Version history seems to be a popular topic in my circle of clients these days. While the concept of version history is nothing new, and definitely not new to SharePoint, some of the behaviors and requirements the my clients have requested have pushed SharePoint to it’s out-of-the-box limits.
First let’s talk a little about version history from a SharePoint perspective. A list or library has the ability to store multiple versions of an item. There are two types of versions it can keep track of; major and minor. Minor versions are created when an item requires approval or publishing. During it’s modification process, and until it is approved or published, it is considered a minor version. Once you approve or publish an item it becomes a major version. If you are not utilizing the approval or publishing feature, then Major versions are the default.
It is a good idea in your Governance Policy to specify a version history limitation. When you create a library you have the ability to turn on version history at the time the library is created. I do not recommend doing this as it does not limit the number of versions. It is better to access the List/Library Settings and specify the number of versions you want to keep in each list and library separately.
So why is it important to limit versions? Size. Every version maintains information in the database and will increase the size of the database accordingly. As your SharePoint environment continues to grow (and trust me, it will continue to grow) the size of the database is always a concern.
Another thing to note. If you are keeping 3 versions of a document or item, it will actually show 4 items in the list as it looks at version history as “previous” versions and your current version as the “current” version. So whenever you set the version “history” of a document or item the version history window will always display one current version as well.
Finally, when a version does drop off due to reaching the limit of the version history, that version does not go in the recycle bin. It is deleted permanently. I would like to emphasize there is no getting it back, however, being a SharePoint geek I know that while I may be able to get it back, to do so may be at a higher price than I am willing to pay. For example, I may have to restore the entire database back from yesterday, hence loosing all the work everyone did in SharePoint today. Probably not worth the cost, so let’s just assume that it is indeed permanently deleted.