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Microsoft Loosens Reins on Deleted Office 365 E-Mails

In a policy change announced Friday, Microsoft is doing away with the 30-day e-mail retention limit within Office 365 and instead allowing organizations to retain deleted e-mails indefinitely.

By default, Office 365 gives organizations a 30-day window to recover deleted e-mails, after which the e-mails become unrecoverable. The new policy, which will arrive as an update for Office 365 subscribers "over the next month," will eliminate this automatic removal aspect. Deleted e-mails always will be recoverable, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft will write over the current default Messaging Records Management (MRM) policy for Office 365 account holders to reflect the new policy. Organizations retaining a "Default MRM Policy" setting will get the new policy change. However, if an organization doesn't want it, they can rename the setting and create a custom policy, specifying the e-mail retention time period that's wanted from a drop-down list. Modifications to the Default MRM Policy can be performed by using the Exchange Admin Console or PowerShell.

Microsoft describes the shell path to modify the policy setting as follows: "Office 365 Admin > Exchange admin center > compliance management > retention policies." IT pros can then access the Default MRM Policy and modify it.

If an organization already has a custom MRM policy, the change Microsoft plans to push down in a month won't affect it, as long as it has been renamed from the "Default MRM Policy" name, according to Microsoft.

The policy change will only affect the "Deleted Items" folder. It won't affect the "Recoverable Items" folder, Microsoft's announcement clarified. Both primary and archive mailboxes will be affected by the new policy change. The "Litigation Hold" and "In-Place Hold" spaces won't be affected.

Microsoft's announcement didn't explain why the policy change was being made. However, Microsoft MVP Tony Redmond said in a Windows IT Pro article that deleted e-mails that pass beyond the 30-day retention period currently become unrecoverable in Office 365 under the current policy, and possibly that circumstance may have led to some customer complaints.

If an end user takes the effort to empty the Deleted Items folder, though, those items will still be unrecoverable, Redmond clarified.

Redmond noted some scenarios where organizations may want to alter the Default MRM Policy to avoid Microsoft's new policy change. Some organizations may find the permanent retention of deleted e-mails to be problematic from a compliance perspective. Possibly, offline storage .OST performance could be affected if deleted e-mails pile up, he suggested, especially when using older Outlook clients.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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