SharePoint Document Management – Facts about versioning

Main selling point

Versioning has always been one of the main selling points for SharePoint Document Management. At least, that’s what I always use as an, there are more of course, argument for storing documents in SharePoint instead of file shares. While I was preparing my presentation about Best Practices: Document Management in SharePoint 2013 for SharePoint Connections Amsterdam 2013, I started to wonder if versioning worked as well as I thought it did. Let’s take a closer look.

New versions

When are new versions actually created in SharePoint? A new version is created when you:

  1. Upload a new document
  2. Upload document with the same name
  3. Change the properties of the document
  4. Open, edit or save the document

Upload a new document

The first version is created when I upload a new document into a SharePoint document library:

Upload document with the same name

What happens if I upload the same document again? The following pop-up appears:
Yes, I am sure! So I click on Replace it:
The document is now version 0.2.

Change the properties of the document

Let’s change the name of document:
This also results in a new version:
Please be careful! Even without actually changing the properties but clicking on Save results in a new version.

Open, edit or save the document

This one makes sense of course so after I open the document in the browser and edit some text a new version is created:

Co-authoring

What about co-authoring? Working together with multiple people in the document, how does this impact the versioning? This is the official answer from Microsoft:

“During co-authoring of a document, when a different user begins working on the document or when a user clicks save to upload changes to the library. The default time period for creating new versions during co-authoring is 30 minutes, but an administrator can change that setting.”
I actually tried this in my Microsoft Office 365 demo tenant but without success. After staying in the document, with multiple users, for over 30 minutes no new versions were created. Unfortunately I cannot test this in an on-premises SharePoint site.

Does it work?

To be honest, that really depends on your situation and business requirements. Let’s take a look at my work situation:
I write project proposals together with a technical specialist, project manager and account manager. I create the proposal and for me its now version 0.1. After I am done, this can take multiple days, I create version 0.2 and hand the document over to the technical specialist. He or she writes her part of the proposal and turns it into 0.3 before handing it over to the project manager. After the project manager and the account manager are done, the proposal is at 0.5 and can be send to the customer as version 1.0.
This doesn’t work with SharePoint versioning because SharePoint keeps creating versions after I continue working the next day and after I close and reopen the document. You can have more control with versions. You have to work with check-in and check-out. The only downside is that it disables co-authoring.
Please really take a look at your or your customers, or your own, requirements around versioning to see if SharePoint versioning works.
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