Data Protection Centre/Google Workspace/Google Vault Fundamentals


In this article

  • What is Google Vault?
  • What is the difference between retention rules and Hold?
  • Can data be modified or destructed when placed on an eDiscovery hold or when a retention rule is applied to it?
  • Is Google Vault a backup solution?

Google Vault Fundamentals

7 Dec 2021
11 min read
eDiscovery helps businesses to identify and preserve data that can be used as evidence in litigations. Data retention is used by organizations to prevent data loss due to accidental deletions. This article will explore the key features and capabilities of Google Vault to conduct eDiscovery and data retention.

What is Google Vault?

Google Vault is an archiving and eDiscovery solution for Google Workspace. Google Vault can be used to retain, search, export data, and apply a hold on data in Google Workspace.  
Google Vault helps in performing two main functions-
  • Data Governance – It refers to all the measures taken to manage and utilize the information by an organization. It will include processes, policies standards, and metrics. 

  • eDiscovery – It refers to the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI) during legal proceedings such as litigations. 

How can organizations access Google Vault?

Google Vault is available with Google Workspace Business Plus and Enterprise editions, Enterprise essentials (domain verified only), Education fundamentals and Education plus, G Suite Basic and G Suite Business. 
For Frontline and G Suite Basic plan subscriptions, Google Vault can be purchased as an add-on for either all users in the organization or for specific users. 

What are Vault Privileges?

A user can access Google Vault if he/she has been granted Vault privileges or is a Super Administrator. Vault privileges allow the user to-
  • Manage matters

  • Manage holds

  • Manage searches

  • Manage exports

  • Manage audits

  • Manage retention policies

  • View retention policies

  • View all matters

In order to grant privileges to a user, a Super Administrator must create a role. The role should have one or more than one of the privileges listed above. Only the users who are assigned Vault privileges will be able to access Google Vault.

What is eDiscovery in Google Vault?

Google Vault allows users to search, hold and export data in Google Workspace. A workspace can be created in Google Vault called “Matter” to perform one or more of these actions.  Matter can contain -
  • Saved search queries

  • Holds 

  • Accounts that the matter is shared with

  • Exports

  • Audit log of the Vault user activity in that matter

The workspace i.e., the matter can be shared among other Vault users so that they can collaborate on the same together. 

How to create a matter in Google Vault?

In order to create a matter, a user can perform the following steps in Google Vault- 

Google Vault- Google homepage
  • Step 2: Click on “Matters” on the homepage.

Google Vault matters
  • Step 3: Click on “Create” to create a new matter.

Google Vault Matters create
  • Step 4: Enter the “Matter name” and “description” and click on “Create.”

Google Vault Create matter

How to perform a search in Google Vault?

The steps to carry out a search in Google Vault for a matter are as follows- 
  • Step 1: Click on a “Matter” in which the search needs to be performed. 

  • Step 2: Choose a “Service” from Gmail, Drive Groups, and Chat for which the search needs to be performed.

Google Vault Search
  • Step 3: Choose-


    Time zone

    Date sent

    Additional terms for search

    and then click on “Search”.

Google Vault search

Google Vault allows us to apply a “Hold” on data for specific apps. When a hold is applied to data, the data cannot be purged from the Google systems indefinitely or till the Hold is removed/deleted.

Hold enables data preservation so that no evidence is lost during investigations.  

How to place content on an eDiscovery hold?

In order to create a hold, you can follow the steps below- 
  • Step 1: Click on the new “Hold” under a Matter. Select the Hold name as well as the Service. 

Google Vault hold

Google Vault create hold
  • Step 3: Select the “Conditions” such as 

    Start date

    End date

    Query terms

Hold creations
  • Step 4: Click on “Create" to create a hold.

How to delete eDiscovery hold?

In order to delete a hold, follow the steps below- 
  • Step 1: Select Holds tab for a “Matter”. 

  • Step 2: Click on “Delete” for a specific hold.

What is retention in Google Vault?

Google Vault allows you to apply retention rules on data under Gmail, Google Drive, Google Groups, Google Chat, Google Meet, and Google Sites. We can choose a specific retention period or retain data indefinitely while applying a rule. 

There are two types of retention rules-default and custom. For more information, click here.

How to create a custom retention rule?

In order to create custom retention rule, you can follow the steps below- 
  • Step 1: Click on the “Custom retention rule” in the retention rules section. 

Google Vault custom rules
  • Step 2: Select the “Service” on which Retention rule needs to be applied. You can select from- 




    → Chat
    → Meet
    → Sites

Custom retention rule
  • Step 3: Select the “Scope” of the retention rule.

Custom retention rule
  • Step 4: Select the “Duration” as well as “Action” for the Retention rule. Then click “Ok” to apply the rule.

Create custom retention rule

How to delete a default/custom retention rule?

  • Step 1: Select the default retention rule and click on “Delete”

delete default retention rule
  • Step 2: Select the custom retention rule tab and click on “Delete”

delete custom rules

What is the difference between retention rules and Hold?

Retention rules and holds can differ in the following ways-
On the basis ofRetention rulesHolds


A retention rule is created to preserve data and is not in response to litigation.
A hold is created in response to litigation or a legal issue.


Retention rules determine the period for which the data can be retained.
Holds prevent deletion of data associated with specific data custodians.

Services covered

Retention rules can be applied to preserve data from different apps such as Gmail, Google Drive etc. for a specific period or indefinitely.
Holds can be applied to specific user accounts or to all accounts in an organizational unit. Holds preserve the data indefinitely.

Show more


Can data be modified or destructed when placed on an eDiscovery hold or when a retention rule is applied to it?

Data placed on hold cannot be deleted or purged out from Google system. However, in certain cases, data can be deleted or purged such as- 
  • Hold is deleted by the Google Vault user  

  • A custodian is removed from the hold 

  • A user's Google Account is deleted 

  • A user no longer has a Vault license 

When a retention rule expires and the data must be purged, the data is still available to Google Vault for a period of 30 days before being fully purged from the Google systems. 

Is Google Vault a backup solution?

Google Vault is not a backup tool but an eDiscovery and archiving tool available for Google Workspace users. Due to its ability to place data on hold and apply retention rules, it can be easily mistaken as a data backup solution by many organizations. 
There are a lot of drawbacks when using it as a backup solution such as- 
  • Export errors/Partial exports-In cases when large amounts of data are exported, sometimes a partial export may occur which might cause loss of data. 

  • Services not covered- Apps like Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Meet, and Google Classroom cannot be placed on hold. Retention rules cannot be set for apps like Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Classroom. 

  • Export limits-The export limit by Google Vault is 10 GB beyond which data cannot be exported in the same zip file. Multiple zip files are created which can lead to confusion. 

  • Export formats-When exports are done for Gmail, users can choose from a PST or MBOX format. Some of the litigation applications for review do not support such formats. 

  • Restore data-Google Vault can help you with applying a retention rule or a hold but does not allow restoring data. 

  • License cost optimization-Google Vault is not available for Business Starter and Business Standard editions. Business Plus and Enterprise editions provide Google Vault which comes with a higher license cost. In the case of an add-on license, additional costs are incurred. 

Due to several drawbacks, opting for a third-party Backup solution can help create a backup of your data easily. SysCloud provides you with a one-stop solution for all your backup needs. Click here to know more.

Quiz Time!
Did you know that Google Vault is not essentially a backup and restore solution?
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In this article

  • What is Google Vault?
  • What is the difference between retention rules and Hold?
  • Can data be modified or destructed when placed on an eDiscovery hold or when a retention rule is applied to it?
  • Is Google Vault a backup solution?

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