Content routing: the highway to trouble or not?

This is more of a story with some hints to look out for when using content organizer in an automatic way, if you have read the previous 3-4 blogs, you can stop reading, almost nothing new. 

After my last blog I was in the assumption that it would be smooth sailing but nothing was farther from the truth. Some of the issues that came with an automation process were unforeseen and with it a small delay of the project.

I will sketch the question that came from the customer and how it would be placed in the architecture of SharePoint:

The client asked for a migration tool from file shares to SharePoint.
But because it was a POC/Pilot the set-up had to be so generic that it would be easy to add additional file shares. So far nothing fancy, everything we make has to be generic so nothing special here.
Next some form of routing needed to be implemented; the name of the file had all the info that we needed. Ok I can hear everyone thinking that’s asking from trouble, parsing data from a filename that your system needs to route the information, but there wasn’t any other option.

So writing a string handler for retrieve info was requested, check.

So from – this was clear, a way to retrieve info to know the location of where the files must be routed too was clear as well.
So this was an easy option, SharePoint 2010 had a perfect system for this: Content processing and routing. So immediately we decided to use this feature instead of writing our own.
This was the question from the client and “solution” from us.

Ok, let’s pull apart the feature of content routing and we’ll look at it step by step.

First getting the document from file shares into SharePoint (into the drop off library), with already some knowledge of to where the files needs to go. So we had to do a little bit of parsing already. Ok Powershell without doubt. We activated the content organizer feature in the site and we had our “drop off library”, check.

A content routing rule needed to be added. Ok , first let’s create a content type based on Document and let’s add a field so that we could put the value in. After adding the rule the first step seemed easy.
Next step was to create a sub site as to where the content routing needed to send the document to. So also activating the content organizer feature in this web as well and adding the necessary rules to the final document libraries depending on the type (almost forgot the additional content types but they were created as well and used for the rules).
Almost all done, we still needed to create a connection between the root web and the sub site we’ve just created. Ok, going to the central administration site, general application settings, create connection to send to. Great, we need to select the web application, enter a name of the connection and the path of the sub site (keep in mind that the content organizer feature needs to be activated before doing this, else the url will be rejected).

So connection is created, going back to the only rule that we’ve created on the root web to route the documents now to the sub site. First we had to check if the content organizer settings allow to route
documents cross web. After selecting this feature we could edit the rule and select our new destination.

Now image all of the above in an automatic way  🙂 , yes it’s possible , lot of work but possible.

First test everything seemed fine. The automatic way of uploading the files to the first drop off library (root web) gave us no trouble. But the document weren’t routed at all.
After checking all the connections and settings we came across SharePoint versions (or the “manual” way of adding a numeric incremental value to the title of the file). Mmmm, we didn’t actually need the versioning story so deactivating it was an option. But first a little test, it appears that you need to check in the files first before the content processing and routing timer job routes the files. If they are check-out logically the files is in a “locked” state and will not be routed.

So the first solution was found but it wasn’t an option to deactivate the SharePoint versioning. Because of the adding a value to the name of the file it would appear in SharePoint as a new file.
This would give us trouble in the long run and the target libraries had version on anyway. So going to the list library settings and deactivating the version setting:” files need to be checked out before editing”. Doing the test again of uploading document the manual way, it seemed to work now.

The documents are placed correctly in the drop off library without versioning and the timer job picked them up nicely.

So they went to the second drop off library for some final routing to their document libraries accordingly to the content types.
From here normal content routing could be used. But I did mention a couple of lines back that the entire process needed to be created as generic as possible. So it wasn’t long that another sub site needed to be created using the first one as template.

Ok, creating the new sub site, checking all the settings, but wait the content organizer rules are pointing to the path of the template site. Mmm, checking again, yup, the place where the content organizer rules are being entered is just a list, with some metadata in string value. So when using a template web, the urls in the text remains unchanged. So we had to use a web provision event to edit these values (web provision event can be used because at that time we have all the necessary values). Also this event needed to create the connection between the root web and the newly created sub site. Also a list of content type rules must be created, because when the connection is created between root web and sub site, the content rules on the root web must be adjusted so that a new value in the file can be used to route the document to the new location.

When all this is completed you have an almost fully automated content routing process. And administrators will be glad not to create a new connection every time a sub site is created.
I’ve turned this feature inside out , so if you have a questions don’t hesitate to send me a mail or leave a comment.

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