The dreaded “D” word


I’m talking about DELETE. recycle-bin

The prospect of something getting deleted from SharePoint can strike fear into the hearts of many users. So much fear, in fact, that they go to extraordinary lengths to try to make it so that no one CAN delete anything…. EVER. But think about it- SharePoint is not a catch-all or a bottomless archive. SharePoint is generally meant to hold active content that matters- in real time- to you and your colleagues. Sometimes people need to delete things. Sometimes people SHOULD delete things.

Don’t you know that SharePoint has your back? Use the tools at your disposal to ensure that you’ll never be the last to know when someone deletes a document or a list item, and give you ample chance to restore it if necessary.

1. Site Alerts

Don’t wait for someone to tell you (possibly too late!) they deleted something- find out about it immediately, as soon as it occurs! The most proactive weapon in your arsenal to stay on top of potential deletions are Site Alerts. When an alert email arrives indicating that something was deleted, you can see right away WHO deleted it and WHEN, and take appropriate action:

  1. Contact the user and ask them to restore the item from their Recycle Bin;
  2. If that person is unavailable, contact an administrator and ask to have them restore the item for you from the Site Collection Recycle Bin;
  3. Let it go and recognize a legitimate deletion.
Alerts let you be proactive vs. reactive, and greatly reduce the possibility of “permanently losing” items inadvertently or purposely deleted by users. Alerts can be targeted to only inform you when OTHERS do something- your own actions can be excluded. Alerts can be configured on whole lists or libraries, folders or individual items.

Configure an alert for Deletion Activity:

  1. Select the relevant item (library, folder, list etc.) and choose “Alert Me” from the Actions button of a list/library, or the item drop-down for an individual document, folder or list item.
  2. Under “Alert Title,” replace the default text with something more meaningful, such as “ALERT! Deleted Item in the Shared Documents Library”
    • The text entered here will be the subject line of every email generated by this alert, so make sure what you enter here is relevant and informative.
    • Otherwise you may not realize what the alert emails mean, thus defeating the purpose!
  3. Under “Change Type,” select “Items are deleted”
  4. Under Send Alerts for these Changes,” select the most logical option to further target the alert:
    • Most users find “Send me an alert when… Someone else changes an item” to be helpful.
    • This option excludes your own activity from the alert scope and only informs you when others delete items.
  5. Lastly, “When to Send Alerts” lets you tailor the timing of your alert emails so you can be made aware of deletion activity in the way you find most helpful:
    • Immediately: an email within 1-2 minutes of the delete action
    • Daily Summary: once per day “digest” of all deletion activity (allows you to set the time of day)
    • Weekly Summary: once per week “digest” of all activity (allows you to set the day and time)

Keep in mind that Alerts are result-driven– if no deletions occur in the relevant time frame, no alert will be sent.

To change the settings of any alert you create on a particular site, locate your name in the upper right corner and click “My Settings,” then click “My Alerts.”

You will see a listing of all Alerts you have created on that site, and can access settings to modify or remove them. This is another reason to use a good, meaningful Alert Title- so you can differentiate between alerts later!

2. The Recycle Bin

When it comes to reacting to deletion of objects, the Recycle Bin is your next best line of defense. Recycle Bins exist by user, by site- meaning for each separate site you access, there is a “personal” Recycle Bin unique to your activity on that site. Any securable objects you delete on that site go into the Recycle Bin under your name.

What about things other people delete?  You can only see and restore your own deletions. Only those in the Site Collection Administrator role and higher can see and restore objects deleted by others. Contact the Service Desk to log a ticket requesting that type of help.

Recovery options:  Once deleted, objects remain in your Recycle Bin for 30 days. They can be restored to the original location with just a click at any time during that period. Each time you delete an object from the site, you “re-start the clock” for a new 30-day window in the Recycle Bin. Once the 30 days expires, the item is no longer retrievable by you.

Items can also be deleted from the Recycle Bin itself. Any items deleted from your Recycle Bin are moved to the Site Collection Recycle Bin for the remainder of the original 30 day period. You must contact an administrator to find out whether it’s possible to restore anything after that time has expired.

Isn’t it true that “Nothing is ever really deleted?” This may depend on your workplace, bu not every object can always be instantly retrieved, even by admins. Don’t count on “We can always get it from the backup…” or “Everyone knows that nothing is ever really deleted...” These sayings get bandied about, but sometimes getting things back to “exactly the way they were before” is only possible via complex, time-consuming methods (and occasionally, depending on the deleted object, not possible at all).

Bottom line- don’t let things get that far! If you are really worried about deletion of items from a particular library or list, set up a Site Alert (see above) to let you know immediately when this occurs.

What objects can I restore?  Any securable objects you delete can be restored (a “securable object” is any object to which access can be controlled, i.e. lists, libraries, documents, folders, list items.) You can restore a list, list item, library, file, or a version of a file to its original location, as long as you have not already deleted its parent. Please note that deleted SITES are not subject to the Recycle Bin process and cannot be restored according to these methods.

Since Microsoft covers this well, I will simply display what they have already provided on this topic:

Securable objects bring all of their contents back with them:

  • When you restore any securable object (any object to which access can be controlled), it is restored with all of the objects that it contained when it was deleted.
  • For example: If you restore a list, library or folder, the restored version contains all of the documents and other items that it contained when it was deleted.
  • If you restore a file or other item that has multiple versions, the restored file or item includes all of the versions it contained when it was deleted.

Most objects can’t be restored if their container objects aren’t present:

  • If you delete an object and then delete the object that contained it, you must restore the container before you can restore the object.
  • For example: If you delete a file and then delete the library in which it was stored, you must restore the library before you can restore the file.
  • If you delete an earlier version of a file and then delete the current version of the file itself, you must restore the file itself before you can restore the earlier version.
    • Exception: An object deleted from a folder can be restored without first restoring the folder. The folder is automatically re-created in its former location, but now contains only the object that you restored.
    • Alternatively, you can also restore the folder manually from the Recycle Bin, in which case it’s restored with all of the contents that it had when it was deleted.

How do I find the Recycle Bin?  Your personal Recycle Bin link is normally found at the bottom of the Quick Launch (lower left); however, customized environments may not display the recycle bin OR may display it in another location. If you do not see a Recycle Bin link, contact your site’s owner or an administrator to find out why.

3. Custom Permissions

One of the most drastic responses to “fear of deletion” is to remove users’ ability to delete by changing permission settings. In SharePoint, user permissions are sets of permission actions bundled into overall permission levels. For example, the default “Contribute” permission level encompasses, by default, the ability to add, modify and DELETE- all 3 actions. If it’s decided (for good reason*) to “unbundle” that permission level and take the “delete” action away, it’s possible.Other than administrators, only those with Full Control permissions or above can perform such permission customizations.

BE AWARE: there is a right way and a potentially wrong way to do this. If you pick the wrong way, you might wreak major havoc on your site. Do not take this course of action lightly. Please contact an administrator to learn how to correctly configure Custom Permissions and evaluate whether it is truly what you need.

*Ask yourself- WHY is removal of the delete action seen as necessary? Educated users will be less likely to delete in error; use of the Recycle Bin and site alerts will give you the tools you need to take care of any erroneous deletions. So think long and hard about how to manage your site and your users before taking this step.

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