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Physical records planning (SharePoint Server 2010)


Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010

In SharePoint Server 2010, you can manage physical and electronic records in the same records archive. However, you manage them in different ways. Electronic records can be stored directly in Microsoft SharePoint Server. Physical records must be stored outside SharePoint Server, for example in boxes in a warehouse. To manage physical records in SharePoint Server, you create a list item, relate the list item to the physical item, and manage the list item.

This article describes how to plan to use SharePoint Server to manage physical records. It does not contain the specific procedures to implement your plan. Before you perform the activities that are described in this topic, you should have already created a file plan. For more information about file plans, see Create a file plan to manage records in SharePoint Server 2010.

In this article:

  • Identify record types

  • Identify properties of each record type

  • Organize content types

  • Organize the records archive

  • Worksheet

Identify record types

Your file plan should identify the kinds of physical items that your organization considers to be records. If this is not the case, update the file plan to include physical records. For each kind of physical record in the file plan, indicate what kind of media that the records will be. For example, signed legal agreements might be paper records; engineering models might be large-format blueprints.

For more information about file plans, see Create a file plan to manage records in SharePoint Server 2010.

Identify properties of each record type

All records of the same type should have the same properties. The properties of physical records that you should consider in this planning step include the following:

  • Attributes (which will become columns in SharePoint Server)

  • Processes (which will become workflows in SharePoint Server)

  • Information management policies

  • Forms

For each type of record, identify the attributes that you want to capture for records of this type. These attributes will be columns of the SharePoint Server content type that represents this kind of record. Information that you would use to categorize records might be an attribute. Data that people search for might also be an attribute. Other attributes of physical records tie the record in SharePoint Server, represented by an item in a list, to the physical object that is stored in a physical location. The location and some way to identify the physical object are probably attributes that you will want to capture.

As with electronic records, you probably want to apply certain policies to physical records. All records are likely to have an expiration policy and an auditing policy. Physical records in particular might have a policy that requires a barcode. An image of the barcode that is attached to the physical object could be associated with the list item that represented the physical record. A labeling policy could require that each physical object be labeled with the same attributes that are associated with the list item that represents the physical object. For each kind of physical record, indicate whether the expiration, auditing, barcode, and label policies are required. Also note any additional policies that are required.

A physical record in SharePoint Server (an item in a list) is only a placeholder for the actual record; it is not the physical object itself. Therefore, it is likely that you will add processes to keep the physical items synchronized with actions that are taken on the list items. These processes correspond to SharePoint Server workflows. Identify the processes that should be associated with each type of record. Common processes for physical records include the following:

  • Disposing of the physical record when the list item that represents the record has expired.

  • Moving the physical object to a storage location when a new item is added to the list.

  • Retrieving the physical object.

Are there any forms that should be associated with records of this type? You might need a form for each process that you identified. Or you might use a form to provide access to the inventory of physical records.

Use the Physical records tab of the worksheet in the Worksheet section to record the information that you identified about each type of physical record. Do not fill in the content type for the type of record yet.

Organize content types

The simplest way to associate content types with physical records is to have one content type for each type of physical record. However, if multiple types of physical records share the same columns, workflows, information management policies, and forms, you can use one content type to represent all of the similar types of physical records.

Organize the content types. Consider creating one content type from which all other content types for physical records will descend. This parent content type would be derived from the Item content type. To the parent content type, add any properties (columns, information management policies, workflows, and forms) that are common to the content types for all physical records.

There are two ways to organize the content types after you have created the parent content type.

  1. Create a flat structure in which each content type that represents a type of physical records is a child of the parent content type that you created previously.

  2. Create a hierarchy, descending from the parent content type, based on the similarities between the properties of the content types.

On the Content Types tab of the worksheet, identify each content type that represents a type of physical record. For each content type, note its parent content type. In the Columns column, enter the name of every column that is defined at the level of the content type. Do not enter the names of columns that are inherited from other content types. In the Workflows column, enter the name of every workflow that is defined at the level of the content type. In the Information Management Policies column, enter the name of every information management policy that is defined at the level of the content type. In the Forms column, enter the name of every form that is defined at the level of the content type.

Organize the records archive

It is common to use separate archives for physical records and electronic records. However, you can decide to have a list or lists of items that represent physical records interspersed with the document libraries that contain electronic records.

After you have decided which records archive to store physical records in, determine how you will organize the lists within the records archive. You can create folders within lists, and use the folders to create a deeper organizational structure for physical records. As you determine which lists to create, be aware that metadata navigation and workflows can both be applied to lists.

Some ideas for organizing lists and folders include the following:

  • By record type

  • In the same manner that the physical objects are organized. (For example, a folder could represent a box, and the items in the folder could represent the objects in the box.)

  • By using a business-related organizational scheme, such as by project or by division

  • By year

Because physical records will not be moved to the records archive by using the Send to option, you cannot use the content organizer with physical records. Instead, the records manager who creates the physical record must put the record in the correct folder in the correct list.

In the Lists and folders tab of the worksheet, enter the URL of each list that you identified. For each list, in the Content Types column, determine the content types that will be allowed within the list. Use the Folder Level 1, Folder Level 2, Folder Level 3, and Folder Level 4 columns to record the hierarchy of folders and sub-folders in the list. Add more columns if you will nest folders deeper than four levels.


You can use the following worksheet to help plan how you will manage physical records:

Physical records planning worksheet

See Also


Create a file plan to manage records in SharePoint Server 2010

Other Resources

Plan content types
Resource Center: Records Management in SharePoint Server 2010