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Get to know the Microsoft Teams retention policies

Microsoft Teams retention policies can ensure that critical data is not accidentally deleted too early, and unnecessary data doesn't take up space longer than it needs to.

Retention policies are a key mechanism to ensure that Microsoft Teams data is kept or deleted in accordance with an organization's business requirements or compliance mandates.

The most important thing to understand about a Microsoft Teams retention policy is that, while retention policies do have some backup-like qualities, they were never intended to act as a backup substitute. IT teams cannot reconfigure retention policies to adhere to the same service-level agreement requirements as backups generally do. Retention policies also lack a backup's granularity.

A good backup application can protect all Microsoft Teams data, as well as data that is stored in other Microsoft 365 applications. A Microsoft Teams retention policy, on the other hand, is solely designed for use with chat and channel messages.

Policy types and modifications

Microsoft Teams retention policies are flexible and can be either static or adaptive. A static retention policy is applied to a specific data set, such as the data associated with a particular user or group.

Adaptive retention policies dynamically adapt to changes that may occur within an organization. For example, an adaptive retention policy might be applied to the users in a specific department. If a new user joins that department, the retention policy will automatically apply to that user.

Organizations can create a Microsoft Teams retention policy for Teams channel messages, Teams chats and Teams private chat messages. By default, these retention policies are configured to keep data for seven years after it is created and to then delete the data once the retention period has expired.

However, items can be retained for as long as an organization needs, even if that means retaining Teams data indefinitely. Similarly, an organization is not forced to delete data when its retention period expires. Organizations can modify retention policies to take no action on data that is past its retention period, or the organization could even choose to delete old data at a later date. For example, an organization can choose to use a seven-year retention period but delete old Teams messages after 10 years.

Mileage may vary

Although the default retention period values might be appropriate for some organizations, each organization will need to decide for itself how long to retain Teams data. Such decisions must be made based on an organization's business requirements and on its compliance mandates.

Additionally, an organization should decide whether to apply different retention periods to Teams channel messages and Teams private channel messages. If an organization retains messages as a part of a regulatory mandate, then it will likely need to retain group and private messages for the same length of time. If retention policies are only put into place for operational reasons, it's possible that private messages will not be as valuable to the business. If that is the case, the organization may choose not to retain them as long as group messages.

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