7 Risks of Copy To and Move To (in SharePoint Online)

In my earlier post, I explained what happens when you use Copy To and Move To. CopyMove-Risks

I really like using it, but of course there are some risks too, especially because it is very easy to do.
I have already encountered the first casualties and I assume many more will follow.

So here are some things that I think are a tad dangerous:

  1. Even people with only “Read” permissions can Copy your content to a site they have more permissions to, or to their OneDrive. What does this do for “one version of the truth”?
  2. It is now very easy to Copy confidential content to a location with a completely different audience.
  3. People with Contribute or Edit in your site can Move documents to another site and delete them from your site.
    This has been a recent issue with one of my users. He reported that he had lost a large part of his site’s content and did not know what had happened. Fortunately I found his (200+) documents in the Recycle Bin. They had all been deleted by the same person, in a time span of about 5 minutes. I still do not know if that person had really used the Move option, but it is plausible.
  4. There is no way for you, as a site owner, to see if content has been Copied to a different site.
    You can see in the Document Information Pane if people have deleted content. You could also set an Alert for Deleted Items, so you know quickly if an unexpected large number of documents has been deleted and you can ask the deleter if they have Moved content. But for Copy…no option.
  5. As far as I know, there is no option for the site collection admins to see what has happened, except when documents that have been deleted are mentioned in the Document Information Pane or show up in the Recycle Bin. (Please let me know if you have found how to do it – a third-party tool perhaps?)
  6. You can lose metadata and versions if the target contains fewer than the source. With the new versioning settings the latter will probably not cause many issues.
  7. You can break links as I found out recently. I moved some documents around because I wanted to combine some libraries and I had forgotten these were accessed from Promoted Links. Duh! 🙂

How to counteract:

1. Give everyone only the permissions they really need

Making sure every person has the correct permissions is getting more and more important.
With the defaults for sharing and access requests set to give people “Contribute” or “Edit” permissions accidents with Copy or Move are more likely to happen.
Delve, that shows you potentially interesting information that you have access to, makes this part of site ownership even more important!
I often use an extra permissions set called “Contribute without Delete” which means people can Read, Add and Edit but only the Site Owner can delete content. That reduces the likelihood of content disappearing.

2. Inform users how Copy To and Move To work

If your users know how this works, they may be more aware what they are doing. Perhaps this picture helps to convey quickly what happens.

CopyMove-Versions

3. Inform users of the confidentiality of your content

Always make your site’s audience aware of the confidentiality status of your content. Not everyone may realize that some content (such as new brand names, prices or competitor info) may damage your company, should it fall into the wrong hands.
Tell your audience which content should not be shared and copied, and what the consequences could be if they do, both for the company and perhaps even for themselves.

4. Set Alerts for deleted items

You may want to set an Alert for content that is deleted, so you are warned when you see an unexpected large amount of deletions, for instance. As you can not restore the content someone else has deleted, contact your support team as quickly as possible to restore the content.

Of course I am curious to learn which issues you have encountered, and how you have solved those!

Image by Glenn Wallace on Flickr. 

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An unpleasant inheritance

inherit-picInheriting something is a mixed pleasure.
You can become the proud owner of your uncle’s lovely old-timer, or be able to wear your grandmother’s diamond necklace and matching earrings at grand events, but you generally receive those treasures only after a dear one has passed away.
But you can also inherit debts, a house with an expensive mortgage, a nephew or other “things” that you have never wanted.

Inheriting permissions in SharePoint can also be a curse rather than a blessing.
“I have suddenly lost access” has been the title of many recent incidents. No need to blame this on Microsoft, SharePoint or the support team, because in 99% of cases this is a human error:

  • The Site Owner accidentally removed their own permissions while cleaning up a document library’s  or site’s permissions. The support team can easily fix this.
  • The Site Owner accidentally inherits the permissions from the parent site. That is pretty serious and has happened alarmingly often!
inherit-removeuniquepermissions
A dangerous button that will inherit permissions from the parent – this can be wanted in documents, folders and libraries but can wreak havoc in sites.

I have already mentioned in many of our instruction materials: “if you see “this web site has unique permissions” in the yellow bar, DO NOT CLICK “Delete unique permissions” as you will

  • Inherit the permissions from the parent site
  • Lock yourself out of your site if you have insufficient permissions on the parent site
  • Remove all unique permissions in your site (and there is no “undo” or “restore” option)
inherit-thiswebsitehasnqiuepermissions
If you see this text, you are at the site level!

