In the past we have used email archiving to save items in the mailbox such as messages, contacts, calendar items, etc. for a minimum of one year. Specific users with business requirements have been able to gain permission to save items in the archive for more than one year. The idea behind archiving was that as long as the retention period was set for an item it would stay in the archive and could not be deleted until the end of that retention. Exchange Online no longer uses archiving. The new concept used in Exchange Online is Email Retention. Email Retention refers to how long you are allowed to keep items in your Exchange Online mailbox. The difference being that you can delete the item before its retention period ends. This quick reference document will explain the differences you will see in Exchange Online for Email Retention.
Historical Perspective of Archiving
Before we moved to Exchange Online users were able to archive items in the mailbox by default for 1 year. Users with special business needs were allowed to archive items for 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 10 years or 15 years depending on the need. This was done by creating policies.
- The default policy allowed everyone to keep items anywhere in their mailbox for one year (see exceptions below).
- Special archiving policies were set up for users who were allowed to archive for 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 10 years or 15 years depending on the need. Special folders were created to hold these items. If a user needed an item archived for more than 1 year they needed to place it in one of these special folders (or a subfolder under one of these special folders).
Email Retention in Exchange Online
In Exchange Online users are able to retain items in the mailbox by default for 1 year. Users with special business needs are allowed to retain items for 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 10 years or 15 years depending on the need. The Exchange Online Administrator does this by creating policies. When a mailbox is added to the specific policy the retention is changed for the entire mailbox. Users no longer need to place items in special folders and special folders are no longer automatically created.
Exceptions to the Retention Policy
There have been exceptions in the past to the archiving policies and are currently exceptions to the retention policies. The exceptions are the same for every mailbox no matter what retention policy is applied. These exceptions are:
- Calendar – These items are retained for 1 year
- Deleted Items – These items are retained for 30 days
- Drafts – These items are retained for 1 year
- Journal – These items are retained for 1 year
- Junk Email – These items are retained for 30 days
- Outbox – These items are retained for 1 year
- RSS Feeds – (Outlook only) These items are retained for 30 days
- Sync Issues – (Outlook only) These items are retained for 90 days
NOTE: If you have a higher retention policy that allows you to retain items for more than 1 year, be sure NOT to place items in one of these folders if you want to retain it for more than 1 year.
How to Tell Your Retention Policy
The way you see what retention policy you belong to depends on if you use Outlook or Webmail.
In Outlook 2010 & 2013 you can see the policy that is applied to a particular folder by right-clicking the folder and selecting PROPERTIES. Then on the POLICY tab you can see the policy that is applied to that folder. You can also see the policy in each individual message that you open.
In WebMail you can go to OPTIONS from the drop down under your name in the upper right corner. Select ORGANIZE EMAIL then the RETENTION POLICIES tab. In the list you can see what retention policy you are in. Unlike Outlook as described above you cannot see the policies at the folder level.