SharePoint Owners Manual

SharePoint makes it easy to keep a nice clean house, but there are a few things beyond regular maintenance which should receive proper attention.  The SharePoint Recycle Bin can quickly transform you into a card carrying hero.  Usage Audits can reveal under-utilized areas as candidates for archival or removal.  Information Management Policies may be used to automate content policies in your org.  Facilitate content organization by properly configuring Document Libraries. 

Document Library Tips

Document Libraries have so much flexibility it can be difficult for an org to define exactly how they should be used.  Since planning is critical, here are some tips which will have a positive impact on your collaborative environment.

Require Check Out

Use the Require Check Out option on your Document Libraries.  This is especially important in the Document Libraries where multiple people have permissions to modify the files.  Require Check Out forces users to Check Out any file before making changes and saving it back into the Document Library.   This prevents multiple authors from editing the document simultaneously.  There are times you may elect to disable Require Check Out – make that the exception and not the rule.  The entire concept of Check Out may be new for many users.  Before implementing anything related to Check Out, make sure users understand how (and what it means) to Check In, Check Out, and Discard Check Out. 

We're trying to focus on SharePoint, but know that Microsoft Office  introduces simultaneous document authoring or co-authoring – allowing multiple authors to edit the same document at the exact same moment.  Just because the technology is capable does not mean your users are ready.   

The View below displays four columns:

  • Type (icon linked to document)
  • Name (linked to document with edit menu)
  • Modified
  • Checked Out To

Document Library View
Document Library View

This View shows the Checked Out files in three ways:

  • The icon changes to display a small green arrow indicating Check Out.

  • When a user hovers over the icon, a dialog will appear showing the Document Name and Checked Out To.

  • The Checked Out To column indicates the file is Checked Out by showing a user's name.

    It's useful to add the Checked Out By Column to the default View of the Document Library to make it clear who has the file checked out.  

    Ensure someone on the working team (other than IT) has the Permission to Override Check Out.   You don't want to bother the IT team with non-IT tasks just because someone forgets to Check In an Item before going on vacation!


Use Document Version History capabilities.  It really is that simple: use Versioning. 

When using Versioning, only use Minor Versions when you have a need to hide Draft Versions.  Set version retention limits which strike a realistic balance between usefulness and the amount of available database space. 

SharePoint Versioning


Configure Views to help users quickly find what they are looking for regardless of the number of files contained in the Document Library. 

Create a Public View
Create a Public View

Users should be trained to create and utilize Personal Views to maximize effectiveness of Lists and Libraries while minimizing user interface clutter.


Do not replicate your shared drive hierarchy in SharePoint.  SharePoint is more powerful than a drive share.  Do not configure SharePoint as you did with your file share just because that's the way things have "always been done."   Use SharePoint for more than just document storage.

Folders are safe and easy.  People understand using Folders.  The concept of using computerized folders to organize files logically has been used for more than 50 years.  Folders do have their place. 

Don't go crazy creating Folders. 

Folders can be used to control permissions on a group of Files contained within a Document Library, but use Folders sparingly.  Use metadata instead. 

Metadata can be used to group files together in Views.  This can give the appearance of Folders.  This is a powerful way to facilitate user adoption.  Using metadata instead of Folders is largely accepted as a best practice.

Finally, integrate your SharePoint metadata (Columns and Site Columns) directly into Microsoft Word 2007 or  using Quick Parts to link content from your document to SharePoint metadata. 

Content Types

A Content Type is a reusable collection of metadata, which SharePoint refers to as Columns.  A Content Type may have associated workflows, behaviors, and other settings for use as Items or documents in Lists or Document Libraries. Content Types provide a powerful centralized tool to manage the structure of information in a reusable way.

Use Content Types for commonly used information and file templates, and associate these Content Types with your Document Libraries.  Document-based Content Types allow you to upload and associate the template file into the Content Type. 

Associate Template with Content Type
Associate Template with Content Type

When a user clicks the "New" button on the Library, they can choose the appropriate Content Type based upon the correct template. 

Create New Document
Create New Document

When a user starts a new document using the New Document button in a Document Library, that Document Library will be the default location when saving the document.  If a document is started directly in Word, the user will need to navigate to the appropriate Document Library using the Save As dialog.

Save to SharePoint Document Library directly from Word
Save to SharePoint Document Library directly from Word

Recycle Bin

Membership directors and executives at orgs often express concern about giving members and volunteers tools and permissions to work on content in a full collaborative model.  Distributed volunteers don't have access to the same training as staff, and they may not have a full understanding of the capabilities they have been given.  What if they change a document?  What if they delete something?

The SharePoint Recycle Bin is your safety net.  It catches the deleted documents, Items, Lists, Folders, and files.  When an authorized user elects to delete an Item, SharePoint prompts the user with a familiar message: "Are you sure?"

Confirm Delete
Confirm Delete

The SharePoint Recycle Bin has two stages, cleverly named Stage One and Stage Two.  Stage One is located at the Site (or Subsite) level and is accessible to users with Contribute, Design, or Full Control permissions.  The Stage Two Recycle Bin is at the Site Collection level (root) and is only available to Site Collection Administrators. 

