SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message

SharePoint News is easy to create and manage, but that does not mean things can not “go wrong”. This is often due to unexpected or unknown behaviour. So, you can imagine that our hero SharePoint Holmes likes the functionality! ūüėĀ

The situation

I received an issue in our support system from a News reader who saw an interesting News post on a SharePoint site. However, when he clicked on it, he got an error message. He had refreshed the page, closed SharePoint and reopened, and even logged out and back in, but he could not open it.  
(What a model employee, by the way, doing the most obvious troubleshooting actions before logging an issue. I have seen many people get into a complete panic when they get an error message, while a simple “did you turn it off and on again” could have solved the problem)

But how could that be? He saw the item, it had recently been posted in the site! 

An obvious case for SharePoint Holmes. I grabbed my problem-solving cap and set to work.

The investigation

I logged in as admin into the site and checked his permissions. This was a site accessible for all employees. Good.

Then I looked with him at the site’s homepage. The red-lined item was the problem post.

Screenshot of SharePoint site home page, with News posts. It all looks good, but there is one News post that gives an error upon clicking.
The site in question. Everything looks normal, but the red-lined post gives an error message.

When he clicked the post, this was the error message. Do you see what SharePoint Holmes sees?

Screenshot from Error message saying:
"Hmmm… can't reach this pageIt looks like the webpage at https://ellenvanaken.sharepoint.com/sites/Communicationsite/SitePages/Changes-in-the-ERP-system.aspx might be having issues or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
ERR_INVALID_RESPONSE"
This is the error message.

Right, the site above says “Intranet” while the error message refers to a link in “Communicationsite”.

I got the same error message upon clicking the News post, (confirming once more this was NOT a permissions issue), and checked the URL of the site where the item had been posted. There was “Intranet” in the URL of the site with the issue, but the error message was for an item in a “Communicationsite”.

ūüí° Aha, this looked like a News post that had been created with the “News Link” option. This is an easy way to share News from one site to another. Instead of creating your own post, you can click on Add > News Link and add the URL in a popup. SharePoint will then add thumbnail, title and description, and you can keep that as is, or edit when needed. When someone clicks on the post, they will be redirected to the post in the site where it was created, in this case the “Communicationsite”.

Screenshot from SharePoint site with News web part showing what happens when you click the Add  button under News. You will get two options: News post (to create a news item from scratch) or News Link (to link to another news post in SharePoint or internet)
An easy way to share News from other sites or even the internet

First I checked whether my hypothesis was correct. I opened the Site Pages Library in the Intranet site and looked for the post. When I opened it it looked indeed like a “News Link” page: a page with the link and the Page Details, nothing more.
ūüí° Normally the image from the Source site would also be shown, but in this case it was missing, and this was a reason to suspect that the original News post had been deleted.

Screenshot of the page that you get when you add a Link to a News Post. In this case there is no image, which is a clue for SharePoint Holmes.
This is what you get when you add News as a link to another site (or the internet). Normally you would also see the image, but this time it is empty, another clue.

I then opened the “Communicationsite” and checked the Site Pages Library (just to be on the safe side) and when I could not see the post, I went to the Recycle Bin. And yes, there it was.

Screenshot of the Recycle Bin of the site where the News item was posted
The News post from the link has been deleted in the site where it has been posted. Links to this post will now be inaccessible.

I contacted the person who had deleted the News post and enquired about the deletion. It turned out that the deletion was done accidentally in haste, and only a short time ago, as the image was still visible. (After a few days, the image will disappear as it is no longer stored in a Site Assets Library)

The solution

In this case, the “deleter” restored the post in the Communication site and that action restored access to the News post in the Intranet site.

Of course, it will not always be as straightforward. Sometimes it can be necessary to delete a post because it is outdated and potentially harmful to keep.

It may make sense to agree on a form of Life Cycle Management for News posts within your organization, and only delete something when a post is older than 1 year, for instance, if it does not need to be deleted earlier. You may want to read “Writing SharePoint News posts – our way” for more agreements you can make with your fellow News publishers.

As News Publishers will not be able to see easily where their News items are being shared, you will never be able to completely prevent issues like the above. But it will help to inform your News Publishers about this potential issue when using the “News Link” option.

Tip: you can check if your News post has been used in another site as follows:

  • Copy the title of the post and enter this in the Microsoft365 homepage Search box (so you search all through Microsoft365)
  • Alternatively, use some keywords from the title that are less common
  • Click the News tab in the Search results
  • Check if there are more entries than yours
  • If you want to delete the item you may want to warn the Publishers who have added your News post to their site.

This will not really help if someone has posted it to a restricted site that you have no access to, or when they have changed the title, but it is an option to reduce any “damage”.