The warning message appears not to be informative enough to keep people from proceeding.

inherit-warning
The warning message before you inherit the permissions from the parent site.

Recently I have guided a few people through “permissions stuff” via screenshare and I notice that they always want to click ‘Delete unique permissions” when they want to remove users. In several cases these users were individuals who were not in a group and therefore were seen as having unique permissions.
On those occasions I have been just in time to guide their mouse pointers to the right button: “Remove User Permissions”.

inherit-removeuserpermissions
Use this when you want to remove  groups or individuals from your site

This has now happened so often, with such serious consequences, that I have added a suggestion to Microsoft SharePoint Uservoice to rename “Delete Unique Permissions” into “Inherit permissions from parent” as this is probably easier to understand for the user than the current wording. If you agree, please support my request. (Happy to return the favour, of course)

You know, like in SharePoint 2007:

Inheritpermissions2007
What it looks like in SharePoint 2007 – much more intuitive! (Pic taken with Phone)

And if you have taken any measures that successfully prevent this accidental inheritance, please share!

Image courtesy of Phil_Bird at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Knowledge Management from support tickets

KMTickets-headerNow that we have launched our intranet we constantly receive questions and support tickets from our users. That is not exactly a surprise, as we know that our current intranet is vastly different from our old one. We have SharePoint Online versus SharePoint 2007 and a completely new governance.
We learn a great deal about our users and our environment from these tickets and the discussions in our dedicated Yammer group.

Of course my team knows that I am into KM, so I am currently in a small “Virtual Expert” group on knowledge sharing. Our goals is to “translate experiences into knowledge”.

That sounds pretty formal, but it is quite simple really. And you know, I like simple, especially when it is about KM.

How it works

KMTickets-process

Whenever we receive an incident, we assign it according to the type of incident. This allows every one of our team to learn about a specific topic or process, and to improve the process or generate knowledge about this topic.
For instance, for a time all incidents dealing with permissions were assigned to me.
When I had gained sufficient knowledge of common permission issues, either by searching online or by doing experiments, I wrote work instructions for the rest of the team. Permissions issues (provided we recognize them when the tickets come in 🙂 ) can now also be assigned to others as we have a common procedure.
Yammer questions that can not be answered by the community receive similar treatment: we do online search and experiments where needed. (Although we ask people to submit a ticket when it looks like something in their site is broken)

We have a regular call to discuss any new and interesting issues.

When we run into a problem that we can not solve by searching online or doing an experiment,  we ask our very knowledgeable tenant admins. They show or tell us when they know the answer. My colleague and myself then turn this knowledge into documentation – be it a work instruction for the support team, a manual or a tip for end users, or sometimes a suggestion for extra communication or even a change to the system settings.

Most materials are stored on SharePoint: in our own team site or in the site we have created for end users.

Love all around!

KMTickets-LoveI love this structured approach. Our manger, who is very much into service delivery, formal processes and stuff like ITIL, appreciates the process we are going through.
Our tenant admins like to share their knowledge, knowing this will free them up to do tenant admin stuff.
My colleague and I have great pleasure in capturing knowledge and turning it into something tangible that helps us do our work faster.
The rest of the team is happy to have good work instructions.

SharePoint Holmes

It may be a small process, but it works for us and we enjoy the benefits.  And you…you see the SharePoint Holmes cases! 🙂

Header image courtesy of Kimberley Farmer on Unsplash.com

Dear user of our intranet

DearUserbyStuartMilesThis morning I received your support ticket.

Many thanks for enclosing the complete email chain with all your colleagues. Apart from a good permissions puzzle, there is nothing I like more than going through a 40-message email chain, and find the hidden clues between the “FYI” and “Can you help” forwards. I am really pleased that you have tried to get help from so many people before logging a call in our incident system, and it is heartwarming to see your colleagues’ empathy and desire to help.

From this wonderful meandering narrative I understand that “editing the Monthly Forecast in the Marketing site does not work”. That narrows down the possibilities, because only 938 of our approximately 15.000 sites have Marketing in the title, so it will save me going through 14.062 sites which are definitely not called Marketing.

Now of course I assume the Marketing site has “Marketing” in its title 🙂

From the company address book I see that you work in the Dairy division, which has 297 Marketing sites, so I can increase the odds even further.

Then it is only a matter of finding a Monthly Forecast document in one of these sites and checking which one does not work. That should not be too difficult: I did a Search and found 6274 hits on Monthly Forecast – it is matter of checking URL’s against the Marketing sites to see which are eligible.

