Many organizations deploy SharePoint to resolve issues or address opportunities within their business. SharePoint deployments meet varying amounts of success. This post highlights a few key areas for SharePoint success - we would place each of these in the Must Have category if you expect to succeed with SharePoint.
If you're going to introduce governance to your portal, you must commit. When considering the commitment required for your governance, consider the following:
- Stakeholders from top down must be committed to the initiative
- Establish a means of enforcing the polices, rules and standards
- Establish the content affected and the users that will be expected to commit to the governance plan
Establishing a high level of commitment is dependent on consensus.
Understanding the backup and restore capabilities of your team as well as the services offered by Microsoft will allow you to define how you can best support content restores.
This post from a Microsoft Support Technician identifies the services Microsoft makes available for content restores. In the SharePoint Online Service Description, you'll find Microsoft's official word on their support for backing up and restoring content.
Its up to you to understand the capabilities of your team and how their skills, tools and knowledge of SharePoint Online can support content recovery.
Carefully consider the content that will be deployed into your SharePoint Online sites.
If you are deploying mission critical content into SharePoint Online, be sure to understand the business impact that a restore will have on this content and that this content may have to be rolled back to a previous state.
The risk of deploying any content to a cloud service, is that you are giving up at least some level of control over the content. Considering that you don't have control over where the content is stored, without a third party product or service, you are fully dependent on your provider for recovering lost content.
Identify, govern and communicate the content you will support for deployment into SharePoint Online.
Preparation is a critical part of being able to respond to the needs of your business. Like any other solution, you must understand the requirements the business has of the system. Don't overlook requirements the business may have for restoring document content from SharePoint Online.
Here are a few content restore scenarios to consider when thinking about what your business may be faced with:
Item Level Scenarios
- A document goes missing
- A file becomes corrupted
- An item is accidentally deleted
List and Library Level Scenarios
- A list or library is deleted
- List or library settings / configurations / customizations are changed
Site Level Scenarios
- A site is accidentally deleted
- A content type / workflow or other customization is deleted
- Items are deleted from a Gallery
- Complicated Security or Permissions are removed
Site Collection Level Scenarios
- A Site Collection is Deleted
- Custom Master Page, Page Layouts, Themes or CSS are Deleted
- Custom Solutions are Deleted
Planning Site Collections
The lowest level that Microsoft will restore content for a SharePoint Online customer is at the Site Collection level. This means that when a restore is requested, all content currently active in a Site Collection will be replaced by the requested backup.
Be strategic in how you deploy Site Collections into SharePoint Online. This article identifies the boundaries and limits for Site Collections and other areas of SharePoint Online.
- Before creating a Site Collection, qualify your decision using these guidelines:
- Create Site Collections when you need a boundary for managing content of a similar purpose. Examples of this is where a Site Collection is dedicated for content such as Teams, Apps, Records, Communications Portal and Social purposes.
- Create a Site Collection when you need to create a strict security boundary for content that needs to be administered in a highly secure way (HR and Finance content are examples of this). You might have different Site Collection Administrators and controls on the content you are storing in these types of Site Collections.
- Consider that having content divided between many Site Collections can add difficulties when multiple Site Collections need to be restored at once. Deploy Site Collections sparingly.
- Keeping all of your content in a Single Site Collection will force you to roll back all content to the restore point - having a greater impact on the business.
Responding to Content Recovery Requests
In any event, how your team responds to these types of incidents is critical. If your team is well trained in the Office365, and SharePoint Online features, there is a lot they can do to respond and recover content quickly and easily on their own.
Tactics for Resolving Content and Configuration Issues
- Identify when and how the issue occurred
- Use the Security & Compliance center > Audit Log search
- This records all user activity in your SharePoint Online
- From here you will be able to determine when the issue occurred
- Troubleshoot the issue yourself
- For Content Issues, have users check the List and Site level Recycle Bins
- Content is stored in the Recycle Bin for 90 days (by default)
- After this period of time, the content is moved into the Site Collection Recycle Admin
- As a site Collection Admin, you can access the Site Collection Recycle Bin as well.
