Records Management Overview (Part 1)

The Records Management story with SharePoint has been evolving for several years now. I talk to many organizations that are in the midst of deploying SharePoint records management or looking at using SharePoint for records management. SharePoint is a great System of Engagement (SOE), but many don’t realize it is also a System of Record (SOR).

Before we dive in, here are a few other articles that discuss SharePoint Records Management that you might be interested in.

Introducing Records Management in SharePoint 2010

Policy and Retention in SharePoint Server 2010

SharePoint Records Management Speaks with Adam Harmetz on SharePoint 2013

Like a fine wine or levelling your Pokémon, SharePoint records management has been steadily improving with age and experience. With the SharePoint Server 2010 release and now with Office 365, SharePoint is all grown up as a records management solution and many are taking notice. Yes, SharePoint can scale and support robust records management. Nowadays you might consider it a 1978 Chateau Margaux, or level 80 Charizard. Yes, I just compared SharePoint to wine and Pokémon.

You can use SharePoint Records Management out of box, customize it, or find partner solutions depending on the level of your needs.

I can say at Microsoft, we have tens of terabytes in Records Centres with more data every day. We use it completely out of box. To learn more check out the case study: Microsoft Boosts Records Management with Built-in Features of Collaboration Solution. We only have about 1TB in Records Centres in Office 365 but that will soon change with the new 1TB site collection & unlimited tenant size limits.

So what are the key areas you need to think about as you start growing your own SharePoint Records Management Pokémon?

SharePoint Version: I would suggest you take a serious look at Office 365. With Office 365 you are always on the latest version and Microsoft takes care of the servers and scale for you. All of the Records Centre features are available in Office 365. There are some limitations around customizing with code. For example you cannot use custom retention formulas, declare records through code, or access the audit logs through code. But you can syndicate record content types through the content type hub, configure retention policies, and use the content organizer to distribute records into folders and across site collections. SharePoint 2010 is where the SharePoint Records Management story really started to reach maturity so either SharePoint 2010 or 2013 on premises is a good option. However, search is greatly improved in 2013, quick edit of multiple lines in lists is super useful, and your litigation team will be begging you to upgrade to the 2013 eDiscovery features. 

Retention: Information management policies let you configure retention a.k.a. expiration a.k.a. deletion. You can configure retention per content type (the primary document classification) or separately per library and folder. You can even do multiple stages. For example 3 years after modified date, send to records centre, 1 year later, permanently delete. You can base the expiration date on any date field on the content type.

Classification: You need to map out your content types and what metadata will be on each content type. Content types are the schema, the metadata fields available when you upload a document. I have heard some organizations try and figure out how they get from thousands of classifications to a manageable amount of content types. Simplify your classifications, it will save you effort and management issues down the road. At Microsoft we went from thousands to 65. I have heard of one customer even getting to just two content types despite 1PB of records. You also need to define your taxonomies, columns (metadata), and if you need them on multiple site collections you use the content type hub to publish the content types out across all site collections. Now you have the same content types and metadata in every Records Centre. Add a couple levels to your Recordisaur.

Records Strategy: How will people create and manage records over time? I have seen three approaches. 1. In-place, 2. In the Records Centre, and 3. Hybrid.

In-place: Use the declare in-place records feature so people can declare records to follow a record specific retention policy.

In the Records Centre: Most of the lifecycle of records is in the Records Centre. The records are usually created directly in Records Centres and remain there throughout their life. This makes a lot of sense for tax records, financial statements, and employement records where people can create and manage a bunch of them all in one place.

Hybrid: Users can declare records In-Place or use Send To, this will then either move or copy the record to a Records Centre where the appropriate metadata and retention policy will then be assigned and the record will live out the rest of its life.

In practice, hybrid and in the Records Centre seem to be most common. Successful in-place strategies are rare because it is difficult to train everyone on what records are and how to declare a record. Instead most organizations seem to rely on people who deal with records to use solutions to ingest content when the content is ready to become a record.

So with that overview, let’s see how our little Records Management Pokemon (or Recordimander, Recordisaur, and Recordizard as I like to call him) has evolved over time. The following table shows the new Records Management capabilities that have been added with each new version of SharePoint Server.  


SharePoint 2007 Recordimander

SharePoint 2010 Recordisaur

SharePoint 2013 Recordizard


Manually add items to hold

Use search to add items to hold within a site collection

eDiscovery Center that searches all SharePoint sites


Block edit and delete in Records Centre

Block edit and delete on individual items anywhere

In-Place Hold for entire site, doesn’t affect users


Information Management Policy

Delete based on metadata

Start a workflow

Content type based only

Multi stage

Folder & content type based

Available in all sites

Site policies delete entire site


Auditing in Records Centre

Available in all sites

Per item audit reports


Records Centre

Site template for managing records

Records Centre updated

Records Centre Available in Office 365


2,000 items per folder

30 million items per library

Distributed records centers

1TB site collections & unlimited tenants in O365

60 million items per site collection

File Planning


Library File Plan Reports

Hierarchal File Plans


Rule based file organization

Record Router

Content Organizer


DoD 5015.2

DoD 5015.2 Add On Pack

Consider partners such as Gimmal or Collabware


Physical Records

Barcodes & Labels





CMIS in SharePoint Admin Toolkit Add On Pack

CMIS APIs are part of SharePoint

Content Types & Metadata

Content types define documents and their metadata

Managed metadata

Content type hub


Send To

Send to Records Centre

Sent to any site with a content organizer

Send To in Office 365

In-Place Records

Send to Records Centre

Declare in-place records anywhere


Browse and Search


Metadata Navigation

Content Query Webpart

Content Search Web Part

Search refinements

FAST Search built in

Continuous crawling

Thank you for learning more about SharePoint records management. But this is far from the final word. In fact, like top earning movie sequels there is so much awesomeness here I am splitting this overview into two parts. Look for part two coming in just a few days. In the next article I will explain additional SharePoint Records Management considerations including: physical records, scale, DoD 5015.2, distribution, organization, and eDiscovery.


Quentin Christensen, Program Manager