I assume you wanted to edit a recent document so will start from the most recent.

In conclusion, I will check the cross of Dairy Marketing sites and Monthly Forecast docs from the last 2 months, and see which one of them “does not work”. Now of course there are many ways of “does not work”, but do not worry, I will check them all, from permissions to document library opening behavior, checkout, and workflows to corrupted documents.

I have planned about two weeks to go through this and I am quite looking forward to this challenging quest!

However, should you be in a sort of hurry, or have a deadline, please let me know. After all it is the 21st already and I can imagine you will need to update this document before the end of the month. Sending me the URL of the site, the name of the document and the document library/folder it lives in, as well as a description of what you were trying to do and what happened, possibly even with a screenshot of the error message, will reduce the quest to an hour or so. Of course this will rob me of the fun of exploring this all by myself, but I know that this is business-critical content so I can not be selfish.

Looking forward to your information,

Best regards,

The Helpdesk.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SharePoint Holmes and the Embedding Enigma

SH-ObjectDetectiveSmallMy SharePoint Holmes cases are not extremely technical or complicated. Most of the solutions to the issues that I encounter have been amply described in blogs and Microsoft support. So why do I sometimes feel at a loss when I have a new issue to solve?

  • I am still learning about SharePoint Online
  • Users generally do not know what the issue is and they do not use the most precise language. Nobody likes an issue that stops you doing your job and calls for submitting a support ticket, so I can imagine you want to spend as little time as possible on that ticket.
  • As a result, things may have a different cause and solution than I expect from the description. I may think that it is permissions-related (I often do), while it may be PC, browser or document library settings. Or vice versa.

For instance “I can not manage my site” (to me, this sounds like a permissions issue) has meant different things in different circumstances:

  1. “I can not edit my site’s homepage” (because the page has been checked out to someone else – this is a document management issue, not a permission issue)
  2. “I can not manage permissions” (because I am not the owner of the group I want to manage – a permissions issue)
  3. “I can not manage this content in my site” (because this content has unique permissions and for one reason or another I am not in the site owner’s role here  – a permissions issue)
  4. “I do not know how to manage my site” is a training issue

With this SharePoint Holmes series I try to start with the issue as described by the user. As that is not always clear or correct, I sometimes start off on the wrong foot.

The case

“Hyperlinks in a document on SharePoint are not working” the title of the incident read.

Well, “not working” or “is broken” are always great and accurate descriptions that any support person loves to see 🙂 . So I called the owner and asked him to demonstrate the situation.

The issue was with a manual (in Word) that lived in a document library.  The document had some embedded documents as well as some hyperlinks to a company system.

The real problem was: “In this document, the embedded documents as well as some specific links can not be opened – they appear unclickable”

The investigation

    1. I opened the manual – I noticed that the document opened in Online format.
    2. I clicked on a number of links – all links to pages worked OK but I could not open the embedded docs. There was no “hotspot” or “zone” where the cursor showed something clickable.

      SH-Object Online
      The embedded Word document was not clickable
    3. The special links (to a certain system) looked properly configured, but they gave an error message.
    4. I could not find anything strange in versioning settings (no mandatory check out) or advanced settings. The opening behavior was set to “use the server default (open in the browser)” which is standard practice.
    5. I determined to take a better look at the document, because only that document caused the issue. I did not want to make changes to the content, so I downloaded it.
    6. I opened it in Word. The embedded documents could be opened – they had an active window. And I could open the special links too!

The solution

OK, this was easy. I changed the library’s opening behavior to “open in the Client application” and opened the document again. Yes, the embedded documents and the links were now clickable and opened without problems.

SH-Object Client
An active zone appears around the embedded document when opening the document in Word

I can not explain what was happening with the links but they could be opened in the Client software.

This is yet another illustration of the fact that the Online versions of the Office programmes are limited in functionality.

The owner of the manual was happy, but I suggested to upload all embedded documents into the document library and making links to them from the “Master Document”, instead of embedding. If they are in a document library, you can manage and update them online when needed, and the link in the Master document will always lead to an up-to-date document. If you embed the document, it will live on its own and there will be no history of changes or anything.

Which issues with the opening behaviour of document libraries have you encountered? (Apart from my earlier password-protected document case)

Image courtesy of Craig Whitehead on Unsplash.com

The Intranet Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt - PongWhen we launched our new intranet at the beginning of 2017, we also set up a Treasure Hunt to make people familiar with the new look and feel and setup. After all, moving to SharePoint Online has been quite a large step from our old SharePoint 2007 environment.