Screenshot of two News posts with the same name, indicating that one is a link to another. The News Search vertical will help filter out the News posts.
Another News post that has been added as News Link: two posts with the same name in Search, in different sites.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I‚Äôd introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Teams Housekeeping for beginners

Most organizations will have been working with Teams for about two years now. There was an explosion of usage early in the pandemic in March/April 2020. I remember getting tons of requests for new Teams, as many people thought you need a Team site for chatting and conferencing. ūüėí

Many of these Team sites have never been used, at least not in my organization. Of course, the Microsoft365 admin has a role in deleting obviously unused Teams, but that is not sufficient. Team Owners and users have their own responsibility in making sure they are in the right Teams, but I know very well that not everyone has, or wants to spend, the time to do a good review and cleanup. And sometimes they do not even know how to go about it! (The psychiatrists and therapists I worked with, were not all very digitally savvy)

So, in order to avoid confusion and mess in your colleagues’ Teams setup, and colleagues complaining that “their Teams is a mess and that is Microsoft’s fault”, please help them checking their Teams on a regular basis. There are many ways that you can make Teams work for you if only you spend some time on it.

I have created a simple housekeeping flowchart. I love flowcharts and it was a good way to test-drive Visio Online! The functionality is great, but I miss the “arrange nicely” option that is in the desktop version, so please forgive me if things are a bit askew. ūüėä

Underneath the flowchart you will find a more elaborate description with texts and screenshots.

Feel free to use this flowchart with your audience.

You will find some more detailed instructions and screenshots below.

Step 1: Review the Teams that you are a member of

You will find all your Teams in the left-hand rail of Teams. You can manage most Team-level actions by clicking the … next to the Teams name and selecting the desired action from the popup.

The 2 Teams in my tenant.
The Team actions, with highlights on the ones that are relevant for this post

Is the Team still in use?

For each Team, first check if it is still in use. If not, you can Leave the Team and it will no longer be in your list. If you are the Owner of the Team, please Delete the Team, except when the Team has Private or Shared channels. In that case, please check with the owner and users of those channels, as those are managed differently than the regular channels.

Update 16-11-2022: You can also Archive the Team and make it read-only. This can be an intermediate solution when you want to keep the info from an important project for some time, or when someone is afraid to delete the Team altogether. My personal experience is that nobody ever looks at an Archive, so you may as well just delete the Team, but not everybody knows that yet ūüėĀ.
Instructions for archiving. Thanks to Thierry Barthel for pointing this out.

Do you still need to be a member?

‚ĚĆ If you have changed jobs since you were added to this Team, you may no longer need this. Or perhaps the project in this Team has been completed or stopped, or any other change may have occurred that makes this Team no longer relevant for you.
If you do not need to be in this Team anymore, Leave the Team.

‚Ěď If you do not know, you can Hide it. The Team will then be moved to the bottom of the list of Teams, under Hidden Teams. You can occasionally check if something has happened by clicking on the Hidden Teams and checking the Team. If the Team is useful after all, you can unhide it by clicking … next to the Team’s name and selecting “Show” from the popup.

The Demo Team is hidden and no longer clutters my list of Teams, but can be made visible easily

Alternatively, you can keep it where it is and check now and then whether you still need this. It may be a good idea to collapse the channels so you only see the Team’s name. You do this by clicking the little triangle to the left of the Team’s name. To reverse this, click the triangle again.

Teams expanded, so you see the channels that are not hidden)
When you hover over the Teams names, you will see the triangle to expand or collapse the Teams.

‚úÖ If this Team is still relevant for you, please check the channels as in Step 2.
If you have many Teams, you can drag the most important Team(s) to the top of the list by selecting the Team name. By default, they are sorted in order of creation.

Step 2. Review the channels in the remaining Teams

If you are certain this Team is important for you, check each channel in this Team. You cannot leave a channel, but you can hide it to make it less visible (except the General channel). It is also possible to mute notifications.

You can manage most channel-related actions by clicking the … next to the channel name and selecting the desired action from the popup.

The channel actions, with highlights on the ones relevant for this post

You will have the following options:

‚ĚĆThe channel is not important
Please Hide it. Once there is a new message, the channel name will show in bold letters, but if you have hidden the channel, you will not see that until you click on “Hidden channels”. You can also decide to turn off notifications.

When there is a new message in a hidden channel, you only see it when you click on “x hidden channels”. 3 channel names are bold, so there are new posts.

‚ĚďYou do not know yet whether this is an important channel.
Just leave it there until you know. You can also Hide it to see if you are missing something and decide to turn off notifications.

‚úÖThe channel is important.
Make sure you can easily find it and get notified whenever something happens in the channel.
You can Pin it to the top of your Teams list so you can quickly find it.

A Pinned channel on top of the list, so I can easily find the most important one. ūüėä

With the Notifications you can make sure you will quickly know when something has been added or you have been mentioned.
You will set notifications for all your Teams and channels in your Teams settings, (click the … top right of your Teams app, next to your name, and select Settings > Notifications) There are quite a lot of options so please check it out yourself.
You can deviate per channel where necessary by using the Channel notifications in the channel actions popup.

Channel notification settings. You can set these in general in your Teams settings, and individually per channel where necessary.

Hopefully this is a good first step for most colleagues! You may want to remind them once a year that they should spend some time reviewing – once Teams have been set up properly, it will most likely only need a small revision.

