eDiscovery with Google Workspace Vault – Fundamentals and Benefits

If you stumbled upon this article, you are already using Google Workspace or planning to move soon. It is important to understand the various offerings of Google Workspace before taking the plunge. The eDiscovery capabilities are a very important feature of any cloud-based collaboration platform. Google also offers an eDiscovery solution with its Google Workspace offering, i.e., Google Vault. 

Since the pandemic, there has been more than a 30% boost in the adoption of Google Workspace. There’s more reason why every organization should switch to this awesome collaboration suite with many features. Remote work has fostered the culture of working collaboratively in the cloud, and Google Workspace has gained much more traction than before because of its tightly coupled services. 

Whether you are a big conglomerate or a small agency, every organization has its compliance policies to abide by in terms of data retention and eDiscovery for litigations. Retaining data helps a lot in investigations especially when the data has been deleted mistakenly. 

Ready to deep dive into the core concepts of Google Workspace Vault? Keep reading.

What is Google Vault?

Google Vault is an eDiscovery solution offered by Google Workspace. It lets you create matters, search within matters during investigations, and apply holds and retention policies as per the requirements. Vault also lets you export data in MBOX or PST formats. 

The services covered by Vault are Gmail, Chat, Groups, and Drive. It is possible to search for data within specific accounts or a group of accounts using suitable search operators.

Vault caters to the below primary needs:

Compliance Adherence: 

This is related to the preservation of data across the organization, owing to data protection guidelines, policies, and procedures defined by the organization. Every organization has data retention policies that align with its legal and compliance policies. 


This is the process of discovering the data stored and using them during legal investigations. 

Is Google Vault available for all?

At the moment, Google Vault is available on certain license types, i.e., Google Workspace for Education plus, Google Workspace Business plus, Google Workspace Enterprise.

For other license types, Google Vault can still be purchased as an add-on if required for the required number of users. 

Vault Privileges:

If you’re an admin and you need to delegate your legal team access to Google Vault, you need to understand the privileges available on Vault. By default, all Super Admins have access to Vault. 

The privileges in Vault are as below:

  1. View All Matters
  2. Manage Audits
  3. Manage Exports
  4. View Retention Policies
  5. Manage Retention policies
  6. Manage searches
  7. Manage Holds
  8. Manage Matters

Super Admins can create a role and assign the required privileges to any user in the organization to access and operate on Vault. Apart from super admins, only users with this privilege/role will be permitted to access Google Vault. 

What is a Matter in Google Vault:

Generally, during investigations, you might need to conduct multiple searches based on the requirement. In those cases, “Matter” acts as a workspace that holds the details of all custodians that are part of the investigation, saved queries, exports of data, etc. The matter also holds the audit log of Vault activity about that investigation. 

Matters can be shared with others so that they can collaborate too. 

What are Holds in Google Vault:

When an investigation is started, the user accounts in question should be put on “hold.” If a hold is applied, all data pertaining to the services put on hold are retained and available even though they might have been deleted from the user account. Until the Hold is removed, the data remains available as part of the investigation.

Ideally, the best practice is to put a single user or an Organizational unit on Google Workspace on hold whenever an investigation is started. 

What is the Retention Policy in Google Vault:

Organizations have policies or are sometimes obliged by the law to retain their data until a specific period. To abide by such policies, organizations can opt to define retention policies for organizations. 

Retention policies can be based on Organizational Units and on services(Gmail, Drive, Chat, Groups). If you create an indefinite retention policy, data from the services are not deleted. If you have a finite policy period, for example, 1 year, all employees subjected to retention will have their data deleted in 1 year. The data again depends on the service configured to retain it on Vault. 

Can Google Vault be used as a backup solution?

Google Vault is not a backup solution but only an eDiscovery tool. Due to its data retention capabilities, it is always mistaken as a backup solution. 

Keep reading to find out why it can’t be regarded as a backup solution:

  1. Vault does not cover all services like Calendar, Meet, Google Classroom, and Keep.
  2. There’s an export limitation of 10 GB from Vault. 
  3. Google Vault supports only PST or MBOX formats for extractions. 

If you are a small or mid-sized company with no data backup requirements, you can still use Vault. Google has excellent availability across the whole set of Workspace services, and you wouldn’t require a backup solution. 

Google Vault Coverage for services:

Google Vault for Drive:

With Google Vault for Drive, you can search Google MyDrive and Shared Drive for all users. Google also allows you to search within more than 10 file types. It allows you to search up to 5000 users at once, either individually or as part of an OU. 

Once the Google Drive search is completed, you can preview and download them. 

Google Vault for Gmail:

With Google Vault for Gmail, you can search and export Gmail data of users into MBOX or PST formats. All data exports are available for 15 days, after which it is auto-deleted. 

Vault is also available for Chats, Groups, and Google sites. 

If you have any concerns or doubts regarding the implementation of Google Vault for your organization, feel free to reach out to us here. Our team of experts would be happy to onboard you.