Protect Your Outlook Data
Everyone that uses email has accidentally or intentionally deleted items in Outlook or OWA that they needed later. The good news is that the data is probably recoverable if you realize within two weeks that something important has been deleted. The bad news is that it is possible for an end user to permanently delete emails if they know what they're doing - unless you take preventative steps ahead of time.
What happens when I delete an item in Office 365?
Deletion is actually a multi-stage process with safeguards by default. The four different levels in order from normal status to permanent elimination are:
Inbox or any other folder
These are just the normal things you see in Outlook like email, calendar items and contacts. If a user deletes an item here it is moved to the Deleted Items folder. If the user shift-deletes an item here it skips a step and immediately goes to the Recoverable Items folder.
Deleted Items folder
This is the location deleted items go to for a period of time until the retention policy queues them for permanent deletion by moving them to the Recoverable Items folder. If the user deletes an item here or empties the folder the data is immediately moved to the hidden Recoverable Items folder.
Recoverable Items folder
This is a hidden folder that is the final holding area before the items are permanently purged. The default holding period is 14 days and can be increased to a maximum of 30 days as described in my recent article about changing retention time. The end user can also immediately purge items in this folder.
This is what happens after items are removed/purged from the Recoverable Items folder.
Mitigating Permanent Deletion
You should take into account corporate data retention and governance policies before enabling data protection features. It is incredibly important to avoid legal liabilities when configuring these options.
In-place Hold and Litigation Hold
Depending on your Office 365 license you may already have access to these settings. Once you turn one of these on for a user's mailbox it is not possible to permanently delete data. This is usually done for legal or compliance requirements.
Recovery of deleted items with in-place hold and litigation hold is somewhat unwieldy because you have to use a tool in the administrative console called eDiscovery. This tool runs a query against the deleted items and produces a PST that matches the parameters. You'll then have to open the PST in Outlook to view them or copy them back to Office 365.
These features are available with Office 365 Enterprise E3 or E5 licenses. You can also enable the features with the Office 365 Business plans by purchasing add-on Exchange Online Archiving licenses.
This is the most elegant solution because it enables you restore individual items directly into the original mailbox or into another mailbox within Office 365. You can also back up public folders and shared mailboxes. The retention time in the backup can be configured according to your corporate and compliance requirements.
The cost is the same per mailbox and you get more functionality than with Microsoft's archiving solution.
If you have the need for a reliable email backup with configurable retention time and easy restore methods we highly recommend a third party backup solution. Contact us today to get started immediately.