How Office 365 Resolves Retention Policy Conflicts

How Office 365 Resolves Retention Policy Conflicts

In our previous article, How Retention Works in Office 365 Advanced Data Governance, we covered how Office 365 Advanced Data Governance standalone retention policies work. Next, we looked at how you can apply retention policies using labels in Using Advanced Data Governance Labels in Office 365.

If you have read these articles, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing stops you from trying to apply more than one retention or deletion policy to a single piece of content, whether intentional or not. In fact, most retention management systems realize this will happen and have a system in place for setting priority. In this article, we will cover how Office 365 and RecordPoint’s Records365 handles retention policy conflicts.

As a reminder, if there is a conflict between two Office 365 labels, then the label that was created first by the admin will be applied, and therefore that retention policy will be applied.

How Office 365 Resolves Retention Policy Conflicts

The Principles of Retention

Office 365 retention policies follow a defined process to resolve policy conflicts. The process will start with the top criteria and only move onto the next if the conflict has not been resolved. Otherwise, once the conflict is resolved the process will stop. The information in this section is paraphrased from the Microsoft article on this subject.

  1. Retention wins over deletion. Let’s say that you have a retention policy that deletes all Microsoft Teams conversations after 90 days. You then apply a retention policy to the Super Import Project Microsoft Team that retains conversations for three years. What happens? After 90 days the conversations will be deleted from the end user’s view of Microsoft Teams. From their point of view, the conversations have deleted. However, the data will be retained in the hidden Microsoft Teams conversations folder under the group mailbox for the team for three years, which will be available for eDiscovery. After three years the Teams conversations it will be permanently deleted from all locations.
  2. The longest retention period wins. If a document could be covered by multiple retention policies, then the policy with the longest retention policy will be applied. For example, if there is a policy with a three-year retention policy, and another one with a seven-year retention policy, then the seven-year policy will be applied.
  3. Explicit inclusion wins over implicit inclusion. In previous articles, we mentioned that retention policies could either be automatically applied by the system or manually applied by an end user. You can also apply retention policies to the entire organization, a specific Office 365 app (such as Exchange), a specific site, a library, or an individual item.
    • Any policy that is manually applied will take precedence over a policy that has been automatically applied. This approach makes sense, because if someone went to the trouble of manually applying a policy, then that is probably the most accurate policy.
    • The most specific policy will win over more general policies. For example, if a retention policy is applied to all SharePoint sites, then that will take precedence over a policy applied to the entire organization.
    • Along the same lines, if a policy covers specific SharePoint sites, then that will take precedence over a policy that covers all SharePoint sites.
  4. The shortest deletion period wins. If the content is covered by multiple deletion policies, with no retention, then the shortest deletion period will win. For example, if you have a policy that deletes Microsoft Teams conversations after six months, and another policy that deletes them after three months, then the policy that deletes content after three months will be followed.

We hope this article clears up any confusion about what retention policy is applied to Office 365 content.

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