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In this article

  • Introduction
  • Why data retention?
  • Where is Google Sites data stored?
  • What happens when Google Sites data is deleted?
  • Native retention settings using Vault
  • Retention rules
  • eDiscovery holds to retain Sites data
  • Are Google Vault retention and eDiscovery ideal data backup solutions?

A Guide to Google Sites Retention

29 Nov 2021
12 min read

1. Introduction

Google Sites is a popular website builder that helps in building team websites and project sites. Sites can include data from other Google apps such as Sheets and Docs, and does not require a designer or programmer’s help.
However, IT Administrators must be aware that Google does not take responsibility for safeguarding any Sites data. To overcome any kind of data loss due to events such as human error or cyber threats, it is essential to have retention policies in place.
Use the diagram below to directly navigate to a particular section:

sites retention summary flowchart

2. Why data retention?

  • Data retrieval in case of accidental deletion

    When a Google site is hard deleted, it is lost forever unless retention policies are in place. Using retention helps you manage data deletion and recovery efficiently, thus increasing business productivity.

  • Storage management

    Google Workspace storage is shared between Gmail, Drive, Sites, Photos and Docs. The amount of free storage for each user depends on the type of account opted. Employees should not be forced to delete data once the storage limits are reached and at the same time, remove data that are no longer needed. Implementing retention policies saves storage costs by only retaining essential data.

  • Statutory regulation & compliance

    Regulated industries such as healthcare, legal, and finance are required to retain certain data for a longer duration. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, for example, specifies the standards for financial document record-keeping and having controls in place to retain data.

3. Where is Google Sites data stored?

When a new Google site is created, it is automatically added to Google Drive. Similar to Docs, Sheets and other Google apps, the owner of the site can give view/edit access to other collaborators who can edit in real-time. The site can then be published either publicly, or to certain members of the team or company.

4. What happens when Google Sites data is deleted?

A deleted Google site moves to the user’s Trash (located in Google Drive). It stays here for a 30-day period within which the user can restore it back to its original location. After 30 days, the site is lost from Trash and the user cannot recover it. However, an administrator can restore the site from the Admin Console within the next 25 days, after which the site gets permanently deleted.

To know how a Google Workspace Administrator can recover permanently deleted files from Google Admin Console, click here.

The diagram below shows the default data retention procedure in Google Sites and how data can be restored by users and administrators within specific timeframes.

google sites swimlane diagram

4.1. Limitations of default Sites retention

  • Sites retained using the default retention is counted towards your Google Workspace storage quota, and you will need to purchase additional storage if you exceed the limit. The amount of free storage for each user depends on the type of account opted.

  • As seen in the illustration, Sites data is permanently deleted after the 30-55 days timeframe.

5. Native retention settings using Vault

Google announced that from April 2021, new Google Sites will be supported by Google Vault. This means that admins can use Google Vault to set retention policies for Google Sites, perform searches of Google Sites data, and export Google Sites content. Similarly, if an organization uses Google Vault to hold Drive files, it will be applicable to Sites as well.

To learn in detail about Google Vault, Vault retention rules, holds, and license requirements, read our in-depth article on Google Vault Fundamentals.

The diagram below summarizes the basic capabilities of the two data retention features available with Google Vault.

sites vault

5.1. Retention rules

Google Workspace administrators can set two types of retention rules in Google Vault:
1.     Default retention rules
2.     Custom retention rules

To manage Site retention, you can set Sites-specific retention rules. By default, Site-retention rules are turned on. If you do not have any rules created for Sites, data will be retained or purged according to rules set in Google Drive. To know more about how to create rules for Google Drive, click here.

Default retention rules

Admins can apply a default retention rule when data of a particular service needs to be retained for a period of time or indefinitely. Default retention rules are applied to all licenses in the account, and cannot be customized according to users/org units/service.

How to create default retention rule for Sites?

  • Step 1: Sign in to Google Vault.

  • Step 2: Click ‘Retention’, and the select ‘Sites’.

step 1 default retention
  • Step 3: Under ‘Duration’, choose how long files need to be retained.

    a. To permanently retain files, select ‘Indefinitely’.
    b. To discard files after a set time, select ‘Retention Period’, plug in the number of days it needs to be retained, and the start of the reference period

step 3 default retention
  • Step 4: If a duration has been set, choose what to do with sites after the retention period ends:

    a. To purge only sites that users deleted, select ‘Purge only permanently deleted sites.’
    b. To purge all sites, choose the second option. This rule can purge both deleted sites and sites in Drive.

step 5 default retention

Step 5: Click ‘Save’.

