Plan physical records retention

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

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Topic Last Modified: 2016-11-14

In this article:

  • Using Office SharePoint Server to manage physical records

  • Planning physical records retention

  • Worksheet

This article describes planning tasks related to retaining physical records by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. As with digital items, such as electronic documents and e-mail messages, a physical item can be a record and can require management. By using Office SharePoint Server 2007 in conjunction with your physical records storage and retrieval system, you can implement a records management solution that includes both electronic and physical records.

Physical records that you manage by using Office SharePoint Server 2007 can include any non-digital items, such as printed documents, DVDs, videotapes, other media, and even hardware such as product prototypes. You can manage individual physical items or a set of items, such as a box of related documents.


A well-designed records management system helps protect an organization legally, helps the organization demonstrate compliance with regulatory obligations, and increases organizational efficiency by promoting the disposition of out-of-date electronic and physical items that are not records. Determining which electronic or physical items in your organization are records is the responsibility of corporate records managers, compliance officers, and lawyers. By carefully categorizing all enterprise content in your organization, they can help you ensure that records are retained for the appropriate period of time.

Using Office SharePoint Server to manage physical records

This section describes Office SharePoint Server 2007 features that you will want to consider in planning a records management solution that supports physical records retention and disposition.

Physical records and the Records Center site

The Office SharePoint Server 2007 Records Center is a site template designed to implement records management and retention. It includes records management features, such as policy enforcement, record hold, and record routing, and it has a fully programmable interface. For a full overview of the Records Center site, see Design the Records Center site (Office SharePoint Server).

The Records Center site is designed for managing electronic and physical records. This facilitates treating both types of records as part of the same file plan, applying the same types of metadata to both electronic and physical records, and associating the same policies with them where appropriate. You can either manage electronic and physical records in the same Records Center site or you can use one Records Center site for electronic records and another for physical records.

When planning physical records management in a Records Center site, here are some unique considerations to keep in mind:

  • Use lists rather than document libraries to track physical records. See Lists and physical records for details.

  • Because the actual storage of a physical item happens separately, users do not "send" a physical item to a Records Center site by using the user interface (or by using a customization based on the programmable interface). Instead, records managers add new physical records to the site by creating new items in the lists used to manage the records, and by creating associated features (see next item) to manage the physical records by using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 lists. Typically new list items are added to lists programmatically, such as by using a custom workflow.


There is no need to add physical records to the Record Routing table in the Records Center site, which sends electronic records to their appropriate document libraries but does not route physical records.

  • It is recommended that additional functionality, such as custom workflows, be added to lists to provide physical record-specific processes, such as inventory tracking, storage management, ownership transference, and physical records disposition.

Lists and physical records

In contrast to electronic records such as documents, which are both stored and managed in Office SharePoint Server 2007 document libraries, physical records are stored in an appropriate physical venue, depending on the type of item. To track physical records' locations, owners, status, and other information, and to guide them through their lifecycles, use Office SharePoint Server 2007 lists rather than document libraries in the Records Center site. After an item representing a physical record is added to a list, you can manage it by using the same records management features that document libraries provide for digital records:

  • Metadata   Metadata in Office SharePoint Server 2007 is implemented as columns of information displayable in lists or document libraries. Records managers use metadata to record information about records, such as their descriptions, the types of media, record category, each item's disposition, barcode value, and record owner. By using the Site Column Gallery in the Records Center site, you can define metadata columns that are useful for both your electronic and physical records. This helps you to maintain the same information about records regardless of their media, and makes it easier to search and retrieve both electronic and physical items by using list and library items' properties. For more information about site columns and metadata, see Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server).

  • Workflows   You can associate a workflow with a list. Physical items represented in the list can then be tracked by using the workflow. For example, when a new item is added to a list, a custom workflow can be launched that assigns tasks to ensure the proper physical storage of the item. Other workflows can be added to the list — for example, to retrieve a physical item. For information about creating custom workflows, see the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Software Development Kit (

  • Forms   You can use InfoPath Forms Services integration with Office SharePoint Server 2007 to associate forms with lists, and use them to implement commands associated with physical records management. For example, you can use browser-based forms to provide access to physical records inventories or to facilitate service requests related to physical records. For information about planning forms, see Plan InfoPath Forms Services.

