Maintain a Healthy SharePoint Environment

SP2013-Logo.pngSustaining a healthy SharePoint environment requires a Maintenance Plan.  The Maintenance Plan should be devised using a core set of maintenance planning best practices. 

It is important to keep an open line of communication between your users and the IT folks responsible for the maintenance of your SharePoint solution.  One great way to do this is by performing periodic surveys among your users in order to determine what they need from your Site.  We recommend conducting such surveys no more than once a year and at most twice. 

It makes sense to use the native SharePoint Survey template for this effort.  Use SharePoint logs and reports to determine which sections of your Site are being used, and merge this data with your survey results to help identify what can be improved.

Part of your Maintenance Plan should include archiving obsolete content and Sites.  Make sure your users understand this is happening and are educated on how to locate archived information.  Execute your archival actions at a predictable frequency.  Users should have a clear understanding of the archival schedule.  

Review Site Permissions regularly.  This exercise may be used to remove Permissions for users who have left the org or simply changed groups or projects.

Plan and test backups of your Site content on a regular schedule.  Document the frequency of backups as well as the processes followed in restoring content when needed.  This planning will vary based on factors such as the amount of content to backup, full versus incremental backups, performance factors, and your solution's availability requirements. 

Everyone says this yet very few do it: test your restore process.

Site Collections

A SharePoint Site Collection is a group of Sites which can be managed together.  Sites within a Site Collection may have shared components such as security, features, look and feel, and navigation. A Site Collection has one "top-level Site" with any number of Subsites below it. 

A Subsite refers to any Site within a Site Collection that is not the top-level Site itself. A Subsite may inherit navigation and/or permissions from its parent, or these permissions can be specified and managed separately.

Site Collection users may create Subsites if they have proper permissions, but Site Collections themselves must be created by someone with Site Collection Administration permissions.

Sometimes it's better to create an entirely new Site Collection, while other times it makes more sense just to create a Subsite below an existing Site Collection.  For instance, if you have many sub-committees which fit within a larger committee, it makes sense to use Subsites to manage each sub-committee.

Part of your Maintenance Plan should address adjusting Site Collection Quotas if needed.  Site Collection quotas are managed in the Central Administration Site.  Quotas are used to control how large a specific Site Collection may become. 

If a Site Collection is growing near the quota size limit, you can either adjust the Quota to a larger size or reduce the overall size of the Site Collection.  Keep in mind that these Quotas are in place for a reason.  It is better to first attempt to reduce the overall size of the Site Collection.

Monitoring and removing unused Site Collections should also be a part of your Maintenance Plan.  This process may be automated, and the automation steps depend on your version of SharePoint. 

Automate Content Retention

Your Plan needs to identify the rules to determine if a Site Collection is unused, as well as the actions being taken in such cases. 

Taxonomy Evolution

The way you classify information will change over time.  Therefore you need a plan for updating your taxonomy.  Conduct a high level content classification session annually with the appropriate individuals (department heads, chapter leaders, committee Site users, etc…) to determine any tags which need to be added or to identify any restructuring which should occur.

Ensure your Maintenance Plan includes a scheduled window for updating your taxonomy.  Most orgs should plan on reviewing and updating their taxonomy on an annual basis, but you may choose to do so more frequently depending on specific org requirements.   

Search Tuning

The SharePoint Search engine is constantly working to provide a top notch, end user search experience.  This includes scheduled Crawls of Content Sources – not just your SharePoint Site. 

Careful planning and monitoring should take place to ensure the Crawl Schedule does not interfere with your backup schedule, and that it completes in an acceptable amount of time.  Your Maintenance Plan should include your Crawl Schedule for both Full Crawls and Incremental Crawls. 

SharePoint Search Crawl Schedule

Additionally, you will periodically need to create new Content Sources to crawl, as well as remove Content Sources which are no longer being utilized.  This maintenance should also be planned and scheduled as part of your Maintenance Plan. 

User Interface Evolution

Keep the overarching user interface (UI) up to date.  The UI is the look and feel of your Site, and it should reinforce your Information Architecture (IA) which is the structure and taxonomy of your Site. 

You probably do not want to drastically change the look and feel of your Site on a regular basis, but you do want to keep it current and fresh.  For example, ensuring the most recent logo version is used throughout the Site.  Your org Branding Guidelines should also be carefully observed and adhered to.  A consistent message is the best way to avoid confusion and frustration, and to maximize user adoption with members, volunteers, and especially staff.

Determine the appropriate time of year to re-visit your Site UI and make the required updates.  In most cases, this should be executed no more than once a year.  If the changes being made to your Site are drastic, make sure you inform your users well in advance of the update.  Let them know what's about to change, and get them excited about it by pointing out the benefits. 

Change Management

Your Maintenance Plan should include a change management section.  This section needs to outline the process used to ensure data continuity.  For example, during the migration process it is not uncommon to keep the existing, OLD website running as usual while you migrate content to the NEW Site.  During this time, any new content added to the OLD website should be accounted for and also migrated to the NEW Site. 

Many orgs handle the change management issue by simply placing the OLD website in read-only mode at the onset of content migration.  Users may continue to access the content from the OLD website in read-only mode.  There is no risk of new content being added to the OLD website during the transition.

Change management should also account for system down time (scheduled or otherwise).  During times of system downtime, data redundancy often creeps in as users attempt to continue working throughout the downtime window.  Determine how you will address this and document it as part of your Maintenance Plan. 

Disaster Readiness

Perhaps one of the most important sections of your Maintenance Plan describes a path for overcoming disasters.  While your Disaster Preparation and Recovery Plan should be documented in your Governance Plan, Disaster Preparation should also exist within your Maintenance Plan to ensure all necessary components remain in place and operational. 

The Disaster Preparation section of your Maintenance Plan should describe possible situations such as complete server farm loss, partial server farm loss, SQL server failure, network failure, intrusion (prevention and reaction), unexplained data loss, and associated steps required to get the system back online in a timely fashion. 

Time estimates should be included in any Disaster Plans because the first question everyone will have is "How long will it be down?"  You should have accurate estimates because you've tested the recovery regularly, right? 

Your Maintenance Plan will include your schedule for disaster recovery testing.  Regularly restoring your backups onto a testing environment will ensure the backups are working properly, and will help streamline the restoration process. 


Maintenance Plans do not need to be large complex documents, but ensure that they exist and have undergone proper thought, planning, and testing. 

It is perfectly natural to not have all the answers as you get started.  Just the act of writing the Maintenance Plan will surface potential issues which need to be addressed.  This is yet another benefit of documenting your Maintenance Plan. 

Stay in control of your Site Collections and Subsites to maintain organization and automate the removal of unused content.  Plan your backup schedules and restoration procedures.

While updating metadata and tags is continual, schedule time to review and update your metadata annually as part of your formal Taxonomy Evolution.

Search Tuning is not fully automatic.  Determine appropriate Crawl Schedules, and stay on top of what users are looking for and not finding.

Update the look and feel (UI) of your Site no more than once a year to ensure your Site remains fresh and relevant, and is following your organizations branding guidelines.

Plan, document, and test your change management procedures during content migration, configuration, customization, and system down times.

Finally, identify how your org will react to system failures and regularly test your backups