In the era of electronic collaboration, Microsoft SharePoint is front and center within the workplace facilitating most of those efforts. Serving as the electronic break room, it allows a place for multiple employees to work together on projects. Not stopping at just being a collaboration hub, SharePoint also has some document and records management abilities along with eDiscovery functionality built into the 2013 versions. Recently, SharePoint has been included in the Office 365 cloud-based suite of business application: rounding out an entire line of hosted Microsoft products.
However, with this new place of information, comes a need for governance. Collaboration is a messy process, and the digital “paper” trail can understandably get pretty cluttered.
One inherent flaw in Microsoft’s design of SharePoint are the silos created by the numerous sites that get created in the environment. As more and more groups use SharePoint, the number of individual sites grows. Along with this growth comes duplicate data that is valuable for eDiscovery and retention, but is stored in separate sites. Finally, the outdated versions of sites are still present in most cases, leaving SharePoint a disorderly mess of new, old, and duplicated data.
A frequent solution is to archive the SharePoint environment, as that helps solve several of the issues above (additional information here). First, retention can be better set to the content on the various SharePoint sites. As mentioned before, often times the information is outdated and the site no longer used: leaving information sitting in a discoverable environment forever. By archiving the content, the policies created by the company can be applied. Along the same lines, the information is now in a central place to be searched on for eDiscovery or placed on legal hold. The siloed environment is now gone, while still keeping the content visible for the relevant end users.
To Microsoft’s credit, they have recognized that the growing amount of content in SharePoint sites requires more robust offerings in terms of legal hold and eDiscovery in particular. With the 2013 offering, Microsoft introduced Discovery Center, a place to put content on SharePoint and hosted Exchange mailboxes on legal hold, with some initial eDiscovery searching functionality. However, that too has limits. Limitations on the amount of overlapped content allowed, no enterprise preservation or search requirements, and no in-house Early Case Assessment (ECA), review, and culling by legal teams. Another issue inherent to this design is the variety of content that is actually able to be put into Discovery Center. Microsoft products (Outlook, SharePoint, Lync, etc.) are the only content types that you’re able to access and search via Discovery Center. Enterprises not only have to deal with those three content types, but many others like file share content, legacy data, and social media… just to name a few. All that is created by trying to do eDiscovery natively from SharePoint is a siloed and disjointed process.
This is not to say that SharePoint native capabilities are inadequate for every business environment; in fact, the native tools often prove sufficient and highly cost-effective for small and medium firms that rarely face litigation. But just as any IT solution or deployment, individual assessment is necessary. The enterprise needs to carefully reflect on their own business requirements and dig deep to ensure that native functionalities will suffice.
SharePoint is clearly the leader of the collaboration market with its bundling in the Microsoft suite of offerings, and is probably the third most used data type in the enterprise behind email and file shares. As a result, this data source requires thorough governance just like the others do.