Why Google Vault is Not a Backup Option
what is google vault? how does google vault work

Updated on Jan 18th, 2021

What is Google Vault?

Google truly has an application for everything. Users subscribing to certain Google Workspace editions have access to an archival and eDiscovery tool, Google Vault. In this article, we examine what Google Vault is, its advantages, and its limitations.

Is Google Vault a Backup Solution?


Google Vault is a tool for archival and eDiscovery. It is intended to be an archive location to support eDiscovery. As an archival tool. Google Vault does an excellent job.

Google Vault allows users to retain, hold, search, and export sensitive data. All types of files can be stored within this archiving tool. Companies use Google Vault to store:

  • Email
  • Hangout Chats
  • Recorded Google Talk Chats
  • Files within Google Drive and Team Drives
  • Google Group Files

Google Vault allows authorized users to search for content within a particular document. These searches scan the entire content of each document looking for relevant content. When looking for data within the corporate Google Vault, there can be limits on searches including user name, keyword, date, or organizational unit. Google allows for Boolean and wild card searches to help you find the documents needed.

An archival tool should not be confused with a backup and recovery utility. Vault is not designed as a backup solution to recover lost or corrupted Google data. This is because Google Vault does not offer easy and unlimited point-in-time recovery, a must for backup tools.

What Are the Advantages of Google Vault? How does Google Vault work?

Google Vault is designed to support a company’s archiving needs as set forth by corporate policy and legal requirements. Additionally, Google Vault supports eDiscovery for litigation purposes.

Essentially, Google Vault’s intended use is for the following purposes:

  • Audit Trail: Helpful in determining the data that users have accessed and a trail of their activities done within the Vault.

  • Legal Holds: Vault holds data for an indefinite period to meet all legal, and any other obligations.

  • Archiving Requirements: Items remain in the Vault in accordance with retention rules established by the organization’s administrators.

Emails and documents within Google Vault can be exported to users. However, the process is cumbersome and not seamless. First, the data has to be compressed as a PST or Mbox file and then extracted. After which, using a third-party tool, the data has to be uploaded to the desired location or account. Not surprising, as the actual intent of the Vault’s export capabilities is not restoring data. Instead, its purpose is to review data and for use in legal disputes or auditing matters.

Google Vault stores all Google Drive and Team Drive files. In addition to storing these files, Vault allows users to preview files created with Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings. Administrators accessing the Drive Vault can also preview .docx, .pdf, and .xlsx files.

How do I Recover Data from Google Vault

 Below is a detailed walkthrough of how to recover data from Google Vault.:

  1. Create a “matter” – think of it as a Google Vault “workspace”
  2. Proceed to search for the data that you wish to recover.  Here are advanced search tips to query your Google Workspace data.
  3.  Check that the retrieved data is correct by previewing it.
  4. Choose to save your query to be able to quickly rerun the query later.
  5. Finally, export your results to recover the data from Google Vault. Note that you have only 15 days after the export starts to download the export files.

What Google Vault Backup Solution Does Not Do

#1 Google Vault is NOT Backup

Google itself bills Vault as a “data retention and eDiscovery for Google Workspace”. No mention of backup or recovery.

While Google Vault is an adequate archiving system, allowing companies to retain information for legal purposes, it is not intended to be a backup solution. Files within the Vault have limited export options and with the express purpose of review by the receiving party.

Google Vault is not designed to store files that are constantly changing ( a norm with the modern workplace). In fact, according to Google’s help file on Google Vault, once enacted, a hold on files or emails can take up to three hours before it takes effect. Once held, the Vault only retains the newest version of the document, other versions do not remain in the Vault. Additionally, once the hold expires, it can take up to 15 days before the records are removed.

#2 Google Vault does NOT st