Custom retention rules

Custom retention rules allow admins to customize retention rules according to specific org units or shared drives. For Google Sites, you can define the retention period by date created, last modified, and date of deletion of site.

How to create custom retention rules for Sites?

  • Step 1: Sign in to Google Vault.

  • Step 2: Click ‘Retention’, select ‘Custom Rules’, and then click ‘Create’.

  • Step 3: Select ‘Sites’ under Service, and then click Continue.

step 3 custom retention rule
  • Step 4: Under ‘Scope’, choose an entity, and click ‘Continue’.

    a. Select ‘Organizational unit’ to apply the rule to a specific organizational unit and choose the unit. If you want to apply the rule to shared drives that accounts in the selected organizational unit are members of, enable ‘Include results from shared drives’.
    b. Select ‘All shared drives’ to apply the rule to all shared drives in the organization.
    c. Select ‘Specific shared drive’ to apply the rule to a shared drive shared with a specific account and choose the corresponding account(s).

step 4 custom retention rule
  • Step 5: Under ‘Duration’, choose how long files need to be retained.

    a. To permanently retain files, select ‘Indefinitely’.
    b.  To discard files after a set time, select ‘Retention Period’, plug in the number of days it needs to be retained, and the start of the reference period.

step 5 custom retention rule
  • Step 6: If a duration has been set, choose what to do with sites after the retention period ends:

    a. To purge only sites that users deleted, select ‘Purge only permanently deleted sites.’
    b. To purge all sites, choose the second option. This rule can purge both deleted sites and sites in Drive.

  • Step 7: Click ‘Create’.

Retain Sites according to Drive rules

As mentioned above, Site retention rules are turned on by default. However, admins can choose to turn off Site retention rules and use the existing Drive rules instead to retain Sites data:
  • Step 1: Sign in to Google Vault.

  • Step 2: Click ‘Retention’ and navigate to the ‘Settings’ tab.

  • Step 3: Next to Sites, select ‘Retained by Sites rule’ or ‘Retained by Drive rule’.

  • Step 4: Click ‘Save’.

drive or sites default

What Google Sites data can be retained using Google Vault?

While most Google Sites data can be retained using Google Vault, there are a few exceptions:

Items within scope of retentionItems outside scope of retention
  • New sites
  • New site pages, text on site pages, uploaded images, and embedded code.
  • Classic sites
  • Sites shared from external organizations
  • Embedded files, hyperlinks, and other items that are not part of the site file.

5.2. eDiscovery holds to retain Sites data

Google Vault offers eDiscovery features to hold, search, and retrieve files stored in Google Drive. Since Sites data is primarily stored in Drive, holds created in Drive apply to Sites as well. There is no specific hold functionality for Sites.

To learn more about eDiscovery holds in Google Drive, check out this article.

6. Are Google Vault retention and eDiscovery ideal data backup solutions?

No.
Though Vault retention and eDiscovery can be used to retain data, they do not qualify as data backup solutions. Google Vault is a retention solution that is intended to preserve critical business data for legal and litigation purposes. Moreover, it does not include capabilities such as single-click restore, automated backup, cross-user email restore, data insights against phishing etc., that are essential in a cloud backup tool.
Here is a comprehensive list of reasons why Google Vault cannot be considered a backup solution:
  • User deletions: If a user is deleted from your Google Workspace account, all the associated Sites data also gets purged even if it was on hold or covered by a retention policy. This is because Google Vault does not make a second copy of the Sites data, it simply keeps it on hold to prevent deletions.

  • Absence of restore feature: Sites data that is retained through Google Vault can only be exported and not directly restored back into your account.

  • Google outages: Unexpected Google outages can result in data being inaccessible for hours. This can hugely impact business productivity.

  • Cyber threats: If your Google Sites data falls prey to cyber threats such as ransomware, the data retained and held in Google Vault also gets affected.

Third-party cloud backup solutions like SysCloud are a one stop solution to your data backup and restore problems.

In this article

  • Introduction
  • Why data retention?
  • Where is Google Sites data stored?
  • What happens when Google Sites data is deleted?
  • Native retention settings using Vault
  • Retention rules
  • eDiscovery holds to retain Sites data
  • Are Google Vault retention and eDiscovery ideal data backup solutions?
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