- Once content is moved into the Site Collection Recycle Bin, it will stay there for another 30 days
- Under the default settings, a piece of deleted content should still be recoverable from the Recycling Bin for 120 days
- Version history (if its been activated) can be used on a list or library to recover previous versions of a file.
- If a custom Workflow, Content Type or Configuration is deleted or removed, you may need to recreate it manually - is there a copy in your Development or Test Environment that you can refer to?
- As a SharePoint Online Admin, you can recover deleted Site Collections as well. Read all about how to restore a Deleted Site Collection here.
- For Content Issues, have users check the List and Site level Recycle Bins
- Know When to Escalate
- If the content you are missing is valuable enough, consider if it is worth contacting Microsoft or using other Tools.
How Microsoft Can Help
Microsoft takes a backup every 12 hours. These backups are kept for a period of 14 days. Microsoft restores at a Site Collection level, not at the subsite or item level. A Site Collection Restore replaces all of the content currently in the Site Collection with the backup. Consider what this may mean for your business:
- When you realize you need content restored by Microsoft, don't delay contacting them. Once the 14-day period has passed, the restore you need may no longer be available.
- Considering that Microsoft takes a backup every 12 hours, if the item you need to have restored was deleted 1 hour after the last backup, a restore will roll you back to the point of the last backup. Consider the impact to the rest of the business - how much other important work will be lost.
- Understand that your users of the Site Collection will face an outage while the Restore operation completed. The amount of time the restore will take is dependent on the volume of content being restored.
The Value of Third Party Backup Solutions
A third party solution may offer you more control over backup and restore capabilities than what is offered by Microsoft. Why to consider using a third party tool:
- More ability to perform more granular restores
- Setup your own backup / restore schedule
- Store content backups in the cloud or on premises
Third party solutions offer more flexibility and additional recovery options. However, these solutions come with a price tag and a cost of ownership to consider.
Getting a link to a file in the form of a standard URL isn't done the same way it was in the SharePoint Classic UI.
In SharePoint's Modern UI, users have lost the ability to right-click on document and choose Copy Shortcut from the browser's context menu.
Don't worry, it might take an extra click now, but youcan follow these steps and still get links to your files:
Step 1: From the Document Context Menu, Click Get a Link
Step 2: Select a Restricted Link from the Get a Link Dialog
A custom Office 365 login page that matches your branding and design will greet your users with a familiar experience and welcomes them to their portal. This doesn't take long to set up and makes for a much nicer login experience.
Step 1: Prepare Your Images
For this example, you'll need two images. We are setting the Main Login Image and the Banner Image. You may need a designer to help get the images set to the right dimensions and not exceed the file size limits.
Main Login Image
- 1420 x 1200 px
- Maximum size of 500 KB
- File Type PNG or JPG
- 60 x 280 px
- Maximum size of 10 KB
- File Type PNG or JPG
- See the example below for examples of both of the above images
Step 2: Access Azure Active Directory
You will need to be an Office 365 Administrator to complete the steps that come next. If its your first time accessing Azure Active Directory, you will need to let it run an initial set up.
Open Azure AD
- Login to Office 365
- Click on Admin from the launcher
- Click on Azure AD
Access Azure AD Company Branding
The screenshots below are from the new Azure portal.
- Click on Azure Active Directory
- Company Branding
- Edit Company Branding
Step 3: Upload Branding Images
- Upload the Sign-In Page Image and Banner Image
- Press Save and you are finished!
Evaluating SharePoint as a Records Management tool is not an easy task, simply comparing features with the likes of Documentum, FileNet or OpenText only covers the technical aspects. Records Management is more about process than technology.
Know and Refine Your Processes
One of the first things to establish is your information life cycle, if this is clearly defined you should be able to create a process flow diagram with a minimal amount of “if” conditions or business rules to define the flow.
