Saturday, 28 March 2009

MOSS alone for Record Management? Uhhhhhh

Okay let me say what is on my mind by talking about something else.

Facebook is a great tool for social networking, for keeping in touch with people, for sharing bookmarks and for expanding networks. Facebook is only starting to develop and combined with Twitter organisations and businesses will find the fool a free aid to knowledge collection, knowledge capture, and people management. In time Facebook could provide expanded security services, being able to assure that a person is who they claim to be via secure background checks.

So Facebook is a great KM tool. So if the good young billionaires at Facebook suddenly decided to promote Facebook Records Management would I use it? Would you use it? Would anyone take seriously Facebook EDRMS?

Tools have use and that use produces value for organisations.

SharePoint can reduce time for information search, reduce time to develop intranet sites, provide RAPID and Agyle information management solutions for teams and to a lesser extent to departments.

But MOSS has some key flaws that make the RM tool not really an RM tool, I am sorry to say this but it sadly is the truth:

1. Metadata: SharePoint content types and metadata provides a flat hieracrchy for taggigng information.
2. SharePoint libraries can not include other libraries. Folder seem to give you sub-folders but they are just metadata tags.
3. Therefore it is not possible to implement file plans, or to prevent a "folder" from containing both folders and documents without massive dev. Therefore as much as you would like to say otherwise IT IS NOT RM.
4. RM systems will mean a large part of a companies documents are stored in a single location. In WSS this means a single Web Server, as single Web Application with its own single web application pool and a single database which will likely grow in to TBs. You can set up MOSS to partition content across several databases but I have only meet a few people who know how to do this and its not any easy administration task as compared to creating a new site. And even if you do managed to break it down to 4 databases you have no real control over where files are located, so if you have a failure you will need to restore all 4 to get your data back!!! And you will have to train your entire staff in doing it.

This is one of those features an IT person smiles, shows you, and then gets back to whatever they are doing. You end up sitting there dumbfounded with how you are going to communicate this to IT support in India, how you are going to get DB backup teams to understand this, and how you are possibly going to spread this across different LUNS. I have to say I don't know, but I assume you will be stuck in the worse case with one single DB that contains about 25% of your current information churn IF not more, all stored as BLOBS taking up 2 to 3 times their normal size. And if you do break it between 4 databases you have 4 massive databases that are entirely black boxes to you, you need to rebuild all of them to restore anything. It would reduce backup time but add massive administration complexity.

I could even go on, but why?

If you want to use MOSS as an RM follow this task:

Are you really required to do RM, do you have legal requirements to retain data in such a controlled way as Records?

If the answer is no end here.

If yes, do you have a massive good dev team that understands SharePoint inside and out and a massive good RM team?

If the answer is yes then get great, give it a try. Take a look at this case study.

If the answer is no you need to find a product that works with SharePoint. Meridio is the classic and now that they are own by Autonomy concern that they would not survive is silly.

My own personal experience is Open Text as the solution to look at if you got the money. I state them because I have some experience with the company and have been expressed.

So it comes out to if you are going to use real RM and MOSS you need to spend so much for dev it might be better just to buy Meridio. Again sorry. But a tool is not what it is not. Maybe future release of MOSS will take on RM by itself, but right now Microsoft does not own a solution and buying one would be massive even for MS.