SharePoint For Compliance Management

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SharePoint is a Microsoft owned, cloud-based document management and sharing platform widely used in the business community – in fact, Microsoft claims that it’s used by more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies.

Along with its document storage and sharing capabilities, SharePoint has a number of features for managing the security and compliance of documents and information sharing within organizations. But there can be some challenges and inefficiencies when managing your business’s information security and compliance program through SharePoint.

In this article, we look at SharePoint for compliance management, as well as alternative compliance management solutions.

SharePoint as Your Compliance Management Program

Pros

SharePoint is a great platform for easy collaboration and information sharing within an organization. If your organization is already using SharePoint to share documents and files, it can make sense to run your compliance program through the same platform.

SharePoint has many built in features to help with compliance management, such as eDiscovery and Holds, record centres and auditing tools.

Role based permissions and access management is possible through SharePoint, meaning you can control access to sensitive documents and files based on assigned roles within your organization (though it does take some work to set this up).

SharePoint is part of the Microsoft Suite and fully integrates with Microsoft Office, meaning processes are streamlined and easier for organizations already using Office.

Cons

To start with there is a lot of work that needs to go into configuring a system from scratch. Compliance management is not the core function of SharePoint and it isn’t structured in a way that allows for easy, centralized management of information security.

The granular nature of roles and permissions is great for specific access control, but it can take a lot of work to setup correctly. Organizations need to ensure the right people have access to sensitive documents. By default, there can be excessive access to information in your business, which can pose security risks.

There is often a lack of proper security training for use of the platform and a lack of oversight into end users and devices – for example, employees downloading sensitive information to their personal devices and sharing via non-secure communications.

A number of security vulnerabilities have been identified in SharePoint leading to attacks.

SharePoint’s SQL database is also unencrypted out-of-the-box, which can leave it vulnerable to attacks and exploits.

Auditing document use: tracking who has viewed and edited content, is minimal and there is limited ability to properly document controls for information security framework security certifications.

Mitigating Risks Associated With SharePoint

It’s important that best practices are followed when managing compliance through SharePoint. Following best practices for SharePoint is complex but vital for minimizing security risks.

Adding encryption to the SharePoint SQL database is very important to remove vulnerabilities and protect against attacks.

To help you understand the information security issues around the SharePoint, and how to safely and effectively use if for compliance management, you may consider hiring a consultant. This can be a good option if you have a large budget but may not be feasible for small or medium businesses, as consultancy costs can add up quickly.

Alternatives to SharePoint

Spreadsheets

Some organizations may choose to use spreadsheets to manage their compliance program. This is a basic solution that can work for smaller one-person compliance teams, but this is not scalable as organizations grow. As teams grow and more data is involved, the more manual work is needed and the bigger the risk of human error becomes.

Compliance programs will generally require multiple spreadsheets, which can be very difficult and time consuming to manage, and there’s no way of properly auditing changes to documents.

Small organizations that want to keep costs down may consider using spreadsheets for their compliance management, but they should be wary of the potential risks and challenges this will lead to.

Dedicated Governance, Risk and Compliance Tool

Using a dedicated governance risk and compliance management (GRC) tool historically is the best approach but also the most costly. This is no longer true, and a dedicated tool can be the most cost effective and efficient way to manage your organizations compliance program, even for smaller teams.

A GRC tool will offer easy-to-use management from a central location, meaning rules and security controls can be put in place once and consistently applied throughout the entire organization.

Most GRC tools will automate workflows and reporting to maximize efficiency and reduce the risk of human error. The ideal solution should easily integrate and work with your existing systems and processes, including SharePoint document management processes.

GRC tools offer powerful auditing capabilities, which can also be integrated with your organization’s processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

One of the main benefits a GRC tool can offer to your business is cost-effectiveness. An effective tool will simplify the compliance process, minimizing staff resources required and removing the need for external consultants.

In Conclusion

SharePoint is a powerful solution for document storage, sharing and collaboration, however, it is limited in its compliance management capabilities, particularly at scale.

Depending on an organization’s budget, spreadsheets or a dedicated GRC tool may be better options.

Ultimately, it depends on a company’s maturity and attitude to managing compliance and risk. Whatever the scenario using a dedicated tool is typically the best approach. Previously enterprise focused tools are making their way into the hands of small and medium business. Meaning business can take advantage of enterprise grade tools earlier in their growth.

It’s important to find the balance between a cost-effective solution that adds value and minimizes risks without hindering your productivity or compliance program.