SharePoint to support the preservation of content at the appropriate stage of its life cycle.

You have now completed the reading necessary to understand all the series of stages that content traverses during its life cycle. We began with defining Enterprise Content Management in our introduction. We then walked you through each of the major steps required for a SharePoint ECM solution. To recap, we have covered the following areas:

  • Getting content in, or Capture Upload, MS Office, scanning, native documents, forms, and streams

  • Configuring site(s) collections and document libraries, or Store IA, versioning, formats, and transformation

  • Moving content from person to person, or Process Business process management, workflow, business intelligence, and eDiscovery

  • Finding and collaborating on content, or Manage & Deliver Navigation, editing, viewing, searching, and preserving