Can I Keep Records in Office 365?
Keeping records in Office 365 has been a subject of much discussion for a while. Are records held in Office 365 really records? Is Office 365 really a viable records repository?
The answer is our old favourite – ‘it depends’.
If you have a lightweight requirement to manage lifecycle then Office 365 might have what you need. If you have complex, perhaps statutory, requirements for retention and disposal, chances are Office 365 is not feature rich enough to meet your needs.
Out of the box, SharePoint Online can provide:
- Records Center – a destination that can have documents routed to it to hold ‘outside’ of SharePoint
- In-Place Records Management – largely aimed at Classic mode, in-place lets you declare a record but leave it in-situ
- Retention Labels – for the modern experience, Retention Labels allow classification and policy
For many organisations, especially smaller ones, one or more of the above features will cut it for records management.
In the Enterprise, it is unlikely that Office 365 has the depth of features that most organisations want for Records Management so most turn to third party tools to give them what they need.
The key records ‘feature’ that most Enterprise organisations need that Office 365 is not readily able to provide is immutability.
With Office 365 there are too many ways that admins or owners can revoke or reverse the decision to make content a record. For most complex record requirements the concept of immutability – the ability to ensure that something cannot, under any circumstance, be changed – is a necessary thing and Office 365 is just not very good at it.
Interestingly, some Records Management vendors have recently started working with new Azure storage types that provide WORM (Write Once Read Many) capability that provides a great immutable capability when coupled to the right kind of index and audit tooling such as that provided by blockchain or document style databases such as CosmosDb.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this as the Microsoft back-end technologies mature and the ISVs start to leverage this type of technology.