Data Protection Centre/Slack/An Admin’s Guide to Slack Data Retention Policy

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In this article

  • Introduction
  • Slack native retention policy
  • Legal hold
  • Limitations of native retention options
  • Third-party cloud backup solutions

An Admin’s Guide to Slack Data Retention Policy

30 Mar 2022
10 min read

1. Introduction

Slack is one of the most popular workspace and team messaging applications. A recent survey shows that Slack has over 12 million daily active users and 750,000 organizations subscribed to the application for active, day-to-day business communication. Widespread use of Slack also means there is an increased risk of data loss due to human errors or cyber threats. The absence of recycle bin in Slack makes it tricky for the IT administrators to retain Slack data.  

In this article, we discuss how IT admins can use retention policies in Slack to safeguard business data and avoid data loss! 

Slack retention flowchart

2. Retain Slack data using a retention policy

Retention policies in Slack retain data that is required to comply with the industry regulations and legal requirements. 
By default, Slack retains all messages and files, including videos and audio clips, indefinitely. While configuring retention policies in Slack, workspace and org owners can choose to keep all the messages for a lifetime or delete messages and files after a set amount of time. 

2.1. Available editions

Slack’s retention policy is available in all paid plans of Slack- Pro, Business+, and Enterprise Grid.

2.2. Message retention in Slack

Workspace and org owners can choose from the following options when setting message retention in Slack:
  • Slack will keep all messages including its edits and deletions.

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

  • Slack will delete messages and revisions after the customized period that the admin chooses.

Note: Retention does not apply to messages in deleted Channels. If a channel is deleted, messages and its revisions will be permanently deleted regardless of your workplace settings.

2.2.1. How to set retention policy for messages in Slack?

For Pro and Business+ subscriptions

  • Step 1: From your Slack homepage, click on your workspace name on the top left.

  • Step 2: Select Settings and Administration → Workspace settings. 

Slack workspace
  • Step 3: Click on the Expand button next to Message Retention and Deletion.

  • Step 4: Select your preferred retention settings from the drop-down menu.

Message retention- pro and bsuiness+
  • Step 5: Click on Save.

  • Step 6: Check the box next to Yes, apply these new settings. Click on Confirm Settings.

Confirm retention settings

For Enterprise Grid subscription

a) Set org-level message retention settings

Org owners can set a message retention policy that will apply to all workspaces in your org by contacting the Slack support team. When the policy is set, the primary org owner gets notified of the changes in the retention settings, and he can approve to apply the same. With an org-level retention policy in place, workspace owners will not have the option to adjust the retention settings at a workspace level. 
Admins can review the org-level message retention settings by following the steps below: 
  • Step 1: From your Slack homepage, click on your workspace name on the top left.

  • Step 2: Select Settings and Administration → Organization Settings.

Enterprise workspace
  • Step 3: Select Messages and Files from the Settings bar on the left.

message retention policies
  • Step 4: Review your policies below Message retention policies.

    b) Set workspace level message retention settings

    If there are no retention settings at an org level, workspace owners can set message retention settings for their workspace(s). Follow the steps below to set workspace-level message retention settings:
    • Step 1: From your Slack homepage, click on your workspace name on the top left.

    • Step 2: Select Settings and Administration → Workspace settings. 

    enterprise workspace
    • Step 3: Click on the Expand button next to Message Retention and Deletion.

    • Step 4: Select your preferred retention settings from the drop-down menu.

    message retention policies
    • Step 5: Click on Save.

    • Step 6: Check the box next to Yes, apply these new settings. Click on Confirm Settings.

    confirm retention settings

    Note: 1. Slack Connect allows you to work with people outside your company in channels and direct messages. In channels shared with the other organizations, the retention settings set by an organization will only be applied to the messages sent by its members.  

    2. Workspace and org owners can apply to access a self-service export tool that allows them to export all kinds of Slack data. In addition to exporting private and public channel conversations, direct messages, and files, the owners can choose to delete messages but keep them accessible in the exports. 

    To check out our in-depth article on Slack export, click here. 

    c) Conversation-specific retention settings

    Workspace and org owners can allow admins and workspace members to override retention settings and edit message retention for individual conversations. Admin overrides allow the admins on the Business+ and Enterprise Grid subscriptions to edit message retention for channels. Member overrides allow the members on all subscriptions to edit message retention for direct message and private channel conversations.

    conversation specific

    Note: For Enterprise Grid, org owners will have to contact the Slack support team to set message override policies for every workspace in the org. If an org-level retention policy is in place, workspace owners will not be able to adjust message retention settings for their workspace(s).

