File Lifecycle Management in MS Teams


Explore recommendations about the use and storage of files in MS Teams from SFU's Archives and Records Management office.



This article references guidance published by SFU's Archives and Records Management department. To view the original publication, visit:

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MS Teams is a communication and collaboration tool that has been provided to SFU employees as part of SFUs Microsoft 365 (M365) installation. Features of MS Teams include team chat or channels, one-on-one chat, document collaboration, video meetings, and integration with other Microsoft applications. When used as directed by this guideline, MS Teams can reduce reliance on email, facilitate document sharing, enable remote access, and support document synchronization.

This guide provides SFU employees with resources to help share, organize, manage, retain, and dispose of the information they create using MS Teams in accordance with records management best practice.


Roles and Responsibilities

As a public body, SFU has a responsibility to create and keep records that document its decision-making and business activities. MS Teams is a communication and collaboration tool; it does not have the necessary functionality and controls to be considered a record keeping system. Therefore, when working in MS Teams:

  • employees are responsible for ensuring that the critical information they create or receive is filed in their departments record keeping system; and
  • departments are responsible for maintaining a reliable record-keeping system, such as a Shared Drive, SharePoint on Premise Site, OnBase, etc.


M365 and the Records Management Lifecycle

The records management lifecycle is a framework that describes the distinct phases of a record's existence, from creation to final disposition. At SFU there are several different tools that individuals and departments can use to create, use, maintain and retain records.

OneDrive allows account holders to securely store, share and synchronise their individual files and folders from any device. OneDrive can be used during the creation and use phase of the records management lifecycle. For more information about OneDrive see OneDrive Best Practices for SFU Employees. MS Teams is a communication and collaboration tool.

MS Teams can be used during the creation and use phase of the records management lifecycle.

Once records reach the maintenance and retention phase of their lifecycle they should be transferred into a shared records repository such as a SharePoint on Premise Site, Shared Drives, ERMS, etc.). More guidance about records repositories is in development. Please visit the Records Management Links and Resources page for more information.

As ITS continues to introduce new Microsoft 365 services, additional tools for managing electronic records, such as SharePoint Online, will be made available. For more information see Microsoft 365 at SFU Roadmap.

This image visualizes the lifecycle of documents as a circle. It starts with Creation within OneDrive or Teams, leads in to Use within OneDrive or Teams, then leads in to Maintenance within ShareDrives, ERMS, SharePoint, then leads in to Retention within SharedDrives, ERMS, SharePoint, and ends with Disposition through the destruction of files or the transference of them to SFU Archives.

MS Teams Site Management

Each MS Teams site passes through the following four phases: planning; documenting and implementing; using and maintaining; and final disposition. Listed below are record-keeping best practices MS Teams site owners and users should keep in mind during each phase.

This image visualizes the flow of document processing for files. It starts with Planning, then leads in to Documenting and Implementing, then leads in to Using and Maintaining, then ends with Final Disposition.



MS Teams sites should be established with the final disposition of both the site and the content on the site in mind. Since MS Teams sites are not intended for long-term storage of official university records, site administrators should have a plan in place for transferring records when they enter the maintenance and retention phase of the records management lifecycle.

Before creating an MS Teams site, consider the following:

  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • How will Channels be structured?
  • Who should have access to the site?
  • How long will the site be used?
  • Who will be responsible for managing records created and shared on the site?
  • When will records be transferred from the site to the department’s records repository?
  • Who will decide when the site is inactive and ready to be deleted?


Documenting and Implementing

Create a management plan for your MS Teams site and ensure it is shared with all site members. A management plan should include the following information:

  • Purpose of the site
  • Membership of the site
  • Channel names and description
  • Permissions structure for the site and channels
  • Folder structure • Naming convention (consult the Standard Naming Convention for Electronic Records for more information)
  • Records retention requirements • Plan for transferring records from the site to the department’s records repository
  • Plan for how to identify when the site is inactive
  • Plan for deleting the site


Using and Maintaining


Uploading Documents

Documents can be uploaded to a MS Teams site, to a specific Channel, shared in Channel posts, and shared in one-to-one chat. This can create file duplication and make finding information difficult. By establishing a folder structure and maintaining a consistent filing system, departments can reduce duplication and facilitate access to the records they create and store in MS Teams.


