One of the key requirements for any enterprise SharePoint implementation is to transition sites to an “archive” state when they are no longer in use. When we define the requirements for “archive”, we need to answer two key questions:
- When should a site to be archived and how is the archiving process triggered (e.g. a date, an event, a person clicking a button, etc.?)
- What happens to a site when it is archived (e.g. delete it, export it, lock it down, move it to another site collection, etc.)?
Here are a few options and best practices to answer both questions.
Approach #1: Change the Site Settings
A really simple approach to archiving is to simply change the permissions of the site to be read only or to even lock it down further so that it is not longer even read for intranet users. Reading could be restricted to a small group of corporate site managers who can still access the site for historical purposes but for everyone else, the site is now invisible and off limits.
Another approach to updating a site so that it is archived is to change the site settings so that it is clearly now in an archive state. The following post has some good suggestions on how to do this using basic site settings including:
- Changing the search settings so that the site is no longer available in search results.
- Changing the title or look and feel so that the site shows clearly that it is in archive state.
- Turning off version control and workflows.
With a little bit of custom scripting, one could write a workflow or script that does this automatically based on a triggering event. Alternatively, this could be done manually by the Site Administrator.
Approach #2: Move the Site
One obvious choice is to move the site to a separate “archived” area within your site structure.
Within SharePoint, moving sites within a Site Collection can be done using the Content and Structure tool (requires Publishing feature to be enabled).
If you need to move your site to another site collection entirely, this is not trivial, especially with SharePoint Online. The reason for this is that your site is dependent on features that are deployed to the site collection that may not be available in the site collection that is the target destination. In addition, there are no GUI tools available out of the box to support this move – it has to be done through an export and import process using either Central Admin (only available on premise) or PowerShell.
This creates an external file that can be re-imported if it is ever needed.
This approach lacks any automatic triggering mechanism to determined when a site is to be locked down.
Another approach is to use a third party migration tool such as Sharegate or Metalogix to move your sites to another Site Collection or even an entirely different farm.
Approach #3: Use a Third Party Tool for Archiving
There are a number of third party tools that provide archiving capabilities over and beyond what SharePoint provides out of the box. Check out tools such as:
These tools provide sophisticated archiving capabilities that are worth investing in especially for enterprises with large volumes of sites/documents.
Approach #4: Site Based Retention Policy
SharePoint 2013 supports a site based retention policy that can archive a site based on policy rules. Site policies are created at the site collection and apply to sites within the collection.
For each site, the policy has to be applied individually under the site settings.
The policy prescribes both when a site should be archived and what happens to the site as a result.
However, as you can see by the settings, the policy options are reasonably limited and the triggering date is based on the site creation date and not on some other type of triggering event – for example, 90 days of inactivity.
Approach #5: Implement a Custom Workflow
Another approach to using the Site Policy concept is to implement a custom workflow. Such a workflow can add additional business logic to the transition of state from open to closed. Within the Site Policy concept in SharePoint 2013, you can elect to run a workflow to manage site closure.
Such a workflow could send an email to the Site Administrator to ask if they are still using the site and use the answer to determine whether to close the site or leave it open for another year. Within the policy, you can have the same workflow run on a periodic basis to determine again whether the site should be closed.