By Anthony Baratta
Microsoft SharePoint has many different features, systems, and configurations—to the point where it can be rather daunting to get started. What is the difference between a document library and the document center? What are the benefits of using the records center versus using in-place records management? What do these terms even mean in the first place?
This blog is intended to help you understand some of the most basic solutions that SharePoint has to offer. In the paragraphs below, we will endeavor to answer the questions listed above (among others) and to give you a working knowledge of the main SharePoint solutions and features.
Document Library to Document Center to Records Center: What's the Difference?
Most enterprises that use SharePoint intranets are using them at least in part as places for digital document storage. SharePoint sites provide terrific places to upload files and keep them accessible for each person on your team. With the right permissions, each team member can even make changes to these files—making SharePoint an active collaboration tool.
However, when you first start trying to configure your SharePoint sites for document storage uses, you might be a bit confused about the terminology. After all, SharePoint offers three features—document libraries, the Document Center, and the Records Center—that sound like they could be file storage solutions. What is the difference between these different items, and when should you use each?
The document library is what you will use to store and manage files on an individual SharePoint site or subsite. For instance, if your marketing department needs a place to store documents, then a document library hosted on the marketing department's team site would be the most logical location. This document library would allow people within the marketing department to find files relevant to them, collaborate on projects with one another, and more.
The Document Center and the Records Center, meanwhile, are more central repositories for files. The two centers function more or less as opposite sides of the same coin. Both work more or less as central servers where you can store bulk quantities and documents. The difference between them is that the Document Center is meant more for active files (documents still being edited or changed), while the Records Center is a long-term storage space for immutable or unchanging files. The Document Center, then, acts similarly to a document library but at a larger scale. The Records Center is more of a place for document retention.
In-Place Records Management versus the Record Center
As you can tell from the brief description above, a "record" in SharePoint is a document preserved for document retention purposes. Indeed, the Records Center template is designed specifically for retention-related purposes like auditing and eDiscovery. Contracts, financial documents, and legal files are just a few of the types of data that typically get declared as "records" in SharePoint.
SharePoint gives you two different ways to declare a document as a "record," or as a file that needs retention with minimal or no changes. Your first option is to move the file to the Records Center. You can take a document from your document libraries or your Document Center and move it to the Records Center, if you so wish. However, you can also use in-place records management to declare something a record, but keep it stored in your Document Center or document library. In-place records management is convenient if you want to keep a file easily accessible, but want to make sure it is treated as a record for retention purposes.
Another key SharePoint configuration to think about is workflow approval. You can set up custom workflows for a range of different purposes in SharePoint. For instance, you might even build one that moves files from your Document Center to your Records Center after a period of time has elapsed. SharePoint's most common workflows, though, tend to be used for approval purposes.
By default, SharePoint includes several approval workflows. You can use these workflows to route documents through different people in your organization, whether for approvals, feedback, or other purposes. These workflows, when configured correctly, can help to implement superior quality control and oversight in your business. Read a recent blog on approval workflows to learn more.
Sometimes, approval workflows will just be used to kick-start a review process and deliver feedback to the person or team that created a document. Other times, though, the approval process is meant to lead to the publication of a document. When a document is "published" on SharePoint, it is then available to everyone who has permission to access your site.
To publish a document on SharePoint, all you need to do is find the file in question in your document library, highlight the document, click the arrow that appears, and then click "Publish a Major Version." If you decide that you need to revise the file later, or that it is not up to standard, you can view the Version History the file and unpublish it. Click to read about SharePoint versioning.
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Do you have any questions about these important SharePoint solutions or how to configure them? Call 2Plus2 Partners today to speak with our professional SharePoint consultants. You can reach us at 510 652-7700 or complete this form for a complimentary consultation.