9 steps to clean up your OneDrive

CleanOndrive-headerAs mentioned in earlier posts, the majority of my colleagues have 2 GB of storage space in their OneDrive and some struggle to stay within those limits.

So, we are currently helping them with cleaning up and giving them some tips on how to keep within boundaries. It may be interesting for you as well!

1. Empty the Recycle Bin

You may want to start with a clean slate, so let’s empty the Recycle Bin first. If, during cleaning, you accidentally delete too much, you will have fewer documents to search through for restoring. Also, emptying the recycle bin will free up space!

CleanOnDrive-recyclebin
Click “Recycle bin” on the left-hand side and then “Empty recycle bin”

2. Check the size of your OneDrive

It helps to know how much stuff you have, and how much you need to remove. So, click on the Gear wheel top right, click “OneDrive settings” and then select “More settings”. You will pass a useful screen with notification options – worth looking at but out of scope for this post.
Then click “Storage metrics”.

CleanOnDrive-size
Almost there!

On the next page you will see the lists in your OneDrive site collection (it is a SharePoint site collection, after all) and the amount of free space is shown top right.

Cleanondrive-storagesize
Look at the top right of the page to see how much free space is left.

3. Move shared documents to SharePoint or Teams

Sharing documents in OneDrive to collaborate on is great as long as the document is not final. Once it is final, please move it to a SharePoint site so it can be part of the team’s collective knowledge and make room in your OneDrive.
Do not hoard shared OneDrive documents – if you leave the organization your OneDrive will disappear with all its content. (After a period when your manager can access it.) We frequently get questions about lost shared documents as many people appear not to be aware of this. ūüė¶

Do you plan on leaving the organization soon? Check out this post to see what to do – and start now.

So, check out which documents you share and with whom. Do you still need them at all? Do you still need to share them or are they ready to live elsewhere?

cleanOnDrive-shared
The overview of the documents I share with others – “Departmental docs” sounds like an excellent candidate to be reviewed and moved!

If you want to move the documents to SharePoint, go back to your “My One Drive” section, select them and then click “Move To” from the grey bar and select the SharePoint site where they will live. (Make sure you follow that site so it appears as one of your first choices). The documents will be deleted from your OneDrive in the process. (If you want to know how Copy To and Move To work, read my earlier post and also my post about the risks)

CleanOnDrive-moveto
Moving documents to a SharePoint site

If you have many documents to move, you may either want to do it in smaller batches or use Copy To and delete the documents after you have checked that they have all safely arrived at their SharePoint destination.

And if you no longer need the documents you share, you can just delete them.

4. Create or Request a SharePoint or Teams site

In case you have no location at your disposal, create or request a SharePoint site or a Team (which comes with a SharePoint site) so you can share documents with your project team or department.

5. Find the largest and the oldest documents

Unfortunately you will have to do this by folder, as you can not create views without folders. Although OneDrive is a SharePoint site, it misses some cool SharePoint functionality, such as the option to add metadata columns and create views, or the possibility to add templates. (note to self: submit to User Voice ūüôā )

The following paragraph has been added in May 2020:
* Please be aware that Microsoft365 adds folders to your OneDrive when you use certain applications. The “Attachments” folder to store email attachments is one, but Apps (contains Forms documents), Microsoft Teams Data, Microsoft Teams Chat files and Pictures can also contain a lot of documents that you may not be aware of.¬† Read my post on this topic*

Open a folder and click on the pull-down arrow next to the File size column and click on “Larger to smaller”.¬† Determine whether the largest files need to stay on your OneDrive. They may fit on your SharePoint or Teams site as well, so you can Move them there, or perhaps they can be deleted.

cleanondrive-sortlargest

Then sort for the oldest documents by clicking the pull-down arrow next to the Modified column and selecting “Older to newer”. Generally you will have accumulated quite a lot of documents in your career. When projects have been completed or interest has waned, you might as well move them to a SharePoint archive site, a records center (in that case they should have been moved there long ago!) or delete them.

6. Remove versions

This can make sense for very large documents that you have worked on intensively and that you want to keep. There may be several versions that take up space.
Select the document, click the ‚Ķ to the right of the name, and select “Version History” from the menu.

CleanOnDrive-remove version1
How to go to the version history

You will now see the versions.
If you are still working on the document, it may be safer to remove the oldest versions only.

CleanOnDrive-rremoveversion2
Click the version you want to remove and select “Delete Version”. Repeat if needed.

If your document is final, you can delete all versions and keep the latest version only. If there are many versions involved, the quickest route is to go to the Storage Metrics (see par. 2), click on “Documents” and drill down until you see the document.

Ondrive-versions3
This is a good way to remove all versions in one go.


Click “Version history” on the right of the document and then you will see an option to delete all versions in one go, leaving the last one.

ondrive-version4
This is the best way to delete all versions in one go.

7. Move private files to a personal location

While it is all too common to have a mix of private and organizational docs on your systems, your OneDrive is primarily meant for organizational stuff. Your private info should not be here, especially if it takes up valuable storage space.¬† You also do not want to lose it when you leave the organization, right? So, move your personal files and photo’s to your private OneDrive (now with extra-secure Personal Vault), iCloud, Google Drive, a USB stick or another place.

