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Automate how you govern and protect long-term records in Microsoft 365 with Preserve365®

June 12, 2024

Every day, around two billion documents and emails are exchanged, a number set to rise as organizations migrate legacy content into SharePoint from outdated shared drives and decommissioned applications.

On average, incoming Microsoft 365 data flows are expected to be more than four times current levels in the next 2-3 years, driven by increased use of Microsoft SharePoint, Teams and new tools like Copilot. This surge results in a wide range of formats, many unsupported by Microsoft or those that may not be readable in the future.

Whether originating from paper or within the Microsoft environment, approximately 30% of data must be preserved for over 7 years or indefinitely, encompassing various document types in both public government and corporate settings. These documents span multiple formats, including text, audio and video. Despite their diversity, they require consistent and coherent management.

The challenge lies in continuously protecting and transferring critical, permanent records within Microsoft 365, while also managing them correctly and securing stakeholder buy-in for your records governance program.

Simple backups and archiving methods fall short as they fail to guarantee the readability, trustworthiness and discoverability of documents. This is why Digital Preservation is essential for keeping files in readable formats, ensuring they are securely stored, preserved and organized for decades.

In the Preserve365 Education Series, expert practitioners in Microsoft 365 records management and digital preservation shared best-practice guidance on practical steps to standardize and automate how to govern and protect critical long-term (> 7 years) records in Microsoft SharePoint. You can watch the series on demand to hear directly from our experts.

Protecting and transferring long-term records

The risk of data corruption and inaccessibility is heightened by factors like lack of policy-driven retention, obsolete file formats, missing original applications or licenses, accidental or intentional changes or deletions, and cluttered SharePoint environments.

Additionally, slow retrieval from separate backups or archives exacerbates these issues. This presents two key challenges for Records Information Governance (IG) and Archival teams:

  1. Automating the governance of critical long-term and permanent content to ensure easy access and trustworthiness for various needs

  2. Eliminating compliance risks associated with outdated or tampered content, ensuring its integrity and authenticity.

Archiving Long-Term SharePoint Content: Challenges and Solutions

Protecting and transferring long-term content in SharePoint involves operational and strategic challenges.

Operational Challenges:

  • Storage Limitations: Accumulating content in SharePoint can lead to storage limits, increasing costs and inhibiting workflow efficiency.

  • Data Breach Vulnerability: Storing sensitive information in SharePoint raises the risk of unauthorized access and data exposure during transfers, which can result in legal penalties and reputational damage.

  • Backlogs and Delete Anxiety: The fear of deleting crucial data complicates storage management due to the growing volume of records.

  • Organizational Credibility: Data breaches can tarnish an organization's reputation and erode stakeholder trust, impacting partnerships and customer loyalty.

  • Legal and Financial Ramifications: Non-compliance with data governance regulations can lead to hefty fines and litigation.

In answering these challenges, organizations often resort to manual methods for exporting and archiving SharePoint content, which introduces its own set of challenges.

  1. Manual extraction of content and metadata from SharePoint libraries is time-consuming and prone to errors.

  2. Files are temporarily stored while undergoing curation, leading to security and integrity risks.

  3. Content is uploaded to archival storage without proper preservation capabilities, jeopardizing long-term accessibility.

  4. Locating and retrieving archived content becomes cumbersome, as readability cannot be guaranteed.

To overcome these challenges, organizations need to implement Active Digital Preservation strategies, which involve migrating files to newer formats and ensuring comprehensive record preservation using technologies like Preservica's. These strategies are essential for maintaining the integrity and accessibility of records over time.
Developed in collaboration with Microsoft and records management professionals, Preserve365® is the solution that goes beyond simple archiving; it incorporates Preservica's Active Digital Preservation™ software, which operates in the background to automatically preserve critical long-term and permanent records in the latest readable formats, all seamlessly integrated within Microsoft 365.

Now, let’s explore effective records management strategies through the retention and disposition of long-term records.

