Before you delete a Sharepoint site, try hiding it first
If a SharePoint site really has turned into a digital jungle then your only realistic option may be to hit the delete button and start again. On the other hand, you generally want to avoid rushing into this approach. Basically, deleted means deleted, which means that unless somebody has kept a back-up copy of the content, if it later emerges that it should have been kept, then somebody will be stuck with the job of recreating it – if they can.
An alternative approach, which is a bit more tedious than just hitting delete, but a whole lot less tedious than having to (try to) recreate lost content, is to use the hide function. This does exactly what its name suggests, it hides the item from the viewer rather than deleting it. You can then wait a bit and see who, if anyone, complains about its absence. If the answer is nobody, then you may be safe to go ahead and delete it from the site, but even then you might want to use a bit of caution.
There are certain SharePoint elements you need to be very cautious about deleting
There are certain SharePoint elements that you usually want to leave well alone unless you have investigated thoroughly and are totally sure that they genuinely are unwanted by everyone. The key point to note here is that something which was set up for one SharePoint site may have subsequently been used for another.
Security groups are a good example of this. If you just go ahead and delete the group because it is no longer needed for the SharePoint site for which it was created, you may well find yourself deluged with complaints from users who are now getting an “Access Denied” message from other SharePoint sites which have “borrowed” the same user group.
The easiest way to avoid harmful deletions is to limit what gets created in the first place
This is probably the single, golden rule of SharePoint management. If you let your employees use it like they use social media in their personal lives, the chances are that sooner or later you are going to end up with an unmanageable mess which is no good to anyone and may even be the cause of problems. If, by contrast, you establish firm rules about who can do what and under what circumstances and you have policies and processes to double-check that they are actually being followed (this is important), then you can save yourself all kinds of headaches.
Pro tip – Team sites are connected to Office 365 groups. Make sure that each group has more than one owner and make them responsible for anything to do with the management of the group. This includes ensuring that their responsibility is handed over to someone else if they move on. Per the previous comment, have a system for double-checking that the people in question are actually handling their responsibilities as they should.
Instilling good content-management practices can avoid a lot of problems
Here are some quick tips regular users should be able to grasp easily, which can help you avoid a lot of problems as SharePoint sites grow.
Use lists for non-editable content, use libraries for editable content.
Classify your documents correctly and if necessary set appropriate security permissions for them.
Pro tip, if you set up an alert on a document in SharePoint, you’ll be notified every time someone accesses, modifies or shares it. This can be more secure (and convenient) than having to check audit logs manually.
Use metadata in preference to folders. The key point to remember here is that a document can only be stored in one folder. If you want it to be in more than one folder (because it fits into more than one category), then you have to create more than one copy of it and then you need to make sure that each copy is updated with any changes. This is basically a recipe for confusion. Metadata, by contrast, can be used to convey anything and everything a user needs to know about a document and it’s searchable.
Have agreed naming conventions and avoid using special characters in them.