Error message

Notice: Undefined index: content in clean2014_block_view_alter() (line 631 of /var/domains/
Store documents in the cloud

If your organization is new to Office 365, it’s important to understand as early as possible how the process of managing records in a cloud-based environment is very different to on-premises platforms like SharePoint. When documents are accessed and managed in a structured and hierarchical system and stored on a local server, the major focus for records management is ensuring employees actually store all records (including email) in the correct place.

That key point remains the same in Office 365.  You want to make doing the right thing (storing records where they should be stored), the easy thing. Nonetheless, in the cloud there are a few more factors to bear in mind which will affect how you carry out your records management.

Records management in Office 365 is more complicated than SharePoint on-premises because you are dealing with an ‘ecosystem’ of applications and tools for storing documents (we posed the question recently, “Will 2017 be the year you adopt Office 365?”). In on-premises SharePoint, records can be stored in permissions-based libraries and have retention and destruction policies attached. In Office 365, the same is possible using SharePoint Online, yet there are many more ‘moving parts’ which complicate this.

Let’s review these moving parts, show how they will affect your records management policy and, most importantly, look at how you can make doing the right thing with records the easy thing to do in the cloud.

A lot more ‘moving parts’

Office 365 complicates records management by introducing many new ways for users to interact with records:

  • Multiple places records can be stored:
    In Office 365, users have multiple places to store content, including:
    • SharePoint Online sites and libraries
    • OneDrive for Business
    • Email inboxes
    • Yammer
    • Office 365 Groups
    • Skype for Business instant messages
    All these tools give users additional methods of working on documents, which increases the risk they will store documents of record in the wrong place.
  • Sharing OneDrive for Business records
    If employees are (incorrectly) storing documents of record in OneDrive for Business, you face two problems. First, these are not visible to anyone but that individual. Second, they are much easier to share with external users that do not have permissions to view these records.
  • Retention and archiving
    In Office 365 it is easy for administrators to set retention and archiving policies in the cloud, just as they would in an on-premises platform. However, simply applying retention policies does not mean a document will be retained—users can still choose to delete emails or documents before they have reached their retention deadline.
  • The cloud is global, your files may need to be local
    In many regions of the world, there are strict laws pertaining to what information and data can be stored outside of national boundaries, especially information relating to personal customer details and health information. Clear guidelines will need to be set about what kinds of records can be stored and where. You may potentially have to store certain records in a local server.

Microsoft is keenly aware of the importance of records management and has built many features into Office 365 which are intended to help with correct records management. SharePoint Online includes all the typical tools you would expect for records management, including retention and disposal, versioning, unique and persistent document IDs and effectively unlimited metadata. What’s more, the eDiscovery tool in the Office 365 admin center provides a powerful means of finding content later on, wherever it is in Office 365 (including Exchange online).

Think about records management from a human angle

Clearly, Office 365 presents a number of additional challenges when it comes to records management. Does this mean you will have to spend more time administering the platform, more hours putting employees through training programs, and forcing staff to jump through hoops? Not necessarily. The best way of managing records in Office 365 (and SharePoint) is to concentrate less on introducing new rules and instead focus on the ‘human’ by making the right thing to do the easy thing to do. helps you accomplish this by minimizing the risk of incorrect records management. Our Outlook sidebar makes it easy for your Office 365 users to drag and drop all important records directly into SharePoint. Important documents will not end up lost within email inboxes, their desktops, or their personal OneDrive for Business accounts. By reducing the friction required to store records, makes it easier (and much more likely) for users to do so correctly.

While it is important to know about the added complexity of storing records in Office 365, it is crucial to understand that by making records management easy and user-centric, helps make doing the right thing, the easy thing to do.

Helpful links for further reading:

  • A detailed overview of how Office 365’s apps and services affect records management can be found here.
  • Microsoft’s Trust Center for the cloud includes a lot of useful information for lawyers.

Learn more about how can support your email and records management strategy.


Ram Tagher
Product Manager