What is Google Vault?
Google Vault is a core G Suite (also known as a Google Apps) app that allows you to determine what content is retained and then offers easy functionality to search for and export data to make sure it meets your eDiscovery and compliance needs.
A misunderstanding made by some G Suite users is that Google Vault acts as a backup and restore service for all of their G Suite data. This is not the case – and is an assumption that we want to address early! Google Vault is for archiving, not backing up. You can find out more about backup and restore further into this article.
What is Google Vault for?
Archiving – Google Vault allows administrators to create retention rules that control the length of time that data is stored for, before being deleted from user accounts and Google’s systems.
Legal Holds – Administrators can place a hold on individual users to ensure their data is retained as long as required for legal purposes.
Search – Google’s powerful search capabilities can be used on all data within an organisations domain; by user account, date, file type or keyword.
Export – All data can be exported from Google Vault for further processing and external use.
Audit Reports – These reports can be used to find out about the particular actions users have taken during a specific time period.
Google Vault Supports:
- Gmail Messages
- Hangouts Chats
- Google Groups
- Files in Google Drive and Team Drives
The first thing to do when you gain access to Google Vault is to set up your retention policies. This clarifies which users can access what data, and for how long. You can create custom rules for your organisation that are based on date ranges, terms and organisational unit’s – These rules will begin affecting data as soon as they’re in place, so make sure to get them right first time so that you don’t accidentally delete the wrong files.
Holds are usually put in place due to legal issues or an ongoing investigation and serve to store and protect data indefinitely. Any holds you create will also override retention rules, so if a previously defined rule says to delete a certain users data after x-amount of days, but if this user has a hold placed on their data for legal purposes, it will remain secure until the hold is removed.
Looking through a large domain for particular emails or chat messages could seem like a daunting task; search too broadly – receive too many results, search too specifically – receive too few. Fortunately, Google Vault has many search parameters such as; user, file name, file type, file content etc. so you will always be able to find what you’re looking for. After doing so, you can save your search queries for the next occasion so that you can quickly access the data you need. These searches are also dynamic, meaning that they will include new data that’s been added since your last search.
Once you’ve got the data you need from Google Vault, you can export them in a variety of formats for external use. The export includes highly detailed information that shows its relevance to your search, along with metadata that proves its the same data stored on Google’s servers. You can export in the following formats:
- Chrome – Print as PDF or Save to Drive
- MBox format
- Print to PDF to redact
Only specific users have access to Google Vault, and those users have the ability to create retention rules and perform other actions. If any activity within Vault needed to be checked up on, then an audit report can be created to discover which user created particular rules, or removed certain data.
Not a Backup & Restore Service
It’s understandable that some users see Vault as a backup tool but it shouldn’t be used as a backup solution or recovery system. Users can store data for as long as it’s required, but once it is deleted, there is no recovery. The primary functions of Google Vault is for eDiscovery and investigations.
If an organisation deletes a user from G Suite, all of the associated data will be removed from Google’s servers, including the user’s Vault archive.
Google states that: “If a user leaves your organization and you want to continue preserving that user’s data in Google Vault, a Google Apps administrator should suspend the user’s account. Email data is preserved for a suspended account, but the account can receive no new mail. Note that suspended accounts are billed the same as active accounts.”
There are a number of strong third-party backup solutions for G Suite that back up your data cloud-to-cloud. Having a service like this in place acts as a strong complement to a well-configured Google Vault. We tend to recommend Backupify for G Suite backup but others are of course available.
If you would like any further information about Google Vault, or would just like to find out more about G Suite in general, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be delighted to have a chat.
Stay up to date
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on all things G Suite, including; new features, security updates, tips, tricks and all the latest news from Google and Cobry.