8. Empty the Recycle Bin and check storage

Hopefully this has helped you get below that 2 GB. If you, you need to repeat and be a little more strict this time around!

9. Repeat regularly

In order to stay below the limit, go through these steps again on a regular basis.

Do you have tips?

Do you have experience with colleagues whose OneDrive fills up quickly? Any suggestions that we can use?

5 steps to clean up your Outlook on-the-web mailbox

CleanOutlookheader

This post has been revised and updated May 1, 2022.

Some time ago we introduced the Microsoft365 F3-license into our organization. I work in a health care organization and the majority of our staff is providing care and counseling to our clients and patients. They work mostly with the official patient/client data application. They do not use Office365 heavily.

The F3-license differs in some aspects from the E3 or E5 license used in larger and more office-based organizations, for instance:

  • No desktop apps – it is all online
  • 2 GB Outlook mailbox instead of 100 GB
  • 2 GB OneDrive instead of 1 TB
  • No Delve app visible (on the Office365 landing page) or available (on mobile devices) – but I have a workaround

For more differences, please read my post “Some quirks of the F3 license“.

What happens when the mailbox reaches 2 GB?

When a F3-user reaches 1,98 GB of storage space, they will get a warning message. 1,98 GB is default, but the warning limit can be lowered by the Exchange admin if you want to give people more breathing space.
People will also no longer be able to send messages at that point. So it is important to keep well away from 1,98 GB.

When we made the change, about 10% of users had more than 2 GB in their Outlook on-the-web mailbox, so we sent them a message about what was going to happen and gave them suggestions for cleaning up.

What should you do to reduce storage?

I have noticed that there is a vast amount of support for Outlook on the internet but it is mainly for the desktop app and trust me, there is a BIG difference between the Outlook desktop and Outlook on-the-web.
BTW, I just found Nate Chamberlain’s tips to clean up your Outlook desktop!

So, here’s what we advise our colleagues. Feel free to re-use and embellish!

1. Empty the Deleted Items folder

Apparently there is no tenant-wide option for Outlook-on-the-web to empty the the Deleted Items folder when you log out. (It is possible for the desktop app)
So, it is possible that you have years of Deleted Items in that folder, eating up space! If you know your Deleted Items are there to be deleted, the fastest way is this:

  • Right-click on the name Deleted Items in the left-hand menu
  • Click “Empty Folder”
CleanOutlook-deleteditems
You do not even have to open your Deleted Items folder in order to empty it!

If you have > 500 messages in there, or if you want to check what you are deleting, it may be best to do this in batches:

  • Open the Deleted Items folder
  • Select a number of messages
  • Click “Delete” from the top bar
  • Repeat when the selected items have been deleted
CleanOutlook-selecteditems
Open folder, select items and click Delete is a more gentle way to clean up.

The deleted messages will be stored in a new place. You will see this in your Deleted Items folder, called “Recover items deleted from this folder”.
The “Recoverable Items” works like the SharePoint or OneDrive Recycle bin. You can restore messages back to their original location within 14 days (default) or longer (tenant setting) after deletion.
Items in the “Recoverable items” do not consume storage space.

CleanOutlook-deleteditemsrecoverable
I only recently discovered this nifty option to recover deleted emails! It is in the Deleted Items folder.
CleanOutlook-recoverable
You can restore deleted items back to their original location, just like OneDrive.

Select an item, click “Restore” and your message will be back to the original folder, i.e. Inbox or Sent Items or what not.

Now that your Deleted Items is empty, let’s go to the next step.

2. Check storage space

Which folders consume most storage space?

  • Click the Gear Wheel top right and then “View all Outlook settings”
  • ¬†Go to “General”, then click “Storage” and you will see how much you are using, both graphical and numeric. Nice!
Here you can see how much you keep in each folder, sorted by size.

You can quickly delete from here, by clicking the arrow next to Delete, and selecting an interval. I expect that in most cases you will want to check the contents first, however. (Although I once sat with a user who discarded the “12 months and older” from her Inbox without blinking an eye, as she had switched jobs a few months before and did not need the content from her old job.)

You can remove mails based on their age on this page.

3. Clean up your largest folders

Deleted Items, Inbox and Sent Items are generally the main storage space hoarders. Depending on your organization’s settings, Junk Mail can be a biggie, too.
So let’s start there with two sorting exercises:

a. Delete largest items

In your Inbox, click Filter (top left), then Sort on Size, largest on top.
Check if you still need these messages. If they contain large attachments, save the attachments to OneDrive. You can move them to SharePoint later, if needed.
If the email text is important, you can save it as a PDF and store it on OneDrive or SharePoint.
Delete the message once you have safeguarded the content in another place. Or just delete it if it is no longer of value.

CleanOutlook-filterlargest
How to sort the contents of a mailbox folder on size.

b. Delete oldest items

In your Inbox, click Filter (top left), then Sort on Date, oldest on top.

Do you really still need the oldest messages? If yes, turn them into a PDF and store in OneDrive or SharePoint before deleting.

c. Repeat for other folders

Repeat steps a. and b. for Sent Items and any other folders that contain a lot of data.

4. Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 if needed.

I have helped a lot of colleagues through this process and these steps were usually sufficient to get below the 1,98 GB threshold. If not, you will have to redo it and be a little more strict.

5. Auto-empty the Deleted Items folder.

Now that you have a cleaner mailbox, you will want to keep it that way! You can empty your Deleted Items automatically after sign-out as follows:

  • Click the Gear Wheel top right and then “View all Outlook settings”
  •  In Email, go to Message Handling, check the first box and click Save.
CleanOutlook-emptydeleteditems
How to make sure your Deleted Items is emptied on a regular basis.

It was fun writing this post – my own mailbox is smaller now as well ūüôā

7 steps to clean up unique permissions

cleanup-headerIn my latest post I showed you how you could limit the options to share the content in your site. I hope that you have made some decisions, so now it is time to clean up the mess.
Let me remind you why too many options to share can turn into a problem:

  • Sharing a document or list item, or using the “Get a Link” option, creates unique permissions, and¬†that means that the permissions of a document or list item no longer follow the permissions of the site.¬†So if you add a new¬†group (recommended) or a new person¬†(not recommended)¬†to the site, this group or person will not automatically get access to those items.
  • This will lead to unexpected access denied messages¬†and therefore Access requests.
  • Approving Access requests may lead to more unique permissions AND they give people Contribute permissions by default, which may be too much.
  • Unlimited sharing (especially with external users) can¬†lead to your documents falling into the wrong hands.

So, how to take back control of your site after you have changed some of the settings?

Have a note-taking system ready ‚Äď paper, OneNote, Notepad, document ‚Äď whatever is your thing. You will¬†need to make some notes.

1. Process pending Access requests

Go to Site Settings > Access Requests and Invitations and see who has requested access.
Click the … next to each name and add people to site groups as much as possible. If you do not see the site group mentioned, note down their names with the group that you want to add them to.

2. Remediate content with unique permissions

a. Go to Site settings > Site permissions and click on this link:

Cleanup-Show items
Show the items with unique permissions, intended and accidental. Very useful functionality!

b. You will get a pop-up with all lists and libraries that have different permissions.

Cleanup-showitemsiwhtuniquepermissions
Focus on the lists with “View exceptions”. Those contain¬†the items where you have created unique permissions by accident.

c. The items marked as “manage permissions” are usually lists and libraries that have different permissions by design. Skip these.
d. Click on “view exceptions” for the¬†first list¬†or libraries that¬†has this mentioned. You will see all documents¬†(including pages and images) or list items that have unique permissions.

Cleanup-Documentswithuniquepermissions
List of documents (or items) that have unique permissions. Rightclick “manage permissions” and open the link in¬†a new tab.

e. Using Rightclick > Open in new tab, click “manage permissions” for the topmost item. ¬†(If you just click “manage permissions”, you will have to start at a. again for the next document or list item)
f. Check if there are any people mentioned that you may want to add to one of the site groups, and note down their names + intended site group.
g. Click¬†“Delete Unique permissions‚ÄĚ to re-inherit the permissions from the list or library.

Cleanup-deleteuniquepermissions
After noting down Kimberley B as a potential Visitor click “Delete Unique Permissions” to bring the document’s permissions¬†in line with the rest of the document library and site.

h. Repeat steps e, f and g for the next document or list item.

3. Weed out “limited access”

Limited access is an annoying thing that tells you that there are, or have been, unique permissions ‚Äď or it may mean nothing at all.
If this site has existed for some time and you do not know it very well, you can skip this step for now because you might remove people who are there for a good reason.

a. Go to Site settings > Site permissions and click on this link:

Cleanup-Show users
Show people with limited access. This can be caused by Sharing, Get a Link or accepting an Access request.

b. Check if there are any people mentioned that you may want to add to one of the site groups, and note down their names + intended site group.

Cleanup-RemoveKimB
You can remove Kimberley B from this page. (“Beperkte toegang” means “Limited Access”)

c. Remove any individual users so you are left with only the site groups.

4. Add the new users

Add the users that you noted down during steps 1, 2 and 3 to their respective groups.

5. Review the Members group

During the time that you had no restrictions, Members may have added other Members.  Review your list of Members and change their roles or remove them where needed.

6. Replace any “breaking links” on your pages

Hover over every link on every page in your site and look at the link in the bottom-left of your screen.¬†Links of the ‚ÄúCan View‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúCan Edit‚ÄĚ type¬†¬†will generally have¬† “guestaccess”¬† in their link and they will cause unique permissions.

When I did not know all this yet, I had created some Promoted Links with the “Get a Link ‚Äď Can View” link to a page.¬†As soon as I created the link, the permission inheritance for the page was broken and everyone who clicked on the link was added as¬†individuals to the¬†page.

Cleanup-GetaLink
Link “”Document 5″has been created with “Get a Link”. The URL is: …../Team/Share/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?/….

Replace every one of those links with the “Restricted Link” equivalent.