    2.2.2. How retention works for messages in Slack

    The retention policy in Slack either keeps all the messages indefinitely or deletes the messages and their revisions after a set amount of time. Even if the storage limit exceeds, new messages can still be sent and received but the older conversations will be hidden. The user can still access the older conversations through the export tool. 
    As the retention policy in Slack is applied to the messages and files, it does not prevent channels from being deleted. If a channel is deleted, the messages and files shared in the channel will also be deleted permanently regardless of the retention policy settings. 

    2.3. File Retention in Slack

    Workspace and org owners can choose to configure retention policies for their files in Slack from the following options:
    • Keep all files indefinitely: Slack will keep all the files, including deleted files, for the lifetime of a workspace. The deleted files will be available via the exports for all conversations and Discovery API.

    • Keep all files for a set number of days: Slack will permanently delete files, including the files shared from a third-party app, after the number of days the workspace/ org owners choose. The files deleted will still be available via exports for all conversations and Discovery API.

    2.3.1. How to set retention policy for files in Slack?

    For Pro and Business+ subscriptions

    • Step 1: From your Slack homepage, click on your workspace name on the top left.

    • Step 2: Select Settings and Administration → Workspace settings. 

    slack workspace
    • Step 3: Click on the Expand button next to File Retention and Deletion.

    • Step 4: Select your preferred retention settings from the drop-down menu.

    file retention
    • Step 5: Click on Save.

    For Enterprise Grid subscription 

    Org owners can set a message retention policy that will apply to all workspaces in your org by contacting the Slack support team. When the policy is set, Slackbot notifies the primary org owner of the changes in the retention settings, and he can approve to apply the same. 
    Admins can review the org-level file retention settings by following the steps below: 
    • Step 1: From your Slack homepage, click on your workspace name on the top left.

    • Step 2: Select Settings and Administration → Organization Settings.

    slack workspace
    • Step 3: Select Messages and Files from the Settings bar on the left.

    • Step 4: Review your policies below File retention policies.

    file retention

    Note: Currently, workspace owners cannot set file retention settings at the workspace level or for specific conversations.

    3. Retain Slack data using legal hold

    Legal holds are useful to preserve information that might be required for litigation purposes. With a hold in place, messages and files sent by all members in a conversation will be saved regardless of the retention settings. Data subject to legal hold can be accessed from export or using Discovery API. 

    3.1. Available editions and user permissions

    In an Enterprise Grid subscription, any compliance system admin can place the legal hold on specific members to preserve their messages and files in Slack.

    3.2. 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.

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

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

    • Step 8: Click on Save.

    4. Limitations of native Slack data retention options

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

    • Both retention policy and legal hold do not protect a channel from deletion. If a channel preserved under a retention policy or legal hold is deleted, its message and file data are not saved.

    • Legal hold doesn’t permit targeted preservation. Since Slack’s legal hold function applies to people, not channels or any other Slack data, the focus is not on relevant channels or conversations. Instead, it preserves any conversation that the user has been part of which might not be relevant or essential.

    • Retention policy cannot be set based on the file type nor can it be applied to individual conversations. 

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

    • Legal hold is available only in the Enterprise Grid plan which is lot more expensive than the Pro or Business+ subscriptions.

    5. Retain Slack data using third-party backup applications

    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.

    To learn more about SysCloud’s backup for Slack, click here. 

    5.1. Why should you use SysCloud to back up Slack data?

    • Automated Slack backups and automatically resolves API errors.

    • Export threads, channels, direct messages, or even the entire workspace in JSON format. (Not available in the beta version)

    • 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.

    5.2. SysCloud backup for Slack data

    Using SysCloud, admins can back up their Slack workspaces whenever required or enable auto-backup feature to automatically back up your Slack data.

    workspace backup

    5.2.1. Channel backup

    SysCloud backs up every conversation thread of all Slack public channels. Due to API limitation, SysCloud backs up private channels of admins only. Admins can restore an entire channel or specific conversation threads whenever needed from the SysCloud backup application. 

    channel backup

    5.2.2. Files backup

    Files backed up by SysCloud can be found in the Workspace Files tab within the SysCloud application. Admins can restore both files (from the Workspace files tab) and conversations in which files are included (from the Channels/Direct messages tab) from the application.

    files backup

    5.2.3. SysCloud vs. Slack native retention

    FeatuesSysCloudNative retention settings
    Retention

    Restore edited messages

    Only using Discovery API
    Restore private channel messages

    Admin only

    Show More

     

    Read our in-depth article to learn more about how SysCloud addresses the retention and restoration gaps in Slack. 

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    In this article

    • Introduction
    • Slack native retention policy
    • Legal hold
    • Limitations of native retention options
    • Third-party cloud backup solutions

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