Managing Unused Web Sites

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Web sites based on Microsoft may become inactive for many reasons: perhaps a site was set up for documents relating to a project that is finished, or perhaps a user was trying out and created a site that he or she no longer needs. Because inactive sites take up space on the servers, it's important to check with site owners to see if their sites are still needed or have become inactive. In , new administrative options allow you to automatically send notices to site owners requiring them to confirm that their sites are in use. You can also delete unconfirmed sites automatically. These features give you a way to control the number of unused Web sites on your server.

Site use confirmation works like alerts for your users' sites. When sites are created, they are added to the database and are logged as active sites. After a specified time defined by the administrator, the site owners are sent an e-mail notification asking the owners to either reactivate or delete their unused Web sites. The notification e-mail text contains links to confirm that a site is active or to delete a site. After the notification is sent, there are three possible outcomes:

  • If a site is in use, the site owner will click a link to confirm that the site is active and preserve the site. When the owner clicks the confirmation link, the timer is restarted, and the owner will be notified again after the same time period.

  • If a site is not in use, the site owner can delete the site by following instructions in the notification e-mail, or do nothing. The site owner continues to receive periodic e-mail notifications (the period is defined by the administrator) until use is confirmed or the site is deleted.

  • If a site is not in use, and you have turned on the automatic deletion feature, the site owner is queried a specific number of times (a number configured by the administrator), and if use is not confirmed, the site is automatically deleted.

Automatic deletion is an advanced administrative feature that can delete unneeded sites without any administrative intervention and without any backup mechanism. To prevent a site from being deleted without any notification, you must turn on site use confirmation before you can turn on automatic deletion. Also, the site owner must always be sent at least two confirmation notices before a site can be deleted. In addition to these basic safeguards included as defaults, you should also consider the following best practices:

  • Require a secondary contact when sites are created.

    When a user creates a site, the user is listed as the site owner. Depending on your configuration, the user may also be required to specify a secondary contact for the site. Confirmation notifications are automatically sent to the site owner and to the secondary contact, if one exists. For more information, see "Configuring Self-Service Site Creation" in the Windows SharePoint Services Administrator's Guide.

  • Set reasonable intervals between confirmations and before automatic deletion.

    For example, if a site owner is unavailable for four weeks, and sites are deleted after four missed weekly confirmations, the site could be deleted without allowing the owner a chance to confirm. If you are enabling this feature inside a corporation, be sure you consider your organization's policies regarding vacations and leaves of absence when you configure the intervals for confirmation and deletion.

  • Back up Web sites regularly, so you can restore a recent copy if a site is unintentionally deleted.

    For example, if you configure confirmation and automatic deletion to happen on the fifth day of each month, make it a policy to back up your server on the fourth day. You can automate this process by creating a stored process in Microsoft SQL Server computer to check the sites table and automatically back up any items scheduled for deletion. For more information about SQL Server, see the SQL Server documentation. For more information about the sites table, see the .

Configuring Site Use Confirmation and Deletion

There are several settings that you can configure to control how much time elapses between stages for confirmation and automatic deletion. You can configure the following:

  • When to begin sending site use confirmation notices

    The initial notification value controls when the first confirmation notice is sent to a new site, or to a site that has been confirmed as in use. This value does not control the frequency of notifications, only the number of days to wait before the initial notification.

  • How frequently to check for sites needing confirmation and how frequently to send out notifications

    The frequency value affects both how often the server is checked and how often confirmation notices can be sent. If you set the frequency to weekly, the server is checked weekly, and notifications are also sent out weekly, immediately after the server has been checked.

  • What time to perform the check and to send out notifications

    Change this time to suit your environment. For example, if most of your users are online and hitting the server during the day, pick a time during the night when the server is not as busy.

  • How many notifications to send before allowing automatic deletion

    Adjust this number to be sure site owners receive notification before a site is deleted. The number of notifications also depends on the frequency, so if you specify daily checks, with 30 reminders before deletion, the site owner would be notified every day for a month before the site was deleted.

Be sure to configure these times to be useful and reasonable given your organization's context. In a large organization, where users may need data to be stored for some time, you can specify longer intervals (for example, start sending notifications at 180 days, notify every month, and delete after six months without a confirmation). If you are hosting free sites for customers, you may want to shorten these intervals (start sending notifications at 45 days, notify weekly, delete after four weeks). If you are hosting sites for paying customers, you may not want to use this feature, unless you have an automated backup strategy that allows you to restore sites on request.