7. Monitor

Review on a regular basis if the restrictions and the cleanup work make you feel more in control of your site. Depending on your choice of measures, you may need to do more approvals from Visitors or Contributors who want to share content.

How have you dealt with the “Unholy trinity of creating unique permissions” ūüôā ? Would you like to share your frustrations or have you found a good way to deal with this that other readers can benefit from?

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Organizational change and your SharePoint sites

OrgChangePawns‚ÄĚSharePoint‚ÄĚ or “the intranet” is generally not the first thing people think of when an organization changes. But there will always be a moment when people are looking to align their teamsites to the new organization structure.

If you are supporting SharePoint users in your organization, this may be a good ‚Äútoolkit‚ÄĚ to support site owners who are confronted with a major change.
I wrote the following posts earlier, but I have now ordered them
from overview to detail, which suits the process better.

1. Handover

TeamSiteinheritanceFirst, the new owner should know what (s)he is the owner of.
Which site(s) are in scope, how are they related, what do they contain and who can access what?
Of course this should ideally be done by the former owner, but in real life this is not always feasible, since the former owner has generally left their position by the time the new owner arrives. I have to step in quite often.

In ‚ÄúCongratulations, you have inherited a teamsite!‚ÄĚ you can find the first steps toward new ownership.¬†

2. Review and adjust

OrgchangeWhen the new site owner knows what (s)he has inherited, it is time to review the content. Is all content still relevant, do subsites or documents have to be moved to another place, can stuff be archived, does content have to be updated or new content have to be created?

In ‚Äú12 things to do in your team sites after organizational change‚ÄĚ I have listed a number of items to review regarding Content, People and Pages.

3. Change

While the new owner will probably make the first adjustments during review , there are some more detailed changes that need careful investigation and planning beforehand. When changes in metadata are required, for instance, you have to understand how your list or library has been set up, and how a change is going to affect your content. There is a big difference in behaviour of a library that picks metadata from a Choice field compared to a Lookup List.

Change-PictureIn “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes part 1” you will find info on changing

  • Site name/URL

  • List or library name/URL
  • View name/URL

Changes-image2And in ‚ÄúCh-ch-ch-ch-changes part 2‚ÄĚ I have listed how to change

  • Columns

  • Folders

  • Documents and List items

Do you have other suggestions to help new site owners on their way?

Top Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulations! You have inherited a teamsite!

TeamSiteinheritanceThere have been many organizational changes in my company recently and many sites have changed hands, not always with a proper handover.

A new ‚Äúheiress‚ÄĚ approached me and asked if I could help with getting her started in her sites. She is now managing all sites for her business, and although she is not responsible for all content, she is the go-between for her business and my team. She has managed a site before, so she knows her way around SharePoint, but not on this scale.

Since I get this type of request quite often, I thought I’d note down the actions we took, so I do not have to reinvent the wheel next time. It may help others as well.

Step 1: the Site Collection Admin provides information

  1. Provide her with a list of all the sites and Owners for her business.
  2. Adjust people in the top Owners permissions group to the new situation.
    Since Owners never own their own group in our setup, they can not add any new people in that role. It has to be done by a group that is more senior in the site collection; generally the Business Owner of the site collection or the IM team.
  3. Check to which sites this Owners group has access, and make sure that this group has access to all sites in this business.
    This helps with getting an overview of the content, and will enable her to provide support where needed.

    BevOwners
    Checking to which items this group has access.
  4. Check ownership of the Owners groups in all relevant subsites and change ownership where needed to the top Owners group.

    Group Ownership
    Group Ownership settings

    That way they have control over the Owner groups in the subsites.

  5. Send screenshots of the ‚ÄúSite Contents‚ÄĚ of every site to the new owner, so she can compare what the SCA sees (everything) and what she sees.
    There may be list and libraries that have not been shared with the Owner and that can lead to problems.

Step 2: The new Site Owner checks and adjusts content and permissions

  1. Open every site and check permissions. Is the Owner a group? Are there many individual permissions? Do you see ‚ÄúLimited Access‚ÄĚ? That may mean that document libraries or lists have broken permissions. (=different from the rest of the site)
    Note the sites with apparent complications and investigate and ask your IM team for help if you do not understand something.
  2. Open each list and library and check permissions. If they have broken permissions, check if this is necessary for this content.
    If you see no reason to have broken permissions, inherit permissions again.
    If it is necessary to have different permissions, adjust permissions where needed and add ‚Äúdifferent permissions‚ÄĚ to the description of the list or library.
    This will make it easier to support ‚Äď if people report an Access Denied you can see immediately why this may occur.
  3. Follow the instructions in ‚Äú12 things to do in your teamsite after organizational¬†change‚ÄĚ

It was a lot of work, but doing this upfront helped her understand the content and setup she had inherited. She now feels more confident.

What else you do to help your new site owners get started?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Minimizing minor versions

versions-pinchIn my earlier post I talked about minor versions (drafts) in SharePoint. Since the concept is not well understood and you can not limit the number of minor versions, they can cause issues in your team sites.

How to know you have many minor versions?