  • Keep your folder structure simple.
  • Avoid nested folder structures of more than two levels.
  • Keep in mind the purpose of your site -- do not set up directories which are out of scope.
  • Upload documents to the appropriate folder and then share links. This will help avoid duplicating documents.
  • Keep in mind that files uploaded within Channels are stored in an associated SharePoint library. However, files shared within one-to-one chat messages are stored in OneDrive.
  • Adopt a file naming convention.


Version Control

MS Teams has built in version control. Every time you save a file a new version is created. You can view, compare and restore previous versions of a document.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you download a document, change the title and then re-upload it, a separate document will be saved.
  • If you download a document, make changes and then re-upload it, a new version will be created.
  • If you edit a document online, a new version will be created.
  • If there are multiple editors making changes to the same document off-line, it may be necessary to merge versions to ensure all changes are captured. Departments may want to consider internal procedures for how they collaborate on documents to avoid confusion.
  • At the moment, ITS and Microsoft have not limited the number of versions saved for a single document. This may change in the future. Departments may want to consider internal procedures for saving important drafts outside of MS Teams.



MS Teams are made up of Channels, which are the “spaces” where group conversations and document collaboration take place. Channels can help Teams users classify and organize content created and/or uploaded in Teams. Each channel should be dedicated to a specific topic, department, or project and structured to encourage targeted content development. For example, establish a channel for a specific project or an event (for example, Department Website Redesign, or Fall Convocation 2023 Planning).



MS Teams also includes a 1:1 chat feature, which allows users to chat directly with another person.


  • Files uploaded using chat are stored in OneDrive.
  • Limit the amount of personal information shared using chat as chat conversations are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.


Documenting Decision Making

The chat and channels features should not be used for formal decision-making (e.g., contract negotiation, policy approval, etc.). These tools were created with document collaboration and communication in mind and not for documenting official direction or approvals.

Retention policies for MS Teams are under development. Once finalized, new policies may impact the length of time chats are retained. As such, users should not count on chats to be permanently available. Therefore, formal decision-making should be documented in meeting minutes, email correspondence, memos, briefing notes, etc., and stored in a centrally accessible location (e.g., meeting minutes stored on a department’s Shared Drive).

If, however, a formal decision is made using chat or channels users should ensure that the decision is captured (e.g., screen shot, follow-up email, etc.) and that all of the correct members of a team are informed of the decision and have access to the necessary records.


Recording Meetings

Like Zoom, MS Teams includes an option for recording meetings. There are many privacy considerations that should be addressed prior to recording a meeting. Staff meetings, academic advising sessions, job interviews etc., have not typically been recorded at SFU. The Archives strongly recommends against recording meetings for the purposes of administrative convenance or as a means of compiling meeting minutes and notes. For more information about recording meetings see Zoom Privacy and Security. Although developed for Zoom, these guidelines can be applied to MS Teams.


Final Disposition

As mentioned previously, MS Teams is not considered a long-term storage repository for official university records. While the majority of records created using MS Teams will be considered transitory, the specific retention and disposition requirements of an MS Teams site will depend on the purposes of the site and the type of records created and stored on the site.

Refer to the Records Retention Schedules and Disposition Authorities (RRSDAs) and Official, Transitory and Personal Records: A Guide for SFU Employees. for additional information about retention and disposition requirements.


  • Once collaboration has been completed, ensure that records are saved in your departments recordkeeping system.
  • Be aware that when a Channel is deleted, any files shared within the channel are still stored in the associated SharePoint library connected to the Teams Site. Therefore, administrators need to delete all documents from the library which are not meant to be retained as records.
  • Records on Teams sites should not be retained longer that what is outlined in the RRSDAs.
  • Get into the habit of doing routine disposition checks, during which you delete files you no longer need and save those that you do need to keep to your department’s records repository.
  • Create channels with a known conclusion in mind; this makes it easier to set aside a specific date for capturing and transferring records.


Access and Privacy

All information created or received in MS Teams is subject to access requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) and must be produced in the case of a FOIPPA access request, this includes messages shared in chats and channels. Prior to launch, a privacy impact assessment was completed for MS Teams. However, when using Teams it is still best practice to limit the sharing of sensitive or confidential information just as you would with any other communication tool.




Article ID: 4792
Wed 12/14/22 4:02 PM
Wed 11/22/23 11:52 AM

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