If the process is overly complex with an abundance of business rules and conditions, it will not matter which technology you choose your chances of success has decreased.
Most Records Management Automation projects that I have seen fail were due to poor process definition and not technology.
Consider Automation Opportunities
Automation is one of the key drivers for applying technology to Records Management. Automation needs to provide consistent and predictable behavior for managing records based on established policies.
In our experience, automated disposition based on retention rules is sporadic at best and typically overly complex with numerous rules and exceptions. Managing the varying rules and exceptions becomes too numerous to manage. Once the system gets complex users begin finding means to bypass the system to get their work done.
Use Content Types
To make disposition automation easier, organizations can leverage SharePoint Content Types. Classifications can be determined based on the Content Type and metadata. Once the classification has been determined the system will know the retention policy and other Records Management metadata. The caveat is only if the Information architecture and Classifications are well established. This goes back to our earlier point on this being about how important the non-technical pieces of these projects are.
Using Content Types will allow the organization to do in place records management allowing users to manage their information in their chosen location instead of copying the record to a centralized area. Since the disposition will apply to the content type the content can be anywhere on the portal if retention has been applied to that content type.
The issue with using Content Types is deciding on the number of Content Types you are going to allow. If this is not monitored or a policy applied you could end up with hundreds of Content Types making it difficult for users to determine where their information belongs. Imagine having to choose from a drop down with over a hundred options.
Consider Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Requirements
If there are specific Legal, Regulatory or Certifications required for your Records Management solution, a thorough technical review of the platform you choose is a must.
Involve the stakeholders in the business who are responsible for these areas when gathering the requirements for your solution. The earlier these folks are involved, the better.
Define Reliability and Availability Standards
Once the decision is made to use SharePoint for Records Management it elevates SharePoint’s importance in the organization. The following should be considered
· SharePoint should be part of Business Continuity Planning
· Adding SharePoint to the High Availability Services category
· Ensure SharePoint has a tried and tested Disaster Recovery Plan
SharePoint plus Third Party Solutions
In our opinion, SharePoint’s strongest features are found in the areas of collaboration, transparently connecting people with content and security. SharePoint’s out of the box features, may fall short of what other products purely focused on Records Management can do.
Don't forget about customization opportunities and third party solutions. The framework exists within SharePoint for Document and Records Management, but configuration/customization will be necessary to fit your organization’s specific requirements.
There are several ISV’s that have created a Records Management applications which leverage the SharePoint platform. These products take advantage of the “plumbing” provided by SharePoint and have added their own components to provide a richer Records Management experience.
Organizations have the option to do light customization and configuration or to purchase a third-party solution depending on the complexity of their Record Management needs.
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017! Surely, the SharePoint features released in 2016 put some smiles on your face. We wanted to use this post to review some of the features released in 2016 and highlight some of the things we expect to see in 2017.
SharePoint Review: 2016
Microsoft put a lot of focus on improving collaboration in 2016. SharePoint Online users can confirm that the investments in modern lists, libraries and teams sites all look very promising. Considering the introduction of Microsoft Teams and portal features like Team News, its apparent that Microsoft is focused on continuing to position SharePoint as a collaboration power house.
If you were missing the old audit logs in SharePoint Online, we're sure the want for these passed after the Compliance center came online. Improvements have been made here in the past year.
The recent release of improved Usage Reports is another great addition to being able to track what is happening in your SharePoint.
The Site Contents page was also reworked to provide users with analytics on metrics like Site Visits and Trending Content.
With competitors like Slack gaining market share in the collaboration space over the last couple of years, Microsoft introduced their Teams product in 2016. If you haven't had a chance to use Teams yet, we recommend having a look.
Teams starts with a client based front-end and sends everything to SharePoint - each Teams area is back-ended in a SharePoint site. Teams offers chat, conversation channels, file sharing, video conferencing and more.
