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Office 365 Users Getting Teams Retention Policies This Month

Microsoft announced last week that it has started enabling Microsoft Teams retention policies for Office 365 tenancies.

The rollout of the new Teams retention policies is expected to be complete around mid-April, according to a Microsoft announcement on Friday. IT pros who are tenant administrators can set the retention policies using the Security and Compliance Center, a management component the Office 365 Admin Center. Access to the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center is available to organizations that have Office 365 Business or E1 and E5 subscriptions, according to this TechNet article. IT pros can also set the retention policies using PowerShell.

Teams is an Office 365 communications workspace combining messaging and e-mail, and increasingly more Skype for Business unified communications capabilities as part of Microsoft's "intelligent communications" shift. End users produce Teams content that appears in chats, channels and mailboxes, which by default all get stored and retained with no deletion dates.

Storage Locations
The storage technologies used with Teams will vary, depending on the content type produced (chats or files). They include a mixture of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business storage.

In general, here's how storage breaks down for the chats and files used in Teams:

  • Chats get stored in Exchange Online.
  • Files get stored in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business.

One exception on the chat side concerns private chats, which get stored in the sender's OneDrive for Business account.

Organizations may want to set retention policies for the chats and files created by Teams users to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley Act restrictions, which mandate a seven-year retention policy for certain types of content. Alternatively, organizations may want to delete old content because of security or litigation concerns, or just to keep the more current content available, according to Microsoft.

Policy Options
With the new retention policies, IT pros can set either preservation or deletion policies in Teams, and they can set the timing for those actions. They have the following options for controlling Teams data, according to this "Overview" document:

  • Preservation: Keep Teams data for a specified duration and then do nothing
  • Preservation and then delete: Keep Teams data for a specified duration and then delete
  • Deletion: Delete Teams data after a specified duration

Microsoft is still working on the ability to specify durations of "fewer than 30 days." It also is still working on enabling advanced retention policies for chat and channel messages.

The retention policies are flexible enough right now such that IT pros can set different policies for private chats versus channel messages. They can also apply the policies to specific teams or to specific users if they want.

The retention policies are in effect regardless of what end users may do. By default, Teams chat, channel and files data are always retained, unless a retention policy is set to delete the information. Accessing the archived information typically requires having licensing for Microsoft's information protection services, such as eDiscovery, which is available with Office 365 E3/E4 and E5 subscriptions, according to this table.  

Microsoft has been transitioning its Skype for Business Online services into Teams. However, the new Teams retention policies only affect messages in Teams threads. They don't have an effect on the Skype for Business client side, according to the "Overview" document.

Microsoft's retention policies announcement also noted a few things that are yet to come to Teams. Future additions include adding "data loss prevention for conversations and files." Another coming feature will be "eDiscovery for calls and meetings in Teams," Microsoft indicated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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