  • Information management policies   An information management policy is a set of rules for a type of content. Each rule in an information management policy is a policy feature. Policies and policy features can be applied to list items and used in the context of physical records management:

    • Expiration   The expiration policy feature helps dispose of items in a consistent way that can be tracked and managed. You can set list items to expire on a particular date or within a calculated amount of time. You can associate a workflow with a list's expiration policy so that, when an item expires, the workflow assigns tasks that ensure the item's destruction or other disposition. For more information about the expiration policy feature, see Plan information management policies.

    • Barcodes   The barcode policy feature enables you to track a physical item by creating a unique identifier value for the item and attaching a barcode image of that value to the item. By default, Office SharePoint Server 2007 barcodes are compliant with the common Code 39 standard (ANSI/AIM BC1-1995, Code 39), and you can plug in other barcode providers by using the policies object model. By associating a barcode value with a list item that represents a physical record, you ensure that the physical item can be located from the list item and vice versa. For more information about the barcode policy feature, see Plan information management policies.

    • Labels   The label policy feature specifies labels that Office SharePoint Server 2007 can generate, based on a set of list or document library metadata. You can customize a label's format, and you can insert labels into electronic documents or print them. In physical records management, attach printed labels to physical items to help identify the physical records and correlate them with their associated list items. For more information about the label policy feature, see Plan information management policies.

    • Auditing   The auditing policy feature logs events and operations performed on a document or list item, such as changing, viewing, or deleting the item. The actions that are audited are extensible. In the context of records management, auditing is an essential operation that helps ensure a complete record of the activities related to an item. For more information about the auditing policy feature, see Plan information management policies.

  • Content types   A content type defines the information and features available for a list item, document, or folder, including its metadata, workflows, and information management policies. Because content types can be organized hierarchically, a set of content types can have some features in common, such as shared metadata, while having unique features.

    Content types are useful in records management because they can group features for records of a particular type in an easily reusable way. You can create content types for your electronic and physical records that share common information, such as metadata to categorize the records, while having unique features based on their media. For example, you can define a general "document record" content type, and then create electronic and physical document content types that inherit their metadata from the general content type. Then you can add unique features to the physical document content type that are not relevant to the electronic document content type, such as a barcode policy feature or a physical records workflow. For more information about content types, see Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server).

  • Folders   You can define custom folder content types. In physical records management, you can use folders to represent physical storage locations, such as boxes or shelves in a warehouse. List items in the folders then represent items in the physical storage locations. For example, if a set of printed documents is stored in a box, you can store the records of each document in a folder that represents the box, with metadata that identifies the box's barcode value, physical location, and other custom information. For more information about folders and content types, see Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server).

  • Attachments   You can attach electronic items, such as scanned images, to list items. This is useful in a physical records management context to help identify a physical record and correlate it with its associated list item.

Planning physical records retention

Worksheet action

You can use the Plan physical records worksheet ( with this article to help plan your physical records management based on Office SharePoint Server 2007.

For each physical record type in your file plan, use a separate worksheet.

  1. Under Physical Record, enter the type of record, such as "Retirement Plan Description."

  2. Under Record Category, enter the category based on your file plan, such as "Human Resources Benefits Plans."

  3. Under Media, enter the type of media, such as "Print Brochure."

  4. Under Records Center, enter the URL of the Records Center site.

  5. Under List, enter the name of the list for managing this type of physical record.

  6. In the Metadata table, enter metadata columns to display for this record type. For each item of metadata, enter its type, such as Person. In the Source column, specify where the item of metadata is defined, such as "Site Column Gallery" or "Current List."

  7. In the Policies table, record the policy template to associate with this list, or record each policy feature individually and supply configuration notes as needed. For more information about information management policies, see Plan information management policies.

  8. In the Workflows table, record each workflow to make available for this record type, list the content type the workflow will operate on, and add any relevant notes, such as a description of the intended use of the workflow and who is responsible for developing it.

  9. In the Forms table, record any forms development required for this record type and add relevant notes, such as a description of the intended use of the form and who is responsible for developing it.


Plan physical records worksheet (

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See Also


Design the Records Center site (Office SharePoint Server)