First of all, your Site Collection Usage Summary > Documents will show you if there are documents that use a lot of space because of their versions. You will need to check¬†the document library settings, and/or create a view including the “version” column, to know if this could be caused by many minor versions.

Next to that, there are reporting tools that can check all libraries for their settings, including versioning settings, or can give you a report of documents with many versions.

How to check if minor versions can be removed?

Talk to the content owner. I have found that the content owner is not always aware that versioning has been enabled, does not always know how it works, or that versions eat storage space. Once they understand, they will generally be cooperative.
(Microsoft, it would be nice if you would show “versioning enabled” in the document library tile – remember?¬†)

For site (home)pages, keeping many versions does not make much sense. Most issues occur with site owners who can not edit their page (because it has been checked out) or with web parts that have been accidentally closed. I have never needed to restore a page.
Limiting versions to 5 major and  minors on 1 major version is usually sufficient. (I call that 5/1)

Good settings for versioning
Good settings for versions when there is a process. This setup keeps 5 major versions, and drafts only on the latest major version. As soon as you create a new major version, the old drafts will be removed.

If you have a formal document publishing process things may be different, but again it helps to talk to the content owner about the exact process. Quite often it is not necessary to keep old drafts of documents once a new version is published. Especially if nobody adds comments about the changes, old drafts add no value.
Setting the minor versions to¬†“on 1 major only” can often be done¬†easily without too much resistance once the content owner knows what the versioning settings mean.

How to remove minor versions?

  1. Automatic РThe best way is to limit the number on the 2nd box to 1. This will remove the earlier minor versions on earlier majors whenever you publish the latest draft.
  2. Manual – All minors for the document. ¬†Look at the Version history of the document and select “Delete all minor versions”. The versions will go to the Recycle Bin.
  3. Manual РIndividual versions. Look at the version history of the document and remove minor versions one by one if you only want to remove a few.
  4. Workflow – Run a workflow that removes minor versions.

You are allowed to remove minor versions  Рhow to proceed?

When you have established that you can change the versioning settings from unlimited to e.g. 5/1, you may want to do the following cleanup next to free up space. You can also wait until all documents have been edited, but that may take more time than you have.
This is the manual method because you will do a selective cleanup:

  1. In the document library, create a view that includes file size, version and modified date.
  2. Identify¬†documents that are large,¬†documents that have many¬†versions (generally, having a version “20.11” is a clue for more minor versions) and documents that have not been modified for a year or longer.
  3. Delete minor versions for large documents.
  4. Delete minor versions for reasonably sized files that have many minor versions.
  5. Delete minor versions for old final documents. These are unlikely to be edited anymore so the drafts will no longer be necessary.
  6. Switch versioning settings to limit the minors to 1.

Deleting all minor versions for a file.
Deleting all minor versions for a file. This is shown in “version history” for each document.

Please note that switching to “only major versions” does NOT remove the minor versions that are already there, not even when you edit the document. ¬†You have to remove the superfluous versions from each document first. ¬†So if you come from a situation of unlimited major and minor versions, always set the minor versions to “on 1 major only”.

See also my earlier post about versions.

This all may seem like a lot of hassle, but if you, like me, have been struggling with freeing up storage space, every little bit helps!

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Minor versions, major problems

minorversionsmajorprobems

“Hey, do you see that? We can keep versions.”

“Oh nice, that is useful.”

“Apparently we can do major and minor versions.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, but let us select them both.”

“I see you can also set a limit.”

“Nah…let us not do that. Let’s keep them all, just in case. Better safe than sorry.”

And that is one of the reasons why you, dear site collection administrator, are faced with a site collection that is bursting at the seams, if you are using an older version of SharePoint. Each version consumes the space of the document.
Office 365 saves versions in a different way. Dan Adams has described that well.

There is a time and place when versions should be used. This is my take on things:

When to use major versions?

For document libraries that are highly collaborative, I recommend to use 2 or 3 major versions to prevent accidents with online editing. I have had to ask for a backup and restore several times, because someone messed up an Excel file and they did not have an earlier version to restore.

For document libraries that need to keep track of version history for audit reasons you will probably need to keep more than 3 versions, but major versions should be sufficient.

For lists, I would suggest to enable versioning if your lists facilitates a process or regular updates and you want to keep track of history.

When to use major and minor versions?

Minor versions or drafts are useful if there is a publishing procedure in place:

  • The current official document is online.
  • Someone¬†needs to review¬†and update¬†the document on a regular basis, or can propose a change while the existing document is still the official one.
  • This reviewed, updated or changed document version is added¬†to the library (via online editing of the official document), and kept invisible to the general audience until it has been reviewed, approved and published as the new official document.

This is a common scenario for policies, procedures and lots of other formal documents.

In publishing sites, the Pages library has unlimited major and minor versioning enabled by default. This is useful for sharing a page edit with other contrubutors before publishing the new version of the page. Although page versions do not add much to the consumed storage space,  I always limit the versioning whenever I create such a site.

However, there are some things you need to know before you start working with minor versions.