Paired with the Collaboration improvements mentioned above, Microsoft has overhauled the interface paradigms for a few key areas that haven't recently seen major changes. The Modern experiences for Lists, Libraries, Team Sites and Pages represent investments made to innovate existing feature areas.
Let's face it, document and list collaboration are the root of what makes SharePoint great. The 2016 reveal of the Modern Interface features were well received, There are more improvements to the Modern experiences to come in 2017.
The Delve Windows 10 App was also released to better connect people with relevant information through the power of Microsoft's Office Graph.
Another gem that was announced alongside the Delve app were intelligent people cards in Office 365 - another win for collaborators. Being able to see what someone has recently updated along with their contact information saves time and improves collaboration.
Another major 2016 release which affects developers and user experiences in SharePoint is the SharePoint Framework. The new development framework is a client side development model which will allow developers to deliver highly integrated web part and page solutions for SharePoint.
The new Sites Home in Office 365 gave users a much nicer, intelligent way to find the sites they are looking for in SharePoint. This can be quickly accessed from the SharePoint tile in the launcher.
Microsoft released SharePoint Apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone in 2016. Our experiences with these Apps have been limited to SharePoint Online. However, the SharePoint Apps can connect to SharePoint deployments in on-premises and hybrid deployment patterns.
The SharePoint App packs Office Graph intelligence, access to content, full enterprise search and more.
No Code Solutions: Power Apps and Flow
PowerApps came online at the end of 2015 and Flow in 2016. PowerApps allow users to build apps that connect to data sources they are already using - including popular non-Microsoft sources like Salesforce and Slack. PowerApps are no code solutions. Once a user builds a PowerApp, Microsoft takes care of making the apps available on mobile phones. Users aren't burdened with the worry of publishing their apps into multiple apps stores.
In 2016 PowerApp features continued to grow. Barcode scanning and connectivity to data hosted in on-premises SharePoint sites were made available this year.
Flow enables business users to create automated processes which connect to existing services and data. A workflow in Flow can be mixed into PowerApps to create powerful solutions that automate actions, move data and evaluate logic.
Flow becomes even more powerful when you consider that it integrates with 83 (and counting) services, including the likes of DocuSign, Dropox, Basecamp and more.
In 2016 the On-Premises Data Gateway became available, you can connect from Flow, PowerApps and Power BI into your On-Premises SQL data. Also released in 2016 was the Flow mobile app.
Microsoft has made an obvious commitment to no-code solutions and 2016 proved to be a great year for growth in this area.
SharePoint Expectations: 2017
SharePoint insiders may have some interesting comments for us after reading through this section of the post. However, here are some of what we expect to see in 2017.
No-Code Productivity - Power Apps and Flow
Its clear that Microsoft is committed to delivering powerful no-code solutions to Office 365 users. We expect to see support for connectivity for more third party services and improvements to the On-Premises Data Gateway (not that the current list of available data sources is lacking).
Further Improvements and Enhancements to Teams
Teams was released late in 2016. We expect there to be more improvements to the features offered here. Our expectation is that Teams could become the new darling of social enterprise collaboration, and Microsoft is going to commit all the way on this.
Modern Publishing Sites
We saw Modern Page experiences come online in 2016. In 2017, its no secret that Microsoft is planning to improve the Publishing site experience. If improvements to Publishing Sites follows the other modern experiences, this will benefit users of SharePoint on mobile devices - the modern experiences are built responsively for multiple display sizes.
Continued Mobile Investments
As we highlighted above, Microsoft made big investments in mobile apps that enable SharePoint Online users in 2016. We expect this trend to continue. We fully expect Microsoft's release cadence and feature improvements to continue - will there be any new mobile apps in 2017?
We already stated that we expect the Publishing Sites to get a facelift this year. We also expect the modernization of core areas like lists, libraries, pages and sites to continue. This means some of the features currently available in the Classic UI will be moved over to the Modern UI.
I think we can also expect a few improvements and new features to be revealed in the core product areas - Microsoft has shown its commitment to gathering feedback from its users and continuing to improve SharePoint.