Set retention rules

Retention rules control how long messages in your domain are retained before they are removed from user mailboxes and expunged from all Google systems. You can create custom retention rules to retain specific content. You can also set a default retention rule for your entire domain.

An improperly configured retention rule can cause the immediate and irreversible purging of messages from user mailboxes. Use caution when implementing retention changes. We recommend that you test new rules on a small group of users before applying them to your entire organization. 
Note: Currently you cannot specify retention rules for files in Google Drive. Drive data that a user deletes from Trash is not retained.

The two types of retention rules

Custom retention rules: With this type of rule, you're telling Vault how long to retain specific content—content in a certain organizational unit (OU) and its sub-OUs, within a certain date range, and with specific terms—before that content is expunged and no longer available to anyone. You can create multiple custom rules.

Default retention rule: With this type of rule, you're setting a global retention rule for the domain. The default rule applies to content only when a custom rule or a hold does not apply. If you set a finite default retention period, content is expunged and no longer available to anyone shortly after the default period expires.

Retention rule precedence behaves as follows:

  • If at least one custom retention rule applies to a message, that rule takes precedence over the default retention rule.
  • If more than one custom retention rule applies to a message, the custom retention rule that retains the message the longest takes precedence.
  • If a user is on hold, none of the user's messages are deleted—regardless of retention rules—until the hold is lifted.

Create a custom retention rule

  1. Sign in to Google Apps Vault.

  2. Click Retention in the left navigation.

  3. Click ADD RULE.

  4. Based on your organization's requirements, set parameters for the content that you want to retain:

    • Organization. Choose an organizational unit. This rule will apply only to members of this unit and its subunits.
    • Sent date. Choose a range of dates from the calendar picker that appears when you click either date box. If you specify only a start date, the rule applies to content after that date. If you specify only an end date, the rule applies to content before that date.
    • Terms. Enter any search terms that would appear in messages. You can also use search operators in this field.
    Tip: Consider the impact of this retention rule. Do you want it to apply to all messages in user mailboxes? If instead you want to purge deleted messages but allow users to keep messages they haven’t trashed, add the label:^deleted search operator to Terms.
  5. Choose a retention period:

    • Retain data indefinitely: User content meeting the parameters in this retention rule is permanently available in Vault.
    • Retain data for a specified number of days (36,500 max). With this option, you can specify a period in days to retain user content in Vault. Shortly after that period elapses, content will be expunged from all Google systems. Remember that after expunge, you cannot get content back.
  6. Click Preview to display a list of messages that match the retention parameters that you set. Examine the list to verify that you've set the rule correctly. Make sure it does not permanently delete messages that users may need.

    Vault immediately begins purging messages from the archive (and user mailboxes) that exceed the retention period as soon as you submit a new rule. Do not proceed to the next step until you’re sure the rule is configured correctly.
  7. Click Save to implement your new retention rule.

Important notes

  • Email aliases in the Terms field: An email alias is an alternative email address that points to a primary email address. Custom retention rules do not automatically include email aliases. If you want to include email aliases, you must add them to the Terms field.

  • Renamed users: Custom retention rules are not automatically modified when users are renamed. The retention rule continues to apply only to addresses that are explicitly in the Terms field of the rule. For example, if a rule applies to messages that include '' and that user is renamed ',' the retention rule applies only to messages sent to ''

  • Modifying a custom retention rule: You can modify a custom rule, but you must understand how that modification might impact retained content. Content is retained according to the most recent modification to the retention rule.

    To modify or verify the details of a custom retention rule, click Retention in the left navigation. In the list of rules that appears, click the retention rule you want to modify or verify.

Set the default retention rule

  1. Sign in to Google Apps Vault.

  2. Click Retention in the left navigation.

  3. Click Modify default retention period.

  4. Select one of these options:

    • Do not specify a default retention period: User content isn't retained in Vault. Unless a custom rule or hold applies, user-deleted content is expunged 30 days after deletion, with no recovery options. Your organization's default retention period is automatically set to this option unless a Vault administrator changes it.
    • Retain data indefinitely: User content is permanently available in Vault, unless a custom rule applies.
    • Retain data for a specified number of days: User content is retained for the number of days you specify (up to 36,500), unless a custom rule or hold applies. Shortly after this period elapses, content is removed from user mailboxes and deleted from Google systems with no recovery options. If you select this option, click Next, type the number of days for the retention period, then click Set. Select the checkboxes to verify that you understand your content will be deleted at the end of the retention period if no other rules or holds apply.
  5. Click Submit.

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