How to Automate the Retention and Disposition of Long-Term Records

Effective records management is essential to ensure information is systematically organized and disposed of when no longer needed. Automating this process not only enhances efficiency but also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements.

In Microsoft 365, retention labels are the key tool for automating the retention and disposition of long-term records.

To dive into this topic, Preservica recently spoke with Rob Bath, Microsoft 365 Solution Architect specializing in info management as well as Digital Director for IRMS to explore how users can leverage retention labeling and compliance features in Microsoft to manage growing volumes of data.

"Organizations must retain specific information, ensuring it isn't lost over time. This may encompass legal documents, financial records, or historically significant data. Moreover, it's essential to transfer this information into a Digital Preservation tool like Preservica. Effective records management involves managing information in two ways: identifying data for disposal and identifying data to retain. The retention label serves as a tool for this purpose." - Rob Bath

Understanding Retention Labels

Retention labels in Microsoft 365 allow for the straightforward classification of information based on the functional activities across your organization. When creating these labels, it is crucial to decide how long each type of information needs to be retained and what actions should be taken at the end of the retention period.

Simplifying File Plans and Labeling

Before diving into the application of retention labels, it is important to take a pragmatic approach. Simplify your file plans to make them more user-friendly and less cumbersome. This simplicity helps in creating retention labels that are clear and easy to manage. Retention labels should reflect the real-world activities and functions within your organization, ensuring they are relevant and useful.

Once you have simplified your file plans, configure the retention labels with actions that automate the archiving process. By doing so, archiving can occur seamlessly and without manual intervention.

Advanced Archiving with Preserve365

For more comprehensive archiving actions, Preserve365 offers advanced solutions that can be paired with Microsoft 365 retention labels. This approach may require premium licensing, such as an E3 license, but it allows for more robust compliance management. Preserve365 can turn end-users into extensions of your record compliance function without them even realizing it. The system can automatically keep immutable copies of records safe based on the applied labels, ensuring compliance and security.

Fully Automated Solutions with Power Automate

For a fully automated records management solution, combining Preserve365 with Power Automate can be highly effective. This combination allows for automatic classification, archiving and notification, eliminating the need for manual intervention by the records manager. Power Automate can handle the routine tasks of records management, ensuring that your retention policies are consistently applied and that records are archived or disposed of at the appropriate times.

To effectively leverage these tools and strategies for taking control of your organization's growing volume of data and ensuring efficient and compliant records management through automation, obtaining stakeholder buy-in for your Microsoft 365 records program is the critical first step.

Getting Stakeholder buy-in for your Microsoft 365 records program

Preservica also recently gained valuable insights from Fiona Bolt, Information Manager and Malcolm Mathieson, archivist, at Amnesty International, shedding light on their journey with information management, SharePoint and Preserve365.

Elevate the project’s importance

Fiona highlighted the significance of having a clear business need and securing support from senior management to validate the chosen solution and elevate the project's importance. Being closely aligned with IT within your organization's structure and actively participating in governance groups can leverage compliance to your advantage. Demonstrating a decrease in acquisitions for born-digital material can strengthen business cases, and adopting creative budgeting approaches is also beneficial.

Fiona's determination to tackle SharePoint Sprawl issues underscored the crucial role of integrating with the IT department in securing stakeholder buy-in, ultimately contributing to their success with SharePoint and Preservica.

“Being part of the IT department was definitely key to getting in [with stakeholders]. If we had not been part of the IT department, there was very little hope to insist upon this and it has been critical to our success with SharePoint and Preservica.”

Here are five questions for getting buy-in from your IT and Security team for your long-term records governance programs:

  1. What’s the value to the business of using this solution?

  2. Why can’t we just use regular archiving or SharePoint itself?

  3. Does it meet our security standards?

  4. What’s in it for IT?

  5. Don’t forget your Legal team.

For answers to these questions and more on protecting, transferring and managing long-term records, click here to watch our recent Preserve365® Education Series. To discover how Preserve365 can help your organization, visit the Preserve365 product page.