Google Vault: 6 Best Practices for Admins

By Harsh Vardhan
google vault

What is Google Vault? Well, it is a pretty important G Suite feature. You can use it to search your entire G Suite account for relevant data. And the search isn’t limited just to your account. With Google Vault, you can also search inside the G Suite accounts you created for your employees.

Quick note before we dive in: Google Vault can only search inside your employees’ G Suite accounts - not their personal Gmail accounts. 

Now that you know a bit about Google Vault, you might be wondering what’s the purpose of such a tool? 

Well, some people confuse it as a recovery tool. That’s because Google Vault also lets you scan for - and recover deleted data. But that’s not its main purpose. 

The main purpose of the Google Vault is to help you get important data and information related to your company/business. This data can then be used to settle important company matters and for any legal purposes.

That’s why, it is important you should know how to use the tool. Not only that, it is also important you know the best practices to follow when using this tool.

How does Google Vault Work?

Image result for google vault

Before we move on to discussing the best practices of using Google Vault, let’s take a look at what you can do inside this tool.

At its core, Google Vault has five basic capabilities:

Retain: You can choose for how long certain types of data can remain in your G Suite account. This will allow you to safely keep all the data in your and your employees G Suite account until the time period for retention passes, after which the data can be removed.   

Hold: If you want, you can put a ‘legal hold’ on specific data to prevent it from getting deleted, either by yourself or by users in your G Suite account. 

Search: You can search across Google Apps within G Suite for all your accounts inside it to find the exact message, document or chat you need for a legal case or to settle a company matter.

Export: Once you find the data you were looking for, you can easily export it as a usable file and submit it to your lawyers - or other relevant individuals for further processing. 

Audit: The audit reports gives you the exact trace of every activity a user in your G Suite account took. This can be useful if you need to give evidence or proof in a case or lawsuit - or other legal matters. 

These are the five main things you can accomplish with Google Vault.

But knowing this isn’t enough. 

You also need to be aware of what kinds of data you can retain, hold, search and export using Google Vault. 

That being said, here is the complete list of apps whose data Google Vault can manage:

  • Gmail: Google Vault can help you discover and manage emails and drafts you and other users in your G Suite account wrote. 
  • Google Drive: Any files stored by you or other users in your G Suite account can be managed using Google Vault. 
  • Google Hangouts: Any recordings that happen in Google Hangouts.  
  • Google Chat: All of yours - and other G Suite users' chats, provided that chat history is turned on.
  • Google Groups: All activity and conversation that happened in your G Suite’s Google Groups app.

Now that you know what kind of data Google Vault can get for you (and from where), it is time we dig deeper and show you the best ways to take advantage of the powerful Google Vault app. 

The Best Practices for using Google Vault

 

Image result for google vaultIn this section, we’ll show you how to actually use Google Vault to your advantage.

Let’s dive right in. 

1. Create Custom Roles for Google Vault

If you operate a big company and don’t have the time to use and manage Google Vault yourself, you can let somebody else manage Google Vault for you. 

All you have to do is — create a custom administrator role that gives another user the ability to use Google Vault. 

But do remember that Google Vault is a very sensitive tool that essentially lets you control your data. That’s why we recommend you don’t assign one person with all of Google Vault’s functionality. 

Instead, you can create a custom with selected ‘privileges’. 

For example, you can create a custom administrator role and give them the privilege to see and manage only the audit reports in Google Vaults. This means the user with that administrator role won’t be able to use other functionalities of the Google Vault, such as retain, hold and export data. 

For that purpose, you can create one or two other administrator roles and assign these features as ‘privileges’ in them.

By doing so, you stop giving one user complete control of Google Vault, yet be able to effectively delegate sensitive data management tasks to your employees/team members. 

2. Make sure you follow your country’s data management policies

Today, across the world, laws have been created to give individuals solid control over their data. This means your employees might have legal rights over their data which you may have to fulfill. 

That’s why, before you set a data retention timeframe, or put data on hold, or hand over your employee’s G Suite data to a third party using Google Vault, you should first consult a lawyer whether your way of managing employee data is within the confines of the law. 

Proceeding without caution may hit you with a lawsuit, which can seriously take over your time and resources, plus tarnish the image of your company.  

3. Use Advanced Search Filters to make it easier to find the right data

What if you don’t know exactly what kind of data you need? Or even if you do know, what if you don’t know where to find it?

Well, not to worry. Because Google Vault includes powerful filters you can use to quickly find the right information, no matter how much data you have - and how many users in your G Suite account. 

Some filters you can use to narrow down your search results are:

Data Type: Do you know what kind of data you are looking for? Is it a file inside Google Drive? A conversation within Google Chats? A sensitive email in one of your G Suite user’s Gmail accounts? If you know where the data is that you are looking for, choose the app using the Google Vault search filter. This will quickly bring up the appropriate data you’re looking for. 

Data Source: You can choose what kind of data Google Vault searches from. You can search from all data within your G Suite environment, or from data that you have put on hold, or even the latest data created very recently that Google is yet to process. 

