SharePoint auditing: knowing your business like the back of your hand

Mar 31, 2017 | Blog, SharePoint 2007 Upgrade | 0 comments

Isn’t it true that the penultimate of anything is usually the more exciting than the final? Take your favourite show, or even football tournaments – whatever it is about final episodes, curtain closers and season finales; the showpiece event is often a bit of a let-down. But a mid-season finale or a cliff hanger in the second-to-last episode? That’s where the real drama often lies.

Welcome to the penultimate blog in our series on upgrading to SharePoint Online – and sure to be our most exciting one yet, because today we are looking at the all-important content audit. We’ll focus on the purpose and benefits of performing such an audit and how it will make your migration to SharePoint easier.

SharePoint auditing: where to start?


A SharePoint content audit is relatively self-explanatory, and the same, in principle, as other types of audits you can think of—whether it’s a financial audit, a stock-take, or a quiet period of self-reflection. A content audit for your SharePoint environment entails running through all your content, making a note of what you have, and prioritising the different types held in your environment based on how much they’re used and the relevance they have for your organisation.

How a content audit should work in the lead up to a migration, typically, is by making note of your files and organising them into two categories: those to be moved and those to be left behind (i.e. deleted). Obviously, every business’s SharePoint auditing will be slightly different and as such, a content audit should be customised to the specific needs of an organisation. However, it will likely breakdown into three specific areas:

  • Files audit
  • Permissions audit
  • Improving current features

Let’s break these areas down as to get a deeper look at how you should perform your content audit.

Files audit


The majority of your SharePoint content is made up of files. Your lists and libraries and everything else comes down to files and file storage. This isn’t surprising, considering we’re dealing with a platform whose primary remit is a dedication to such storage. However, what may be surprising for you is the number of files that exist (and are taking up space) in your SharePoint servers that you either don’t use anymore, are older versions of files from various projects and campaigns, or are both old and duplicate. We always say one of the great things about deciding to migrate is the chance it affords a business to run through the files stored on the system and purge those that they no longer need. This will free up space and make a migration lighter and faster, allowing you to get to work in your new environment sooner.

For example, we would suggest setting default business rules about data retention. These can take the form of date relevance (if a file hasn’t been viewed/modified in x years then it should be removed). Other rules can be content driven, such as: this document is a contract and so needs to be kept for 7 years.

Getting your priorities straight


Content that you can’t do without should take priority and must be carefully transferred over to the new iteration. It will be during this process that you will decide on your various files’ importance. Your business users should have the final say on what content needs to be migrated and what should be left behind. Talk to your team leaders and devise a plan for organising your data.

This is also a good time to ask the team leaders about other content they use on day to day basis. It may mean that you have to expand the scope of the migration, but if the business can benefit from a single source where all content is held, it could pay dividends for the productivity of the end users in the long term.

Content density


During the audit you will be able to see where certain content is stored across multiple site collections and content databases. How will this effect or influence the way you organise this data in your updated environment? The purpose of an audit in any form is to get to know your subject – in this case your content management system – better, through understanding how it works on a deeper level.

For example, does the business need to keep all 160 draft versions of a document, or can it just keep the published versions for the migration? This can reduce the amount of content that has to be migrated, make the searching of the SharePoint online environment easier and more relevant and ensures that only required information is kept.

Permissions audit


Permissions are integral to SharePoint, and they can dissolve during a migration. By taking a tally and listing and reporting your permissions you can gain an overview of all user access across sites so you have an understanding of whom has access to what. This is important for making sure that when you migrate, the same people have the same access to the right sites, thus avoiding confusion, mistakes and ultimately downtime.

For example, within SharePoint Online there is a feature called Delve, this will look at searches you have made and then suggest other files that may be of interest/value to you. Delve will also look at permissions and only show you documents that you have permission to see. If these values are not set correctly, then you may see content which is not appropriate. This can potentially cause problems with the upcoming GDPR regulations.

Improving current features


The main focus behind a SharePoint migration is to avail of the latest features and tools within the platform, increasing your business functionality. Yet, as pointed out, we can learn a lot more than we might initially think from preparing for a move. By analysing your environment’s most frequently-used features, you can focus your efforts on these features to further improve workplace productivity.

The life-changing magic of tidying up


Content audits are extremely beneficial to a proposed migration as they can reduce the amount of content you actually need to migrate, and reduce the overall amount of content you have on your system. It makes for a faster, easier migration, plus it leaves you with, more or less, the essentials that you need for your business – which you may not have been aware of beforehand. You’ll be left with a cleaner, faster system.

If you feel you need extra support in performing your audit, Content and Code have specialist consultants and tools which will help you to understand your content landscape.

In our final post, we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks to make your move even smoother, along with important lessons to keep in mind. And don’t worry, it won’t be an anti-climax!

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About our guest author

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe

Partner Solutions Engineer | Metalogix

Chris Thorpe is the partner solutions engineer at Metalogix, who are experts in providing specialist solutions for SharePoint migrations. With a plethora of experience in demonstrating solutions and training clients, mapping out a successful migration is Chris’s bread and butter.

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