Many intranet folks have talked about doing treasure hunts, but as far as I know nobody has ever explained what they have done in detail, so let me share our recipe.

The ingredients and preparation

  1. A News article to introduce the Treasure Hunt
  2. A News article with clues and a direction to the next place of the hunt
  3. More News articles or intranet pages with clues and directions – as many as you need
  4. Emailaccount of our Founding Father
  5. Autoreply message from Founding Father
  6. Yammer message
  7. A page where people are instructed how to enter their solution
  8. A survey to collect the solutions
  9. The solution: in our case a sentence that people had to create with the clue words
  10. A thank-you page with information about the next steps
  11. Prizes

 The mechanics

A few days after launch, a News article (1) appeared on the new intranet homepage. It explained the treasure hunt and the mechanics. You were to look for clues to the next place and for words that were written in a certain way, e.g. <word>.
The words you would find during your search would form a sentence.

Treasure Hunt Announcement
The first announcement about the Treasure Hunt

The first clue was to find the oldest News post on the intranet. As we had not migrated older News articles that was not so hard to find. The oldest post (2) turned out to be a post written by our Founding Father.  It was full of hope for the future and predicted with remarkable accuracy some inventions we would do later 🙂

Treasure Hunt - all news
It was easy to find the oldest News item!

Of course there was another <word> in his post. At the end he asked to send him an email asking for guidance. As his contact details were on the page (as is the case for all News items) (3) it could be done with the click of a button.

Treasure Hunt Oldest News
This is SharePoint News, slightly different than our own custom News setup, so I can not show you the Author button + email link (but I trust you will get it)

When you sent him the email you received an autoreply (5). He sent you to the “modern watering hole Yammer”, where we were to look for a post from one of our senior management about a certain topic.

Treasure Hunt Email
The email message – I quite liked the “Eternity Leave” that our Comms people came up with 🙂

On Yammer, it was easy to look for that certain person (once you knew how to search) and the message (6) in question. Once again, it contained a <word> or two and a link to the next clue.

Treasure Hunt - Yammer
This Yammer message sent people to the new Policies & Procedures site, where you were asked to follow the IM page for later reference. (When will Yammer have a proper text editor?)

After sending you to a few other important new sites (with <words>) and asking you to follow those pages, the last link led to a page (7) which welcomed you to the Treasure hunt and asked you to

  1. Set your News preferences
  2. Make sure you had uploaded your profile picture
  3. Click on a link
Treasure Hunt- entry page
The last part of the journey

The link led to a survey (8) with two questions:

  • Create a sentence (9) with the <words> you have found. The sentence was one of the company values, so not too hard to compose once you had the words.
  • Describe why you should get the prize. (That was an easy one for me: I said this treasure hunt would not have been possible without me – as I created the pages & survey).
Treasure Hunt Survey
The survey

After clicking Finish you would go to a thank-you page (10) with more information about the publication of the winners.

Treasure Hunt-Thank you page
The Thank-you page – I like to use this with surveys

All in all, by doing the treasure hunt people have been exposed to:

  • Finding News
  • Setting their News preferences
  • Going to Yammer and finding a person’s conversations
  • A number of new sites with important company-wide information
  • Following sites
  • Adding a picture to your profile

This was a very simple setup, but of course you can extend it as you like.

(Disclaimer: I have replicated this on my own tenant in a schematic way. Our real Treasure Hunt looked much better and the texts were created by communication professionals)

BTW, Sadly I did not win any prize as I was part of the organizing committee 😦

The <words>  in my screenshots form a sentence as well…please add it to the comments if you have found it! (again, exclude <word>)

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 Tips to avoid overwriting Excel files in SharePoint Online

Overwritten ExcelOne of the myriad changes announced at MSIgnite was the mention that all files in OneDrive will soon open in edit mode directly, so you can work faster.
I hope Microsoft  will wait a bit before rolling that out for SharePoint as, since moving to SharePoint Online, we have had a number of incidents where users have inadvertently overwritten or otherwise messed up a shared Excel Online file, resulting in incorrect data.

I do not quite get how that has happened, as Excel Online files always open in read mode (in Internet Explorer and Edge, in any case, and only very few people have another browser) and you have to specify whether you want to edit in Browser or in Client.
But it has happened more than once, also with people who are quite SharePoint-savvy, so I guess it is a thing. Perhaps it is the “autosave” option when you are in Edit mode, so your changes are saved, even if you do not intend to?

