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Microsoft Changing Its Retention Policy for Deleted Office 365 E-Mails

Microsoft gave notice today that it plans to change how long deleted e-mails get retained for organizations using Office 365 services.

The current default policy is that deleted e-mails are still recoverable for 30 days after they get deleted by an end user, but after that period of time, they become unrecoverable. The new policy will eliminate this automatic removal aspect. Deleted e-mails always will be recoverable.

This policy change will arrive as an update for Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft will write over the current default Messaging Records Management (MRM) policy for Office 365 account holders to reflect the new policy. That change will happen "over the next month," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Organizations retaining a "Default MRM Policy" setting will get the new policy change. However, if an organization doesn't want it, they can rename the setting and create a custom policy, specifying the e-mail retention time period that's wanted from a drop-down list. Modifications to the Default MRM Policy can be performed by using the Exchange Admin Console or PowerShell.

Microsoft describes the shell path to modify the policy setting as follows: "Office 365 Admin > Exchange admin center > compliance management > retention policies." IT pros can then access the Default MRM Policy and modify it.

If an organization already has a custom MRM policy, the change Microsoft plans to push down in a month won't affect it, as long as it has been renamed from the "Default MRM Policy" name, according to Microsoft.

The policy change will only affect the "Deleted Items" folder. It won't affect the "Recoverable Items" folder, Microsoft's announcement clarified. Both primary and archive mailboxes will be affected by the new policy change. The "Litigation Hold" and "In-Place Hold" spaces won't be affected.

Microsoft's announcement didn't explain why the policy change was being made. However, Microsoft MVP Tony Redmond, in an article at Windows IT Pro, said that deleted e-mails that pass beyond the 30-day retention period currently become unrecoverable in Microsoft's Office 365 service under the current policy, and possibly that circumstance may have led to some customer complaints.

If an end user takes the effort to empty the Deleted Items folder, though, those items will still be unrecoverable, Redmond clarified.

Redmond noted some scenarios where organizations may want to alter the Default MRM Policy to avoid Microsoft's new policy change. Some organizations may find the permanent retention of deleted e-mails to be problematic from a compliance perspective. Possibly, offline storage .OST performance could be affected if deleted e-mails pile up, he suggested, especially when using older Outlook clients.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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