Retention Policies in Exchange Online

 

Applies to: Office 365 for professionals and small businesses, Office 365 for enterprises, Live@edu

Topic Last Modified: 2011-12-02

For business, legal, or regulatory reasons, you may have to retain e-mail messages sent to and from users in your organization, or you may want to remove e-mail that you aren't required to retain. Messaging records management (MRM), the records management technology in Exchange Online, enables you to control how long to keep items in users' mailboxes and define what action to take on items that have reached a certain age.

How MRM works in Exchange Online

Retention policies and retention tags are part of the MRM technology. Retention policies use retention tags to apply retention settings to e-mail messages and folders. Retention tags define an age limit that specifies how long items are retained, and a retention action that specifies what happens to items that reach the retention age limit. Retention tags are linked to a retention policy, which is then applied to a mailbox.

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Let's look closer at these components:

  • Retention tags   Retention tags define and apply retention settings to messages and folders in a user's mailbox. Retention tags specify how long a message is kept and the action taken when the message reaches the specified retention age. When a message reaches its retention age, it's moved to the user's archive mailbox or it's deleted. Retention tags are linked to a retention policy. There are three types of retention tags:

    • Default policy tag (DPT)   The settings defined in the DPT apply to all items in a mailbox that don't have a retention tag already applied. A retention policy can have up to three DPTs linked to it: one DPT with a retention action of Move to Archive, one DTP with a retention action of Delete and Allow Recovery, and one DTP for a specific message class, such as voice mail.

    • Retention policy tags (RPT)   RPTs are applied to default folders, such as Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items, and Junk Mail. An RPT takes precedence over a DPT.

      Note   RPTs don’t support a retention action that moves items to the user’s archive mailbox. The only retention action for RPTs is to delete items.

    • Personal tags   Users can use Microsoft Outlook 2010 and Outlook Web App to apply personal tags to custom folders and individual items in their mailbox.

  • Retention policies   A retention policy is a group of retention tags that are applied to a mailbox. When a mailbox is created, a default retention policy is applied. In Exchange Online, the default retention policy applied to new mailboxes is named Default MRM Policy. A mailbox can have only one retention policy applied to it.

    Note   In Live@edu organizations, there are two default retention policies: MRMPolicy-DefaultMailboxPlan and MRMPolicy-GalDisabledMailboxPlan.

  • Retention tags are linked to a retention policy   A retention policy can have two DPTs, each with a different retention action; one RPT for each default folder; and any number of personal tags.

How are retention settings processed?

The Managed Folder Assistant is a process that runs automatically in the Microsoft datacenters to process the retention settings that are applied to a mailbox. The Managed Folder Assistant applies the DPT and RPTs to the mailbox and makes personal tags available in Outlook 2010 and Outlook Web App so that users can apply them to custom folders or specific mailbox items. The Managed Folder Assistant processes the retention of items based on the tag type, retention age, and retention actions defined in each retention tag.

How often does the Managed Folder Assistant run? The Managed Folder Assistant is configured to process all mailboxes in a cloud-based organization in a specific span of time, which is known as a work cycle. In Exchange Online, the work cycle is seven days. This means that the assistant tries to process every mailbox in your cloud-based organization once every seven days.

Because the Managed Folder Assistant is running all the time, you don’t need to do anything to apply retention settings to mailboxes. However, if you need to apply retention settings to a mailbox immediately, you can force the Managed Folder Assistant to process a specific mailbox. See Run the Managed Folder Assistant.

Important   MRM doesn’t guarantee retention of every message. For example, a user can delete or remove a message from their mailbox before the message reaches its retention age; MRM isn't designed to prevent users from deleting their own messages. If your organization requires retention of messages indefinitely, consider using one of these Exchange Online features:

  • Journaling   If your organization requires messages to be retained outside a user's mailbox for long-term storage, use journaling. See Journal Rules.

  • Litigation hold   If your organization has to preserve messages to meet e-discovery and retention requirements, you can put user mailboxes on litigation hold. See Put a Mailbox on Litigation Hold.

Also, single item recovery in Exchange Online lets you to recover a deleted e-mail message for up to 14 days after the message is permanently deleted by the user. See Recover Deleted E-Mail Messages in Exchange Online.

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Retention settings in Exchange Online

The following table shows the retention tags and their settings, which are available by default in Exchange Online for Microsoft Office 365 and Live@edu. All these tags are linked to the default retention policy that is applied to new mailboxes. That means these settings are applied to all new mailboxes.

When a personal retention tag is linked to the retention policy applied to a user's mailbox, the retention tag is automatically available to users to apply to their mailbox items.

 

Tag name Tag type Retention age limit (days) Retention action

Default 2 year move to archive

All (DPT)*

730

Move to Archive

Recoverable Items 14 days move to archive

Recoverable Items**

14

Move to Archive

Deleted Items

Deleted Items folder**

30

Delete and Allow Recovery

Junk Email

JunkEmail**

30

Delete and Allow Recovery

Personal 1 year move to archive

Personal

365

Move to Archive

Personal 5 year move to archive

Personal

1825

Move to Archive

Personal never move to archive***

Personal

No age limit

Move to Archive

1 Week Delete

Personal

7

Delete and Allow Recovery

1 Month Delete

Personal

30

Delete and Allow Recovery

6 Month Delete

Personal

180

Delete and Allow Recovery

1 Year Delete

Personal

365

Delete and Allow Recovery

5 Year Delete

Personal

1825

Delete and Allow Recovery

Never Delete***

Personal

No age limit

Delete and Allow Recovery

*  Retention tags with a type of All are DPTs. DPTs apply to items that don't have another retention tag applied.

**   The type for RPTs identifies the default mail folder that the tag applies to.

***   This tag isn't enabled by default. Items that have this retention tag are either never moved or never deleted.

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Use the Exchange Control Panel to manage retention policies

As explained earlier, the settings from the default retention tags are automatically applied to every mailbox because a default retention policy is applied when mailboxes are created. However, if you want to change the retention behavior for your organization, you can use the Exchange Control Panel to manage retention policies and retention tags in Exchange Online. See the following topics for more information about how to manage retention policies.

For information about how to manage retention tags, see Retention Tags in Exchange Online.

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