1. It is not immediately obvious IF versioning has been enabled, and if so, if it is major only or major and minor.

You need to go to Library settings > Versioning settings to find out. I wish there was an indication on the tile!
If you have a formal publishing process, I would encourage you use the visibility settings as shown in the screenshot, and please read all texts well.
Content approval is optional. If you enable that, you can further limit visibility to approvers only.

Versioning settings for a publishing process
Suggested settings for versioning if you have a publishing process in place.

2. It is impossible to limit the number of minor versions for a file.

You limit the number of major versions that can have minor versions. The number below should therefore always be smaller than the number on top. But that means that there is no limit on the number of minor versions.

Major and minor versioning setting.
Major and minor versioning setting. Read well what it says!

3. Allowing minor versions makes the user interface more complicated. 

Users have to choose between major or minor version, and I have experienced that not everyone knows the difference. (I once noticed a final project proposal with version 0.59. When I asked the project manager he said he always did it this way because he did not know what it meant.)

Dialog box to choose minor or major version
This dialog box can be confusing if you do not know the difference between minor and major versions.

4. It takes some effort to get rid of minor versions.

That will be the topic of my next post.

Have you read my earlier post about versions?

Do you have other scenarios where you use major and minor versions? Please let me know!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Where have all permissions gone?

Permissions-imageSometimes people¬†tell me that ‚Äúpermissions to their site have just disappeared‚ÄĚ. They always sound angry as if SharePoint is to blame.
But permissions do not disappear by themselves, unless there is a major issue in the SharePoint setup, and I would have heard about it had that been the case.

Whether you like it or not, in most cases it is a result of human action. However there are more human actions that can mess up site permissions than you may think.

So here’s a list:

1. Could someone else have done it?

You may not be the only one managing permissions. And if there are no other people with Full Control on your site permissions level, there may be people with Full Control in lists or libraries, as in this case:

What a library with broken permissions looks like.
In this¬†library ¬†permissions are different from the rest of the site and there is an additional person with Full Control in the library. (“Volledig beheer” is Dutch for “Full Control”. My site has some weird language settings)

Also check people with Manage Hierarchy, because they can do that as well.
There may even be some specific permission levels which have “manage site permissions” in their role.
Additionally, there are site collection and system admins who, in theory, have the power to make changes. They should never edit permissions unless explicitly requested by the Site Owner and only when the Site Owner can not do it, such as restoring access if a Site Owner has accidentally removed him- or herself from a site.

2. Does your site have inherited permissions?

I once experienced an issue with a few sites with inherited permissions and different Site Owners. When one person removed a number of people from her site the other sites suddenly had “Access Denied” messages all over the place.¬† Ofcourse, she had switched to the parent site without noticing.
Fortunately, in Office365 it is hard to miss the information about inherited permissions.

This site has inherited permissions
It is hard to miss that this website inherits permissions.


3.¬†Have you removed¬†people with ‚ÄúLimited Access‚ÄĚ from the site?

“Limited access” is a¬†tricky thing.
It is a result of broken permissions elsewhere in the site, but it does not tell you where it occurs (in older versions of SharePoint) and which set of permissions this person or group has exactly.

You, as a Site Owner, should know that, but when you have taken over a site, or if there are several people with Full Control, you may not always realize. The only way (in older versions of SharePoint) to find out is to go through each and every library or list (In the ribbon: Library > Library Settings > Permissions for this library)
You may even have folders and sub folders with different permissions, and you will have to go through those as well to find out what permissions which folder has. ūüė¶

To make matters worse, “Limited Access” in a site may also mean nothing, as I have explained in my earlier post.

If you¬†think that all that ‚ÄúLimited Access‚ÄĚ looks messy, you may be tempted to remove them. But¬†that will¬† remove the special permissions they have! Wendy Neal has found out the hard way.

Since writing my earlier post I found that Nathalie Jard has written a very good post about Limited Access.

4. Has someone deleted a site with permission groups that you have re-used in your site?

When you create a subsite that does not inherit permissions, by default 3 groups will be created and added to your site. You can reuse these groups in other sites.
But…if you delete the original site, those 3 groups will be deleted with the site. So people in those groups will no longer have access to the other sites!

Deleting groups when you delete the site.
If you delete a site, you will delete the groups that were created for it.

Now, before I delete a site, I check if the groups have any permissions elsewhere, as follows:

Site Actions > Site Settings > Site Permissions > Click on group > Settings > View Group Permissions.

Check if group has permissions for other content
How to check if a group has permissions for other content

This group only has permissions for this site.
Fortunately this group only has access to this site and not to others.

If they have, I strip the site of all content, remove additional permissions and add a warning to the description not to delete this site.

5. Has someone deleted a permission group that you used in your site?

Someone can also delete a permission group without deleting the complete site, and without checking if that group has access to other sites or content. Always check, as under 4.

So, these are a few reasons why your site permissions may appear to have disappeared “without reason”.
If you want to lower the risk of strange things happening to your site, please read my post on good practices when breaking permissions.

Have you ever found another reason why permissions “disappeared”?

Post title inspired by folksong “Where have all the flowers gone” by Peter, Paul & Mary.

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net