OverwriteExcel-readmode
In my experience, an Excel Online file ALWAYS opens in Read-mode.

This is a major annoyance, as we can not restore a single file from Office365. We can only restore the full site collection…
So more than ever before, prevention is key! Here are a few ideas to prevent and remediate incorrectly overwritten (Excel) files – pick the option(s) that suit your situation best:

1. Adjust permissions

Make sure only those people who really need to edit the file can do that.

How: Go to the library, folder or file and check and adjust the permissions.

2. Set mandatory check-out

If people have to consciously check out a file, they will be made aware they are going to edit it, and they can stop if they do not want that. It does not change the auto-save, however.

How: Gear Wheel > Library Settings > Versioning settings > At the bottom, check “Require documents to be checked out before they can be edited” and click OK.

OverwriteExcel-checkout
How to set mandatory check-out before editing.

This can be a pain for users, as they will have to remember to check the file in when it is finished (and preferably before they go on holiday  🙂 ). On the other hand, a checked out file can not be edited, so it may also be a blessing!
Remember that a Site Owner or site collection admin can always override the checkout or check the file in.
If many people need to edit the file in a short timeframe before a deadline (e.g. end of month), option 7 may be a better solution.

3. Always open the document in the Excel client

SharePoint Online allows you to select the opening behaviour of a file. If you set this to “Client” the file will always open in Excel desktop version, read mode, which will need a conscious effort to edit the file. (Unless you have “Autosave” enabled in your Excel client!)

How: Gear Wheel > Library settings > Advanced Settings > In the 3rd paragraph from the top, select “open in the client application” and click OK.

OverwriteExcel-clientopening
This setting will always open the file in the client application.

Please note there are differences between working in Excel Online and Excel client.

In general, the Online version is limited; it is useful when you just need to make a few simple content edits. The Client version is more powerful.

4. Set versioning

This is remediation, not prevention. Having versioning set means you can restore an older correct version if the current one has been corrupted. By default, SharePoint Online document libraries have 500 major versions already enabled, which should be sufficient. 🙂

How to set versioning: Gear Wheel > Library Settings > Versioning settings > Document Version History > make sure this is set as below (or use a smaller number) > Click OK.

OverwriteExcel-versioning
This is the default setting for all document libraries created in SharePoint Online.

How to restore a version: Select the document > Click version history from popup or command bar > Hover over date and time of version to restore and click the black triangle that appears > click Restore from the popup. Please note this version will be copied to the top as a new version.

OverwriteExcel-restoreversion
In this case, I restore version 4.

For more info about versioning:

10 things I learned about versions 

5. Create a dedicated document library

Options 2, 3 and 4 (and ideally, 1 as well) have to be set for the complete document library in which this document lives. If that is difficult or unpleasant, why not create a new document library especially for this document?

How: Gear wheel > Add an app > Document Library > Specify name > Create.

6. Use a password-protected workbook or worksheet

You can protect your Excel file with a password and only give the password to those people who need to change the data. You may need to rearrange your Excel for that, since you can view a password-protected sheet, but not a password protected workbook, in the browser.
This is never my preferred option, as I think we have SharePoint permissions for this scenario, but in some cases it can be useful.

How: Open the file > click File tab > Info > Protect Workbook > select “Encrypt with Password” (for the complete file – if you want to open in the client) or “Protect Current Sheet” > add password and options > OK.

OverwriteExcel-password
Here you can also protect your workbook or -sheet

 

7. Turn this Excel file into a SharePoint list

This can be a good option if your Excel file is relatively simple and does not contain complicated calculations or relationships between sheets etc.
You can use the SharePoint list to collect the data, export the data into Excel and do your advanced data processing in Excel.  In case of many people having to process data before a deadline, e.g. end of month, this method is preferably over mandatory check-out of a file as everyone can work on their own lines without having to wait for others or messing up other people’s data.

How: The simplest way is to use the Import Spreadsheet app.
Then create good views so your audience can view or edit their data according to their needs with the least amount of hassle.
I have streamlined a lot of processes in this way, check out my Business Examples.

8. Instruct your users

Once you have taken your measure(s) of choice, let your users know how they should work with the file. For instance, how to disable Autosave in their Excel client, or how to properly check out and check in.
Add the info on your site’s homepage, create a document that you pin to the top of the library, record a short demo, etc.

OverwriteExcel-pindocument
You can pin the instructions on top of your library so people can not miss it.

Have you had this issue as well and if yes, how are you trying to prevent it?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net