Review – Alfresco 3 Records Management

Alfresco 3 Records Management by Dick Weisinger.

After reviewing several other Alfresco books, the publisher (Packt) invited me to review the latest book about Alfresco and provided me a free copy of the book to review.  I was somewhat excited about reading this book because I am currently working on records management (RM) project.

My first impression of the book was that the author did an excellent job in presenting RM concepts, describing how Alfresco implemented the RM features in Share, and how you could customize this features if necessary.  The author also included “How does it work?” section at the end of most of the chapters and I found it very helpful if I was interested in the technical details of how the feature was implemented.

Chapter 1-3 introduces RM in layman’s terms, details how to install RM module, and describes the RM features built for 5015.2 DoD certification for Alfresco.  One big thing to note – Alfresco RM module is FREE.

Chapter 4 talks about Content Model.  RM content model is generic; there is DoD content model that follows 5015.2 DoD spec.  The author points out that there are some type dependent behavior hardcoded that makes extending RM model challenging; best to create new aspects to hold new properties.

Chapter 5 discusses how a File Plan is composed of three-level folder structure (as defined by 5015.2): Series, Categories, and Folders.  Each object type in the File Plan has to follow specific RM rules.  The author also describes the three typical methods of creating a File Plan.  The hybrid approach makes sense and I can see applying this strategy on my current project.

Chapter 6 goes into detail about Disposition Schedules and they work in RM module.  The author does a good job in describing the details without making it too dry.  A beginner in RM should be able to grasp what a disposition schedule is after reading this chapter.  Some noteworthy comments include: 1) there is fileplan.xlsx and SampleFilePlan.acp that is included in the RM module; this File Plan is based on manufacturing company rather than DoD and 2) the Export feature of File Plan will export all records as well as metadata in a zip file.

Chapter 7 and 8 covers what kind of record types exists, the various clients that can be used to file a record, and how records can be managed.  There is Bulk Import utility that can be used to import files into File Plan and auto declare them.  There are some limitations to this utility, but they are small compared to the benefits.  The author also mentions an Inbound Email Processing that supports filing a record automatically by cc-ing the email to the repository.  This feature sounds very interesting, but my concern would be throughput – how many emails can the Alfresco repository import and declare as records before the server/database grinds to a halt.

Chapter 9 is the BEST chapter in the book.  If you only have time to read one chapter, this is one that you need to read.  The author reviews various RM concepts and then describes various scenarios and what-if situations that a record can be in.  Other topics include: freeze/hold, unique record ID that Alfresco creates for each record, and the two cron jobs that the RM module uses to support RM functionality.

Chapter 10-12 covers searching, auditing, security, and configuration settings.  The author provided a list out some good questions to ask when coming up with auditing methodology.  There was also a list of all RM features as it maps to RM groups/roles that are pre-configured in RM module.  You can disable/enable features per role using role editing UI.  This feature is NOT in Alfresco Share.  In the last chapter, the author goes over some RM parameters that you can reconfigure if necessary.

In summary, I really liked this book.  It provides a good mix of records management concepts and technical details for developers. My only suggestion for the author is that it would have been nice if he provided a fictitious use case that could be referenced throughout the book.  Other Alfresco books that I have reviewed include such samples and I feel that it can be very helpful to readers who are trying to pick up a new concept.

If you are an Alfresco developer and are looking to get into records management, I strongly recommend you get this book.

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