Prevent Flatspace – WorkSite can save your weekend

Prevent Flatspace – WorkSite can save your weekend

Prevent Flatspace – WorkSite can save your weekend

I suspect you would like to prevent accidental deletion of iManage folders along with their contents.  Yes? This must-have feature is not used by default – it needs to be activated by your WorkSite administrator so the DMS is protected.

WorkSite 8.5 introduced a setting to ensure that content saved in the DMS is always located in a folder: Prevention of Filing Outside of WorkSpaces.  In technical jargon, this setting is called ‘Allow Flatspace’ – where flatspace means the unstructured storage of a document without any folder association.

There are additional benefits – business and operational – from this feature.  Read on for those benefits and how to check for it in your DMS.  Later I’ll post further functionality details and some technical discussion.

Why you want this setting

By preventing Filing outside of Workspaces, you achieve the following major business and usability benefits:

  • You cannot delete a folder or workspace, if they still contain anything.  No more accidental deletions of entire folders!  At best, the accidental deletion will take significant time to reverse.
  • You reduce risk of accidental permanent document loss: Folders and contents can be permanently deleted by accident, if the creation and deletion happen between backups.
  • The contributed items are always saved in a folder, therefore you can use that location to browse or search very quickly to locate them.
  • The folder location will provide standardized profile information and security to the contributed documents.  This will simplify future searches.
  • Correct profile information (specifically client and matter) are key to the later Records Management lifecycle of archiving and deleting documents in decades to come.
  • Email Duplicate Detection works on the basis of folders and workspaces.  By ensuring that an email is in a folder, you reduce the chances that you and colleagues save it redundantly.
Operational time-savings; or, how WorkSite can save your weekend:
  • Without this setting to protect you, a user can delete a folder that is not empty.  This will result in one of two bad outcomes for each contained item: it will be deleted, or it will be dropped in flatspace.  The distinguishing factor is whether that user has permission to delete the items.
  • After a folder or a tree of folders has been deleted, it is a slow, complex, manual process to reverse-engineer the folder and its contents.  There is no restore-from-trash option – neither for users nor for sys-admins. I repeat: iManage provides no administrator-friendly tools to ‘undelete’ a folder or document.  IT will have to restore a raw backup on a temporary server, track down which records were affected, and manually reconstruct them on the production server.  If the deletion happened between backups, that’s it: it’s gone.

Check for it

Anyone can check quickly whether your DMS database is protected with this setting:

  1. Are you running FileSite 8.5 or a later version?  Go to the Help menu within Outlook and click About FileSite.  If you are not yet on 8.5, then your firm cannot use this setting. Ask about the upgrade plans to get to 8.5.
  2. If you are on 8.5, are you forced to save things into a folder, or is flatspace allowed?  Here are two ways to check:
  • If WorkSite Explorer is visible in your WorkSite folder tree, expand it to show the DMS database(s).  Drag and drop a test email onto the database.  If the email is saved successfully, it’s in flatspace: you’ve just saved it outside any/all workspaces.  If the save attempt causes an ugly error/warning dialog, you’ve confirmed that the setting is already on.
  • If you don’t have WorkSite Explorer, go to some WorkSite folder where you have read-write access. Right click the folder and create a new folder called FlatspaceTest within it.  Now, drag a test or disposable email from your inbox into the FlatspaceTest folder.  Then, right-click on FlatspaceTest and delete the folder.  If the folder is deleted, then your server needs this setting!   If the deletion attempt stops with an ugly error dialog, you’ve confirmed that the setting is already on.  When you’re done, delete the email, and then delete the folder.

A WorkSite administrator can confirm the setting at the server level:

  1. Is everyone at the firm running FileSite 8.5 or a later version?  Is the WorkSite server itself at 8.5?  If some users are not yet on 8.5, then you cannot use this setting.  Get upgraded to 8.5! ( yes, I can help with that 🙂 )
  2. Launch the WorkSite Service viewer – fondly known as ‘the wrench app’.
  3. View the Database properties for the database in question.
  4. Click the Advanced… button
  5. Observe the checkbox ‘Prevent flat space filing’.
  • You are protected if this is checked.  Be happy.
  • If it’s not checked, there’s preparation work ahead. Do NOT check the button now.

And Then

If your firm needs to enable this setting, I recommend preparing a ‘tip sheet’ to explain the new behavior that end users can see.  Analyze what documents are already in flatspace, and who put them there.  Don’t overlook private documents. Perhaps special training should target the repeat offenders authors, if it appears that this is a deliberate or common approach.  Move the flatspaced documents into the right folders – consulting as needed with the authors.

Stay tuned for tips on how Prevent Flatspace will change FileSite behavior, and technical discussion about this feature.

Need help applying this setting at your firm?  Contact me.  I can help you make this change quickly with minimal fuss.


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