On February 20th the Office 365 team introduced a change to the email retention period for deleted items in Exchange Online. Now, the retention period for the Deleted Items folder has been extended indefinitely. I’m sure the Office 365 support teams come across irate customers on a daily basis that simply do not understand about the intended purpose of the Deleted Items folder and retention polices.
What does this change mean?
This change simply means that all those pesky emails that are deleted from your Office 365 mailbox will not disappear after 30 days if your mailbox is configured to use the default retention policy. By default, Exchange Online comes with a retention policy called “Default MRM Policy.” This retention policy is applied to all new Exchange Online mailboxes. Part of this default policy is the Deleted Items retention tag which is configured to delete any items in the Deleted folder that is older than 30 days.
No worries about compliance nightmares as you can quite easily change the retention period for the Deleted Items retention tag. If you already have a custom retention policy that is being applied to mailboxes then sit back and relax, as this change will not affect you.
Either way, with this new change any Exchange Online mailboxes that are using the Default MRM Policy will not have messages in their Deleted Items folder removed after 30 days. This change essentially instructs the system to, “ignore the 30 day delete tag on the Deleted Items folder if the retention policy’s name is Default MRM Policy.”
Don’t want unlimited storage?
As an administrator, we can change the retention period for Deleted Items to whatever we want. Microsoft recommends simply renaming the 'Default MRM Policy' if this change does not align with corporate policy. The Office 365 team has not removed our flexibility in relation to retention polices.
I have provided instructions on how to tackle this task here.
This change does mean that we need to understand the potential ramifications within our tenants. I see several potential issues.
First, each organization has their own set of business requirements governing items such as compliance, discovery, and a general culture of how email is consumed. Administrators need to make sure that this change remains in line with existing compliance rules and if not make the appropriate changes.
Secondly, the potential impact on the amount of new data that will be downloaded by Outlook clients needs to be examined. Outlook 2013 provides an easy mechanism to keep offline storage of mailbox data in check, but legacy versions do not.
One could make the casual assumption the cost of storage these days is simply much cheaper than the support costs of dealing with upset customers. After all, Microsoft positions Office 365 as a vital tool to increase the productivity of their customer base. With this move, I think they made many of their customers happy!
Justin A. Harris
Justin Harris is a Senior Solution Architect at Binary Tree. He is also a Microsoft MVP and a Microsoft Certified Master.