Preserving SharePoint For eDiscovery

2012-07-11-15.50.23-e1412951251703.jpgAt the end of a project, the SharePoint server was ceased. The in-house eDiscovery team, with the responsibility to archive and preserve company information, needed to preserve all SharePoint servers prior to closing them down. That would enable the team to respond to discovery requests long after the project ended.

This was a real life use-case, drawn from a large company with thousands of SharePoint servers that were used for in-house project collaboration. It seemed like a pretty straightforward exercise until they realized that SharePoint supports two distinct user experiences: Windows and web. The two user experiences are supported by completely different technologies and each had to be preserved separately. Enterprise archives have long offered the ability to archive SharePoint files and data, but not the SharePoint web server. This is where Hanzo Archives joined the project.

Preserving a SharePoint server requires both web and Windows servers and there are two ways to approach the problem.

Enterprise Archive and Backups 

Use an enterprise archive. Without proper support for the web side, you would need to archive all the databases, documents and files as usual. But you would also have to back up the SharePoint server and software since you will have to re-install the OS, DB and SharePoint on a server, and restore all the files, documents and the database contents to reproduce the website. From the web perspective, you will be dependent on SharePoint hosting all the assets used on the website, which is not always the case. Backups are not a good solution for preserving web content for eDiscovery: it’s slow and expensive to rebuild the site.

Enterprise Archive and Web Archive 

Use both an enterprise archive and a proper web archive. Essentially, you would archive all the databases, documents and files as usual. But you will also need to capture the website using a client-side native format web archiving service or system, such as Hanzo. This ensures that you capture all the assets used in the web user experience, including links and embedded items hosted externally to the SharePoint server.

Failure to capture the SharePoint website means you miss collaborative content in the wiki, blogs and web publishing, and linked or embedded assets or content hosted externally to the SharePoint site. All this content may be material to a case and is a failure from the perspective of SharePoint eDiscovery.

SharePoint enables independent use of both user experiences. These may or may not be functionally similar and may or may not serve the same content. A complete archive of a SharePoint server requires archiving of both sides. Enterprise archiving vendors have long had the Windows side covered, but the Web side requires an advanced web archiving solution capable of capturing the user experience.

London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) 

Many Hanzo customers use SharePoint, including various financial institutions that have developed sophisticated web resources for their investors and broker-dealers, and government institutions such as LOCOG who used SharePoint to organize the games in London 2012. LOCOG is a case similar to the eDiscovery example above, where Hanzo was the partner tasked to make a complete accessible and searchable archive prior to the server being ceased. Our archive of LOCOG is the only remaining record of the collaboration effort behind the London 2012 games.

Though all data in SharePoint is in the database and file system, which you can archive and back up as required, and although it is possible to recreate the original server should you need to access the website, it is far from a recommended solution. You will need to make a native web archive to make the web content in SharePoint accessible, in native format, and fully searchable. That’s what Hanzo does.

For more information on Hanzo Archives, please contact us.

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