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SharePoint falls short when it comes to classifying documents. Learn some useful approaches that can help accomplish the task.

Although Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is designed to be a content management product, it is lacking in some areas. But there are ways SharePoint administrators can work around the deficiencies. 

One area where SharePoint falls short is classification. Microsoft doesn’t really offer a good way to categorize documents in SharePoint. To understand why this is important, imagine that you have a collection of documents that are all related to a specific project. It would be really nice to be able to classify those documents as being connected with the project. That way when the project is completed, all of the documents that are related to the project could be archived or deleted. 

Another benefit to being able to classify documents in this way is that if someone new joins the team who is responsible for the project, it would be easy to assign that person rights to all of the documents that are related to the project. 

Although SharePoint does not allow SharePoint administrators to classify documents in this way at the schema level, there are a few different approaches that will do the job. Probably the easiest option would be to create a dedicated document library specifically for the project. This isn’t always practical, though, because corporate policies or regulatory issues may prevent it. 

A brief explanation: Although there aren’t any regulatory issues that specifically prevent you from creating a document library, there are plenty of regulations that dictate how the data must be managed. It’s important to keep in mind that creating a project- oriented document library may lead to regulatory violations because of lack of planning and oversight. 

Another option is to define content types within a document library. Content types are primarily designed to allow metadata to be linked to documents based on document type. For instance, you might consider using one set of metadata fields for news releases and another set of metadata fields for invoices. 

Although content type is primarily designed to differentiate between types of documents, you can use it for other purposes. You could create a content type for your particular project, and then tell everyone who is involved in the project to use only that specific content type when creating project-related documents. Although this approach isn’t completely ideal, it gives you the option of creating expiration policies that are content type-specific. 

To set an expiration policy that is based on content type, open your SharePoint document library and choose the Document Library Settings command from the document library’s Settings menu—not the Site Actions menu.When you do, Share- Point will open the Customize Documents page. Scroll through this page until you find the Content Types section. 

The Content Types section lists all of the content types that have been defined so far. Click on the content type that you want to set the expiration policy on, and then click the Information Management Policy Settings link located on the following page. 

The Information Management Policy Settings page allows you to either define a new policy or to reuse a previously defined policy. Because we are trying to create a unique expiration policy that’s based on content type, click the Define a Policy radio button, and then click OK. 

You will now be taken to the Edit Policy page. I recommend starting out by entering a description and a policy statement for the policy that you are creating.When you are done, select the Enable Expiration check box. 

Upon doing so, the Expiration section will expand to show the various expiration-related options that are available. The first thing that you need to do is define a retention period. Typically, you would set the retention period based on the most recent date that the document was modified, but you can also set the retention period programmatically based on workflows. 

After you have defined the retention period, you must specify what happens when the retention period expires. You have the option of deleting the document, deleting the record and submission information or launching a work flow.When you are done, click OK, and the policy will be set. 

Although SharePoint does have some nice document management features, it isn’t perfect. Defining new content types is not an ideal solution for classifying documents in SharePoint, but for now it’s the best method available without purchasing third-party add-ons or developing an add-on yourself. Hopefully Microsoft will give SharePoint administrators a better way of classifying documents in the next version. 

About the author:
Brien M. Posey has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award five times for his work with Windows Server, IIS, file systems/storage, and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox.  

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