Data Protection Centre/Slack/How to Back up Slack data


In this article

  • How to back up Slack data?
  • Slack import and export tools
  • Slack retention policies
  • Legal holds
  • Third-party backup tools
  • Best way to back up Slack data

How to Back up Slack data

30 Mar 2022
5 min read

Slack is one of the most popular workspace and team messaging apps with over 12 million active daily users and 156,000 organizations subscribing to the app for workspace communication. With so many businesses relying on Slack, the risk of data loss is high, and it is important to make sure that your Slack data is backed up regularly. 

This article explores different ways in which users can back up their Slack data. 

Slack backup
Pro tip

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What happens when Slack data is deleted?

Slack does not have a native recycle bin. Therefore, whenever data is removed from a workspace, channel, or direct message, it gets deleted permanently. Even files shared in Slack are stored in the form of messages. So, if there is no retention policy or legal hold in place, files are also deleted permanently from Slack. 
Moreover, Slack does not archive or provide a way to recover deleted data, and hence, it is nearly impossible to recover your lost data.  

Why should you backup Slack?

  • Absence of native recycle bin: Slack does not have an in-built recycle bin which makes retaining and recovering deleted Slack data tricky for the IT administrators. If an employee accidentally deletes any critical information, it is permanently deleted. 

  • Storage limitation:  The Free, Pro, and Business+ plans of Slack include only a single workspace with very limited file storage for each user. Users will have to delete their older data or export them regularly to continue using the storage space. Even if the user does not miss any important data while exporting it manually to a local device, it cannot be restored back. Also, if an employee leaves an organization and happens to be the sole owner of a file, the file will be lost forever. 

  • Slack outages: SaaS outages are more common than you think. In January 2021, Slack suffered a massive outage during which users could not connect, messages could not be sent or received, and channel history could not be retrieved.  

  • Different feature set for Enterprise Grid: Slack offers only advanced data protection features for Enterprise Grid subscription users. Pro and Business+ users are always at risk of losing their workspace data. Also, other than Enterprise Grid users, Slack’s native retention can neither restore nor recover deleted messages. 

  • Restore limitations: Slack does not allow a granular restore of threads when importing Slack data that is not preserved by a retention policy.  

How to back up Slack data?

Here are the different ways in which you can backup Slack data: 
  • Using Slack import and export tools 

  • Backup Slack data using retention policies 

  • Backup Slack data using legal holds 

  • Backup Slack data using third-party backup tools 

1. Using Slack import and export tools

Slack has a native import and export tool that allows Slack users and admins to export their workspace to their local computers or third-party storage like S3 or Dropbox in JSON format.  
Depending on your subscription, the following are the options available for data export: 
Data to be exportedFreeProBusiness+Enterprise Grid

Messages and links to files from the public channels

Export data from public channels, private channels, and direct messages

Schedule recurring export of all data from all channels

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1.1. How to export Slack data?

Workspace owners and admins can export Slack from public channels. Slack’s export tools help customers comply with legal requirements and help Slack to be a safe and secure place to get work done. 

To learn more about data export in Slack and how to export Slack data, read this article

1.2. Limitations

  • Slack data export tool is not specifically designed for backup and restore. It is a legal and compliance tool.

  • Since it is completely a manual process, users can forget to export Slack data regularly.

  • If internet access is lost, the export progress is interrupted, and you will have to begin all over again!

2. Backup Slack data using retention policies

Retention policies in Slack retain data that is required to comply with the industry regulations and legal requirements. 
An admin can choose from the following options when setting message retention for conversations: 
  • Slack will keep all messages and track message edits and deletions.

  • Slack will keep all messages but will not track message edits or deletions.

  • Slack will keep messages for the customized time frame that the admin chooses.

By default, files (including audio and video clips) are stored for a lifetime in a workspace. When configuring your file retention settings, you can either choose to keep all your files indefinitely or choose to permanently delete the files after a set number of days.

2.1. How to create retention policies in Slack?

Workspace owners and Org owners can create retention policies that help Slack retain all messages and files for all legal and compliance purposes. Even though retention policies are not specifically designed for backup and restore, they can be used to take a backup of your Slack data. 

To learn more on how you can create retention policies in Slack, check out our in-depth article on Slack retention. 

2.2. Limitations

  • Retention policies are intended to preserve critical business data for litigation purposes. It does not qualify as a backup tool as data can only be exported to a local device and not restored to Slack workspace.

  • Slack’s native retention policy recover deleted or edited versions of the messages only for Enterprise Grid Discovery API users.

  • Unlike third-party backup tools, Slack’s native retention lacks automated recovery features. Users will have to download and export data manually.

3. Backup Slack data using legal holds

Legal holds are used to preserve information that might be required in the event of litigation. You must have an Enterprise Grid subscription to preserve your data using legal hold in Slack. A compliance system admin can place a legal hold on specific members to preserve their messages and files. When a hold is in place, messages and files sent by all members in a conversation will be saved regardless of the retention settings or if the content is edited or deleted.

3.1. How to create a legal hold to preserve Slack data?

  • Step 1: Login to Slack application using your compliance admin credentials.

  • Step 2: Click on your workspace name on the top left.

  • Step 3: From the drop-down menu, select settings and administration.

Slack workspace
  • Step 4: Click on organizational settings and select security from the left sidebar.

  • Step 5: Select legal holds and click on create hold.

Slack legal hold
  • Step 6: Create a hold by adding name, description, selecting which conversations to include and an optional date range.

Create legal hold
  • Step 7: To select the members to include in the hold, click on add custodians.

  • Step 8: Click on Save.

3.2. Limitations

  • Legal hold is not a backup solution for Slack. It is designed for litigation purposes only.

  • Legal hold does not protect channels from deletion. If a channel is deleted while the hold is pending, its message and file data are not saved.

  • Legal hold is only available for Enterprise Grid users which is a lot more expensive than Pro or Business+ subscriptions.

4. Backup Slack data using third-party backup tools

Since Slack’s native data retention features are not designed for the purpose of backup and restore, it is not wise to depend only on them for your data backup. Third-party backup tools like SysCloud are designed to offer a reliable backup solution for Slack data. With SysCloud, administrators can effortlessly back up and restore Slack channels, conversations, threads, and messages in addition to exporting all Slack data as .csv files and files in their original format. Admins can easily restore data from any point-in-time backup snapshots and restore deleted messages to a different channel.

4.1. Why should you backup your Slack data using SysCloud?

  • Automated Slack backups and automatically resolves API errors.

  • Export threads, channels, direct messages, or even the entire workspace in JSON format.

  • Restore threads in a channel, direct messages, and channels with a single click.

  • Search for content inside conversations, files, channels, and user groups using keywords, across all your workspaces.

5. Slack import/export tool vs. Retention tool vs. Legal hold vs. SysCloud backup application

FeaturesSlack import/export toolSlack retention policySlack legal holdSysCloud backup application
Backup capabilities
Back up by exporting the data- channel messages, link to files, direct messages
Retain data at a workspace level
Hold data at a workspace level
Multiple workspaces, public channels, private channels, direct messages, and files
Backup frequency
1x/day and on-demand backup
Backup retention period

Show more


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In this article

  • How to back up Slack data?
  • Slack import and export tools
  • Slack retention policies
  • Legal holds
  • Third-party backup tools
  • Best way to back up Slack data

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