Important Records Management Settings Now in Microsoft 365 Compliance Center

Even For Tenants Who Don’t Use Records Management

Records management is a Microsoft solution to help enterprises manage items (email, documents, and lists) marked as formal company records. Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 compliance licenses are required to implement the Records management solution, but Microsoft uses the Settings section of Records management to host the GUI for controls over how SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business work for retention processing. Today, three important controls for retention labels are available (Figure 1).

Retention labels controls in Records Management settings
Figure 1: Retention labels controls in Records Management settings

The settings apply to all sites in a tenant (no site-specific controls ae available). These are:

  • Deleting content labeled for retention: Until recently, SharePoint Online blocked users from deleting labeled items while OneDrive for Business allowed them to do so. To achieve consistency across the two applications, Microsoft changed SharePoint Online to behave like OneDrive for Business, meaning that users can delete labeled items and SharePoint Online will store the items in the site’s preservation hold library until their retention period expires. Some organizations prefer the previous behavior because they believe that users should not remove labeled items. If this option is set, users see an error if they attempt to remove a labeled item. To proceed, a site administrator or user with permission must remove the label to allow deletion to happen or replace the label with one that does not have a delete action. This control is not linked to Records management.
  • Configure record versioning: By default, record versioning is on, meaning that users can unlock items assigned a record label and edit their content. If off, items assigned a record label remain locked and updates are not possible after their creation. In effect, record labels then act like regulatory record labels.
  • Allow editing of record properties: Apart from its content, an item has metadata like its title and other attributes. By default, users can edit items assigned a record label to update metadata. If this control is off, users cannot update item metadata after creation.

More Flexible Records Management

The last two options are needed for a new Records management capability where organizations can create retention labels for records which, when applied, leave items unlocked (MC306685, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 88509).

Up to now, when you apply a record label to a document, SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business immediately lock the file to stop it being edited. The metadata (for instance, a document title) is changeable when a file is locked, but to update its contents, the user must first unlock it. This isn’t difficult (how hard it is to move a slider from locked to unlocked?), but it’s more convenient to keep a document in an unlocked state until its content is final, at which point it can be locked and behave as in the past.

Two options are available for organizations to decide if they want to allow users to edit locked records. Both are on by default, meaning that users can lock/unlock files and update metadata. However, if an organization wants record labels to behave much like regulatory record labels, they can toggle one or both settings to off. In this state, users cannot update the content or metadata of documents assigned retention labels marked as records. It’s not something to do on a whim, but it will make compliance administrators happy because they gain some extra flexibility in records management.

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