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Introduction to Information Management Policy

An information management policy is a set of rules for a certain type of important content. Policy enables administrators to control and evaluate who can access the information, how long to retain information, and how effectively people are complying with the policy itself. The most common creators and enforcers of policy are compliance officers, records managers, IT staff, and others with similar responsibilities.

With Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, you can apply policies that enable you to manage your content according to your business processes. Office SharePoint Server 2007 contains several policy features you can customize for your needs, as well as an extensibility framework that enables you to create, customize, and deploy your own policies and policy features.

By using policies, you benefit in the following ways:

  • Administrators can set and manage "the rules" for a content type from a single location, including both client-side and server-side policy features.

  • Policies are tightly coupled to the content, both within Office SharePoint Server 2007 and in downloaded Microsoft Office system content. Administrators can be confident that policies applied to content are always being enforced, wherever the content goes within their company.

  • Policies require little involvement from end users, as corporate policies are automatically and transparently followed.

In Office SharePoint Server 2007, each policy is a collection of instruction sets for one or more policy features. Each policy feature provides a specific kind of content management functionality. You can assign a policy to either a content type or a list.

For more information about content types, see Content Types in the Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 SDK.

Policy Architecture

The following figure shows the conceptual relationships of the various policy elements.

Policy framework component conceptual architecture

Logically, each policy is a collection of instruction sets for one or more policy features. A policy feature is an assembly that provides some content management functionality to Office SharePoint Server 2007, and possibly to 2007 Microsoft Office system documents in client applications as well. For example, Expiration, Auditing, Document Labels, and Bar Codes are all policy features included in Office SharePoint Server 2007.

For more information about these policy features, see Policy Features Included in Office SharePoint Server 2007.

Each policy is represented by an XML document. For each policy feature that you want to include in a policy, you include an instruction set, called a policy item, in the policy. A policy item is an XML node within a policy that contains the settings for only one policy feature. These settings include information required for all policy items, such as the ID and name of the policy feature. It can also include a custom data element, which only the policy feature must be able to parse.

For each policy feature in a policy, there is only one policy item. You can include the same policy feature in multiple policies; in each policy, the feature would have a single associated policy item.

For more information about policy features, see Policy Feature Overview.

In addition, a policy feature can use one or more policy resources. A policy resource is an assembly that assists the policy feature by providing some functionality the feature needs. For example, the Bar Code policy feature uses a Bar Code Provider, which generates the bar codes, as a policy resource. Similarly, the Expiration policy feature employs an Expiration Formula Calculator as a policy resource to determine a document's actual expiration date. This policy feature also uses an Expiration Action policy resource to determine what action to take when an item reaches its expiration date.

Policy features can use multiple resources, but each policy resource can be used by only one policy feature.

For more information about policy resources, see Policy Resource Overview.

There is one policy collection per site collection; this collection can contain any number of policies. Each policy contains any number of policy items, and each item encapsulates settings information for—and points to—a single policy feature. Multiple policies can contain a policy item that points to the same policy feature. Each policy feature, in turn, can employ any number of policy resources to assist its operation. Each policy feature employs its own collection of policy resources; policy resources are not shared between policy features.

You can assign only one policy to a given content type or SharePoint list. However, that policy can contain any number of policy items.

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