How retention works

Use retention rules to control how long your organization's Google Workspace data is preserved. You can:

  • Keep data for as long as you need it. If your organization is required to preserve data for a certain time, you can configure Vault to retain it. Data is retained even when users delete messages and files, and empty their trash.
  • Remove data when you no longer need it. If your organization is required to delete sensitive data after a certain time, you can configure Vault to make services remove it from user accounts and purge it from all Google systems.
WARNING: An improperly configured retention rule can allow Google services to immediately and irreversibly purge data. Use caution when you create or change retention rules. We recommend that you test new rules on a small group of users before you apply them to your entire organization.

When retention coverage ends and no holds apply, Vault allows services to immediately purge affected data. The time it takes to purge expired data varies depending on the service. Learn more

Two types of retention rules

Default retention rules

Set a default retention rule when you need to keep all data for a service for all licensed accounts in your organization for a set time. Default rules apply to data only when a custom rule or hold doesn’t apply. You can’t apply default retention rules to only specific accounts or time periods, and you can only have one default retention rule for each service.

Custom retention rules

Set custom retention rules to keep specific data for a set time. You can specify the data with conditions and terms depending on the service:

  • Gmail and Groups—Specify by organizational unit, date ranges, and specific search terms.

  • Drive and Meet—Specify by organizational unit and define expiration based on last modified dates (to address staleness) and created dates (to address compliance requirements), or trashed dates.

  • Chat and classic Hangouts–Specify by organizational unit or for all rooms in the domain. You can define expiration based on when messages were sent.

  • Google Voice–Specify by organizational unit and data type.

You can set as many custom rules as your organization needs. Data is retained according to the rule with the latest expiration. For Drive, if a Drive item in trash is subject to multiple retention rules, a moved-to-trash rule supersedes all other retention rules.

Important information about retention

What's the difference between a hold and a retention rule?

Both holds and retention rules preserve data in Vault, but they have important differences:

  Holds Retention rules

Use

Holds are typically created in response to an investigation or legal issue.

Retention rules are used to proactively control how long data is preserved.

Scope Apply to individual accounts, organizational units, or groups. Apply to users in organizational units or groups, and to product entities such as shared drives and rooms. Retention rules can't be applied to individual accounts, except by matching terms.

Preservation period

Holds preserve data indefinitely, until the hold is deleted.

Retention rules preserve data for a specified period, which can be a set number of days or indefinitely.

Precedence

Holds take precedence over retention rules. When a hold is deleted, data is immediately subject to applicable retention rules.

Retention rules aren't applied to data preserved by a hold until the hold is removed.

Custom rules take precedence over default rules, even when the default rule expires later. Data can be removed from Google production systems when the last applicable retention rule expires.

Access

Only Vault users who have access to a matter can see who and what is on hold.

Only Vault users who have retention rule privileges can manage retention rules.

Removing data with Vault removes the same data from user accounts

Vault is fully integrated with the Google services it supports. As a result, there's no separate archive. If you create a retention rule that applies to all messages or files, it could potentially delete data that your users expect to keep. For example, if you set a default retention rule to retain all Gmail messages for 365 days, and you have no custom rules or holds, Vault deletes every message in your domain that's older than 1 year.

The retention coverage period isn't affected by the date you create a retention rule

The start of the retention coverage period depends on the service:

  • Gmail and Groups—The retention period starts the day the message is sent or received.
  • Drive—Depending on how the retention rule is configured, the retention period starts the day the item was created, last modified, or moved to trash.
  • Google Chat–The retention period starts the day the message was sent. The retention period start doesn't change when a user edits or deletes a message.
  • Google Voice for G Suite
    • Text messages—The retention period starts at 11:59 PM UTC-7 the day the message was sent
    • Voicemails and their transcripts—The retention period starts at 11:59 PM UTC-7 the day the voicemail was created
    • Call logs—The retention period starts at 11:59 PM UTC-7 the day the call was made or received
Retention coverage periods can be extended by custom retention rules and holds

When the default retention period expires, Vault purges a message or file only if:

  • It is not being retained by any custom retention rules. Data is always kept as required by the custom rule with the longest retention period. Custom retention rules always take precedence over the default retention rule, even if the custom retention rule is shorter than the default retention rule.
  • It is not subject to a hold. When the hold is removed, retention rules take effect as expected.
Data can remain in Vault after all retention rules expire

Even when a retention rule is set to purge data, the background process that removes permanently deleted or expired data from Google systems keeps data available to Vault for approximately 30 days before it is fully purged:

  • Messages in a user’s Gmail or posted in Groups when all retention rules expire are immediately removed from the user’s view. However, they remain available to Vault administrators for approximately 30 additional days, during which you can search for, export, or place holds on them. After 30 days, you can no longer retrieve these messages.

  • Messages deleted by users or Group Managers less than 30 days before retention coverage expires are kept as long as necessary to meet the maximum of 30 days. For example, if a user deletes messages and empties them from trash 20 days before the retention coverage expires, you can search for them in Vault for another 10 days. After that time you can no longer retrieve them.

  • Gmail messages that were deleted more than 30 days before the retention coverage expires are immediately purged at the end of the retention period, and you can’t retrieve them.

  • Items deleted forever from Drive by users or a retention rule are immediately unavailable to Vault after retention coverage expires. You may be able to retrieve the files if they were emptied from Trash less than 25 days ago. After the 25-day period is up, it can take up to 15 days for these items to be purged.

  • Google Chat and classic Hangouts messages are kept for 30 additional days after a user or a retention rule removes them from a conversation or a room. The purge process begins on Day 30 and may take several additional days to complete depending on the number of messages being purged.

  • Google Voice text messages, voicemails and their transcripts, and call logs are purged up to 15 days after retention coverage expires, and you can’t retrieve them.

For examples of how this works for Gmail, see Example Gmail retention rules and their effect.

Files saved in Drive by other Google services are covered by Drive retention rules

Some Google services store their data in Drive. This data is covered by Drive retention rules as follows:

Product Retention
Jamboard

Vault retains jams saved to users' Drives according to Drive retention rules. Unsaved jams are discarded when the Jamboard session ends and are unavailable to Vault.

Google Meet

Meet recordings are covered by Drive retention rules by default.

To manage retention of Meet recordings differently from other items in Drive, you can set up retention rules for Google Meet. When retention rules for Meet are turned on, Drive retention rules don't apply to Meet recordings.

Lapses in retention coverage can cause the immediate expunging of data

Use caution when modifying existing retention rules. Services can immediately purge unprotected data that users deleted over 30 days ago.

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