Documents and Records Management in SharePoint Online / Office 365

Microsoft takes security and compliance very seriously for its Office 365 software and services. Microsoft has introduced numerous features in Office 365 to help meet organizations’ content security and data compliance needs so they can meet legal, regulatory, and organizational compliance requirements. In this blog, I’ll focus on Documents Management and Records Management features of Office 365.

Records Management (RM), as defined in Wikipedia, is the professional practice of managing the records of an organization throughout their life cycle, from the time they are created to their eventual disposal. This includes identifying, classifying, storing, securing, retrieving, tracking and destroying or permanently preserving records. There are many reasons for an organization to employ a particular RM strategy such as improving productivity, cutting costs, and complying with legal, regulatory, and internal organizational requirements. In addition, Records Management also provides companies with analytics in order to better know their business. With the explosion of growth in data in this day and age, it is even more important to have effective governance to manage the variety of content and its location.

Records Management is one of the key components of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System such as Microsoft SharePoint. There are a couple of ways in which you can manage records in SharePoint and SharePoint Online. You can create a dedicated Records Center Site which serves as an Archive, and documents are copied to the archive based on the retention policy. Another option is to manage records “in place” and this is where you can leave a document in its current location on a site, declare it as a record, and apply the appropriate security and retention properties.

Since this is not a “how to” blog, I’ll not go into details of how to set up Records Management and list all it features.   If you want more details please see the following documentation by the Office 365 team.

If the Records Management features that are provided out of the box in SharePoint Online do not meet your regulatory requirements, you can further involve your IT department that can extend the SharePoint features using the new SharePoint App Model.   Furthermore when strict compliance standards need to be met such as the one by Department of Defence (DoD 5015.2),  you can tap into the vast network of SharePoint partners that extend the SharePoint features.  One such partner in Gimmal.  Gimmal is Microsoft’s global ECM partner and has a Compliance Suite for Microsoft SharePoint.   The Compliance suit can be used to deliver solutions that extends SharePoint with the features required to be certified by the Department of Defense.

In conclusion, regardless of the Document and Record Management capabilities you need, I encourage you to consider SharePoint and SharePoint Online in Office 365 as your first choice.     SharePoint provides a superior user experience compared to any other ECM product and chances are that your users are already familiar with SharePoint.   Moreover, SharePoint has a very good search engine and robust handling of managed metadata not to mention a vast array of certified add-ins that can meet any document capturing and workflow requirements as well.