How the Recycle Bin works

Deleted Items go to the Stage One Recycle Bin in the Site the Item was deleted.  After a pre-determined time period (default is 30 days), the Item is sent to the Stage Two Recycle Bin.  This second stage keeps the Item until the Stage Two Recycle Bin reaches its storage capacity limit, at which point the oldest Items are deleted. 

You can control how much disk space is available to the Stage Two Recycle Bin at the Web Application level (Central Administration Site).  The Recycle Bin storage space does not count toward the Site Quota (the allocated storage space).  The specified size does, in fact, increase the total size of the actual SQL Content Database for that Site.  It is considered a best practice to express this value as a percentage of the Site Quota allocated. 

Items cannot be restored over an existing Item with the same name.  This conflict is handled by Versioning.  The Recycle Bin does not store deleted Versions.  Items in the Stage Two Recycle Bin can only be restored by a Site Collection Administrator.  Turning off the Recycle Bin will permanently delete all Items it contains at the time.  Do not turn off the Recycle Bin without thoughtful consideration.  Better yet, do not turn off the Recycle Bin.

Restore from Stage One Recycle Bin

Restore from Stage One Recycle Bin

Items from either stage of the SharePoint Recycle Bin can easily be restored by authorized users.


Stage Two Recycle Bin

Site Usage

SharePoint can bring complete transparency to an org.  The auditing and reporting features in SharePoint provide various windows to see what's really happening in your org.  The Site Usage Reporting capabilities provide a way to review general web analytics information.  There are also Search Usage reports which show what users are looking for and clicking on as well as what they are looking for and not finding.

Site Usage Summary
Site Usage Summary

Search Usage provides insights which are incredibly useful both inside and outside the org.  When designing the Information Architecture and related navigation, orgs put a great deal of effort in trying to determine what users will want when they come to the site.  The Search Usage reports show us exactly what the users are actually looking for.  Maybe even more important to an org is the Search Usage report showing what they are looking for and not finding.  

There could be hot new topics or key legislation which you don't have available on your website –maybe you should!  There could be a lot of searches for content which IS on your website, but users aren't finding due to terminology discrepancies. 

Search Usage reports are a great way to stay in touch with how people are actually using your site.  Don't just peruse the Search Usage reports - use this information to assist with the management of your site.  Give your members what they are looking for.

Search Usage Reports

Search Usage Reports

SharePoint analytics are included, but you can also use third-party web analytics packages such as Google Analytics (which is free), Adobe Omniture, WebTrends, or any other package to provide additional capabilities to the reporting available with SharePoint. 

Audit Log Reports

Everyone loves reports.  What if you want reports which are more specific to content activities or information management?  Who is downloading, updating, or deleting a particular file?  Why did a document disappear and then reappear later?  Enter Custom Audit Log Reports.

Custom Audit Reports

Custom Audit Reports

Custom Audit Log Reports may be configured to analyze user behavior transparently.  These reports reveal what happened, when it happened, and who did it.  It's as if 'Big Brother' is watching... 

It's straight forward to set up a new report.  You specify what Library to save the report in, set the date range, set which specific users to watch (if necessary), and select the type of events you wish to monitor.  The one thing you really need to remember: you must enable auditing prior to using these types of reports.  If auditing is not enabled, you will not have the information to report against.  Custom Audit Log Reports are only available to authorized users.   

Configure Custom Audit Report

Configure Custom Audit Report

Your report will be generated and you can open it using Microsoft Excel.  Use Excel to slice, dice, chart, and present these reports the way you want.  This information helps with troubleshooting "mysterious" occurrences such as a user deleting a file and restoring it later.  You will have a report showing who did what, and when they did it.  This type of information is very helpful with keeping user confidence in the solution.

Information Management Policies

SharePoint Information Management Policies are used to automate who has access to content, what they can do with it, and what the content retention rules are.  Many orgs utilize Information Management Policies to ensure compliance with regulations, standards, and even internal processes. 

Orgs may have a need to keep copies of documents for seven years, or delete documents 24 months after creation.  SharePoint may be used to set up, enforce, and monitor policies to track documents, control access to documents, and control how long to retain these documents. 

Information Management Policies establish rules for the different types of content being used within your org.  These rules are called Policy Features.  You may create a Policy Template and associate it with an entire Site Collection, a specific Content Type, Document Library, or even a specific List.  You have the flexibility to control different types of content and at what level you wish to enforce this control. 


Continuity may be sustained with proper organization and minimal disruption.  Use the following concepts to ensure continuity and instill user confidence.

Don't settle for the default settings.  Configure Document Libraries to optimize organization and maximize findability.

Configure the two-stage Recycle Bin to optimize the balance between Item restoration timeframes and available hard drive space.

Use Site Usage Reports to review general web analytics information, and Custom Audit Reports for precise usage monitoring.

Use Information Management Policies for automating organizational policies such as content retention and records management.