Accounts: Are you looking for data that might reside in any of your employees G Suite accounts? Or are you looking for data inside a specific user’s account instead? Or maybe you want to search for data related to a team within your company such as accounts or sales? No matter the case, Google Vault lets you filter your results by all accounts, specific accounts, or organizational unit. 

Sent Data: If you're looking for data within a specific period of time, Google Vault can bring up results within the date range you select. This will help you quickly acquire time-sensitive data and information. 

Search Terms: If you are looking for a file, email or chat which includes a specific word, sentence or phrase, Google Vault can filter data based on that search term easily.

By narrowing down search results this way, you can quickly acquire the information you’re looking for and hand it over for processing to the relevant people or organization. 

4. Turn on Comprehensive Mail Storage

In G Suite, you and other users you’ve created won’t just be sending emails to each other. They will also be sending and receiving emails from non-Gmail accounts. 

These can be critical emails.

For example, a customer support agent in your company might be using their G suite email to talk with a customer with an outlook email. A sales agent might be exchanging emails with a very important prospect who is not on Gmail. Your hosting provider might send a warning email to your IT department from a non-Gmail address. 

As such, you want these emails to be safely stored as well.

To do that, you can turn on ‘Comprehensive Mail Storage’. To learn more about how you can turn this on, click here for step-by-step instructions.

Once you turn this setting on, every copy of emails sent to (and received from) non-Gmail accounts will be stored in the related user’s Gmail account. This will allow Google Vault to search, retain, hold and export these emails as well. 

5. Put Important Data On Hold So It Never Gets Deleted

There may come a time when you need to put certain types of data on hold in your G Suite account. 

This is beneficial because it prevents data from being deleted by users in your G Suite account and administrators including you. In fact, the data you put on hold cannot be deleted by Google Vault itself, even after the ‘retention’ period has passed. 

Like we discussed above, you can use the advanced search filters to find the right kind of data quickly to prevent a rogue employee, administrator or Google Vault itself from deleting the data you need. 

To put data on hold, simply create a ‘matter’ in Google Vault and then follow the on-screen instructions to find and hold the data you need. 

6. Narrow Your Search Results Even Further With Search Operators

Search operators give you the superpower you didn’t know you needed. They let you filter search results even more granularly than with advanced filters. You can use them in the ‘terms’ field in Google Vault to expand or narrow down your search results. 

Here are a few examples of operators you can use in Google Vault:

Boolean Operators: Google Vault supports boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT. For example, suppose you want to search the accounts of two users only. In this case, you can type in ‘from:username1 AND from:username 3 NOT to:username2’. This will bring up search results which include emails from username1 and username3 sent to everyone except username2. 

Gmail Operators: Google Vault supports operators that help you search Gmail accounts in a more refined manner. Examples of some Gmail operators are from:, cc:, to:, in:. For example, ‘from:username1’ will bring up a list of emails from that user; ‘in:draft’ will bring up all emails in stored in the draft section; and ‘cc:username3’ will bring up all emails in which username3 is cc’d. 

Drive Operators: Drive operators let you easily search for files. Some examples of drive operators are owner:, type:, after:. For example, you can use the ‘owner:username1’ to find files created by specific people, the ‘type:spreadsheet’ to find specific file formats and the ‘after:2019-10-20’ to find files created after a specific date.

Hangouts Chat Operators: Hangout Chat operators can be used to narrow down and quickly find specific conversations. It includes operators like ‘at:username1@mycompany.com’ in which the ‘at:’ operator is used to find those conversations which mention a particular user. Another example is the ‘has:video’ operator in which the ‘has:’ operator can be used to find those conversations which include a specific file. 

These four operators can help you tremendously to narrow down your search results and find the exact data you want. 

Of course, the operators we’ve mentioned are by no means the complete list. To see all the operators you can use, click here.  

7. Always save your search queries

If you find yourself searching for similar types of data in Google Vault, you can save that search query to save yourself time typing it again and again.

To do that, simply type in a search query complete with search operators and advanced filters. Once the results show up, click on ‘Save Query’ to name the search query and save it. 

The next time you open Google Vault to search for data, you’ll find the search query listed and you only have to click on it to bring up the results. 

Buying Google Vault In The G Suite Basic Plan 

If you’re using G Suite’s Basic plan, you won’t be able to access or use Google Vault. Only the business and enterprise G Suite plans get Google Vault for free. 

To use Google Vault in G Suite basic plan, you’ll have to pony up an additional $5/month for each user whom you want to give the ability to use Google Vault. 

To buy Google Vault, sign in to your admin console and go to Apps → G Suite → Add Services (located on the top-right corner). Scroll down until you find Google Vault and click on ‘Add it Now’ to purchase Google Vault.

We hope you find this G Suite feature useful. And even if you think you don’t need it, you can bet you’ll need it in the future sometime! 

More G Suite resources you might find useful

G Suite Security: The essential checklist for Admins
Become a G Suite productivity expert with these hacks

About the author

Harsh is the content lead at Hiver. He's jocular, loves dogs, and is always up for a road trip. He also reads sometimes.

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