An In-Depth Explanation of Why Data Ownership Issues Persist in Microsoft SharePoint and How to Resolve Them

The move from NAS to Microsoft SharePoint is in full swing in many organizations as they look to leverage SharePoint to better track and manage their various documents. Yet what they are discovering is that the same fundamental questions that they had regarding file ownership and usage in NAS environments persist even after SharePoint is implemented. This is prompting organizations to once again turn to Symantec Data Insight to understand data usage and ownership in their SharePoint environments.

The number of organizations who are looking to adopt Microsoft SharePoint is, in a word, overwhelming. A 2010 survey  found that 90% of the respondents already use SharePoint. It also found that the adoption rate of SharePoint is expected to reach 97% in organizations in the next few years.

This rapid adoption is driven in large part by the belief that SharePoint will solve many of the issues that file shares or NAS cannot address. In this respect, SharePoint certainly addresses some of them.

Security and policy based auditing, document check-in and check-out, and document version history are just a few of the new options that SharePoint brings to the table that NAS does not support. However one data management challenge of NAS that SharePoint does not resolve – and which many may incorrectly assume it does – is that of data ownership.

Part of the reason that SharePoint fails to fully resolve this issue of data ownership is that, like NAS, it takes the same approach to assigning file ownership. In other words, both NAS and SharePoint infer data ownership based on who originally created the data. While this sounds good in theory, in practice it is a flawed approach as it only works well in relatively small organizations (as small as 10 users or less!)

This approach does not take into account that users are the most fluid and rapidly changing aspect of any organization. As such, the individual who initially created the data may change departments, leave the company or eventually no longer need access to the data that he or she created.  Unfortunately the methodology employed by both NAS and SharePoint assume the same owner for in perpetuity.

A better way – and the one employed by Symantec Data Insight – is to infer data ownership based upon who is currently and most frequently accessing the data. This more sophisticated technique takes into account how organizations evolve over time and that the individual or individuals who need to access the data also may need to change using real-time measurements of data access and usage to arrive at who should own the data.

In making a determination as to data ownership within SharePoint, Data Insight uses its SharePoint integration to audit how frequently data is accessed and by whom. It then calculates ownership based upon activity level.

Once a determination is made, organizations have two options to assign data ownership. Ownership may be assigned automatically based upon Data Insight’s calculations. However many organizations use Data Insight to first identify the top three to five users of the data. They may then use that information to tag who they want to be data’s custodian in addition to letting Data Insight automatically infer ownership.

Many organizations are rightfully moving from NAS to SharePoint to take advantage of SharePoint’s advanced auditing and policy-based data management features. However SharePoint and NAS still are much more alike than different when it comes to establishing and determining data ownership. As such, the issue of establishing and maintaining data ownership persists in SharePoint environments.

This is why Data Insight’s support and integration with SharePoint remains both relevant and necessary. It gives organizations the insight they need into who owns what data in their SharePoint environment as well as the reports they need to understand how it is being used and accessed. Using it, they are empowered to manage their SharePoint data in a manner that is as dynamic as the users who access it.

In the next part in this blog series on Data Insight, I take a look at its integration with Enterprise Vault and why this integration has become a necessity for effective data management.

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