The following table lists each of these settings as you see them on the Configure Site Collection Use Confirmation and Auto-Deletion page and their default and minimum values.


Default value

Minimum value

Start sending notifications ___ days after site collection creation, or use is confirmed

90 days

30 days

Check for unused site collections, and send notices <Daily Weekly Monthly>and run the check at <time>


12:00 AM


Delete the site collection after sending ___ notices


Daily minimum: 28

Weekly minimum: 4

Monthly minimum: 2

In a scenario using the default values above, the first notice is sent at 90 days. Another notice is sent every week for five additional weeks. On the sixth week after the initial notification, if the site has not been confirmed, the site is deleted. If at any point the site is confirmed as in use, the count goes back to the start, and the owner will not receive another notice for 90 days.

Note: If for any reason the e-mail notification cannot be queued (for example, the SMTP mail server is down), the count is not incremented. For example, if three notices have been sent, and when it is time for the fourth notice to be sent the next week, the SMTP server is down, the fourth notification is not sent that day, and the count is not incremented. The next week, when the database is checked again, the fourth notice is sent, and the process continues from there.

The confirmation and automatic deletion feature relies on the Microsoft SharePoint Timer service to carry out the timed jobs. The times and intervals you specify here follow the same rules as any other SharePoint Timer service job in . For more information, see Scheduling Timed Jobs .

Enabling Site Use Confirmation and Automatic Deletion

You manage unused Web sites at the virtual server level by using the Configure Site Collection Use Confirmation and Auto-Deletion page in the HTML Administration pages. You must be an administrator on the server computer or a member of the SharePoint administrators group to access this administration page. By default, both site use confirmation and automatic deletion are turned off.

Open the Configure Site Collection Use Confirmation and Auto-Deletion page

  1. Click Start , point to All Programs , point to Administrative Tools , and then click SharePoint Central Administration .

  2. On the Central Administration page, under Virtual Server Configuration , click Configure virtual server settings .

  3. On the Virtual Server List page, click the virtual server you want to configure.

  4. On the Virtual Server Settings page, under Automated Web Site Collection Management , click Configure site collection use confirmation and deletion .

By default, site use confirmation is turned off. If you want to require confirmation of use, you can specify the interval to wait before sending the first notification, and how frequently to continue sending notifications if site use is not confirmed. Notices are sent to the e-mail address specified in the site for the site owner and the secondary owner (if a secondary contact has been identified).

Enable and configure e-mail confirmation notices

  1. On the Configure Site Collection Use Confirmation and Auto-Deletion page, in the Confirmation and Automatic Deletion Settings section, select the Send e-mail notifications to owners of unused site collections check box.

  2. In the Start sending notifications ___ days after site collection creation, or use is confirmed box, type the number of days to wait before sending notifications after the site is created or use is confirmed.

    For example, if you enter 60 days, then when a user creates a site, the first notification will be sent after 60 days. If the user confirms that that the site is in use at that time, another 60 days will go by before they get another notification.

  3. In the Check for unused site collections, and send notices ____ and run the check at ____ boxes, specify daily, weekly, or monthly, and then the time of day to run the check.

  4. Click OK .

You must enable and configure e-mail confirmation notices before you can enable automatic deletion.

Enable and configure automatic deletion

  1. Enable and configure e-mail confirmation notices.

  2. Select the Automatically delete the site collection if use is not confirmed check box.

  3. In the Delete the web after sending ___ notices box, specify how many e-mail notifications to send before deleting the site.

  4. Click OK .

Configuring Site Use Confirmation and Automatic Deletion from the Command Line

You can also configure confirmation and automatic deletion from the command line by using the setproperty operation and the following properties: delete-web-send-email , dead-site-notify-after , dead-site-num-notifications , dead-site-auto-delete , and job-dead-site-delete . For more information, see Command-Line Properties .

Customizing the Notification Text

There are two versions of the confirmation e-mail notificationone is used when only site use confirmation is enabled, the other when automatic deletion is also enabled. The text for the notification e-mail messages is stored in the DEADWEB.XML file in the \Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\60\TEMPLATE\ LCID \XML folder for the server, where LCID is the locale ID. You must be an administrator on the server computer to view or change this file. There are different versions of these e-mail messages for each language version. If you host site collections in multiple languages, be sure to customize the specific language versions of the notification e-mail messages as well.