Is Google Vault a Backup Solution?

Despite common thought, Google Vault is not a backup solution.

If you are an IT administrator planning to use Google Vault as a business backup tool, you will probably regret your decision in the long run.

So, what actually is Google Vault?

It is an archiving solution specially designed for large businesses that need to search for data for litigations and regulatory compliance.

You are not alone if you think an archiving solution is the same as a backup solution.

Data backup and archives are often perceived to be analogous. In reality, both of them serve different purposes.

Understanding the Difference between Backup and Archive

Backup: A backup solution is meant to protect the data that’s currently in use at an organization, by continuously taking second copies and securing it. This will allow you to recover critical business data in case of an unforeseen data loss.

For instance, SysCloud’s backup solution takes a scheduled backup of G Suite data that includes data residing in Gmail, Drive, Contacts, Calendars, and sites. Whenever needed, SysCloud allows you to instantly restore the data.

Archive: An archive is used for keeping your historical data aside in an organized way for future reference. Generally, the Archive includes data that are not being used. This becomes helpful when you have to search for a specific piece of data, which is decades old.

Google Vault is an archiving and an eDiscovery tool that retains data for as long as necessary. Its goal is not to restore data quickly but to retain business-critical data in an organized way so that searching for a specific item becomes easier when there is a need for it in the future.

Still confused?

Let’s look at all the possible differences between backup and Google Vault:

Backup Google Vault
Use – Data security & restore in events like data loss Use – data integrity & discovery for compliance or legal procedure
A secure second copy of data is created as a backup The original data is retained as an archive
The original data is not affected The original files are generally moved to a long-term storage location
Ideally includes active and current data Typically includes historical data that are not active
Companies backup what is currently important for them Companies archive what is not currently important for them
Data can be restored back to its original location Data can only be exported and not restored
Specific email search is limited to a date range, subject, from, to, cc, bcc, and label Includes advanced search options like searching in the email body and attachment text
Data is stored for a short time depending on the operational importance Data is preserved for a long time
Stored data is frequently updated – daily or multiple times a day Google Vault archives data based on the retention policies and holds
Quick restoration of the stored data is crucial No real sense of urgency in accessing the stored data
Low risk: Even if the backup crashes, the original data is not affected High risk: If the archive is lost, the original data itself is lost
Highly useful for restoring data in bulk or as individual data The search results can only be exported in bulk, not as individual data
Backup saves time and money in the event of accidental or malicious deletions Archive saves time and money in the event of audit and litigation
Backup solutions are necessary for any company that generates data Google Vault is only necessary for regulated industries like healthcare or legal
Price: SysCloud backup: $48 per user/year Price: $300 per user/year if your business uses G Suite enterprise plan
Checklist for choosing a backup solution:

  1. High media capacity
  2. High performance read/write streaming
  3. Low storage cost/GB
Checklist for choosing an archiving solution:

  1. Data authenticity
  2. Extended media longevity
  3. High-performance random read access
  4. Low total cost of ownership

Note: Cloud data archiving products may use different approaches to archiving data in comparison to traditional archiving solutions.

As you can see, it is not wise to ditch backup and rely only on archiving solutions such as Google Vault. Businesses should use them together to have an effective data protection and retention process in place.

Use Cases for Google Vault

Google Vault lets you – assuming you’re a G Suite Admin – do three major things:

  1. Retain organizational data for as long as necessary,
  2. Search for some specific data in case of inquiries, and
  3. Export the search results for further review.

Retaining Data

Let’s say a disgruntled employee deletes critical data from Google Drive and then removes them from the trash.

You don’t have to worry about the employee’s actions if you have Google Vault in place.

With Google Vault, you can retain the company’s data across Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, and Groups for as long as necessary, even if an employee permanently deletes any data.

Yes, you read that right!

All of the data that any employee created, modified and deleted – even from the trash – will be available once you set a retention rule using Google Vault.

Here is an example of a retention rule for Google Vault to retain the deleted emails of all the employees for 1 year and the Drive files of all the employees indefinitely.

Retention rule for Google Vault

Searching for Data

In the case of legal inquiries and requests for records, Google Vault could save you a lot of time with its advanced search module.

Google Vault allows you to search for Gmail messages, conversations in Hangouts, and files in a user’s Drive.

Here is a simple example of searching for emails which contain the word “Confidential.”

Searching Email in Google Vault
Below are the search results.

Email search result in Google Vault
Note: Advanced search option includes searching within account(s), emails sent on a specific date range, and searching for emails with attachments, to name a few.

Similarly, you can search in Drive, Hangout conversations, and Google Groups.

Exporting the Search Results

Let’s assume that you have to download the search results to be sent to your legal team or your CEO for further review.

Google Vault lets you download the retained data you searched for.

The screenshot below demonstrates how you can download the search results.

Exporting search result in Google Vault

Note: Emails will be downloaded in either PST format or MBOX format. You will need an email client like Outlook to view them.

To know about creating holds and matters, setting retention rules, and generating reports in Google Vault, check out Google Vault: The Ultimate Guide for IT Administrators 2019.

Use Cases for Backup Solution

A backup solution like SysCloud lets you do two major things:

  • Back up your organizational data.
  • Restore/Export the backed up data.

Note: You can do both backup and restore in a total of 6 clicks.

This is what the application’s homepage looks like.


Viewing Your Backed-up Data

With SysCloud, you can monitor data backup progress for all users.

View backed up data in SysCloud
SysCloud also allows you to drill down further and view the backed up data of individual users.

Backed up data of individual users in SysCloud

Restoring Data Using SysCloud Backup Solution

Restore All Your Emails

Let’s assume one of your employee’s entire Gmail data is accidentally deleted by the administrator.

Here is how you restore your entire email account with SysCloud.

Restoring emails with SysCloud

All your emails – inbox, sent items, trash, and custom labels – are restored to their original destination.

Data loss will no longer be a pain.

Restore a Specific File

Let’s assume that you have lost an important file from your Google Drive.

So how do you restore the specific file that you lost without restoring all the contents in the Drive?

That’s super easy.

You can navigate to your backed up files, search for the lost file, and restore only the selected item – ‘Address Draw check’ in the example given below.

Restore a specific file with SysCloud
Similarly, you can also restore a single data element or the entire service such as Calendar, Contacts, or Sites.

To know more about Backup, Check out our in-depth article on Gmail Backup and Google Drive Backup.

Why Shouldn’t You Use Google Vault as a Backup Solution?

Google Vault is an archiving and eDiscovery tool. It is not a backup solution.

Below is the list of issues that an organization would face if they use Google Vault as a backup solution:

  • Without a built-in restore feature, organizations will have a hard time restoring data in the event of a data loss.
  • Google Vault does not retain data of deleted accounts; however, Google Vault retains (not backs up) the data of suspended users. Be aware that you will be billed for suspended users as active users.
  • Restoring data from Google services like Calendar and Contacts is not possible; Google Vault covers only Gmail and Drive.
  • There is no second copy of your organizational data. This can become a disaster during Google outages.

Who Needs Google Vault and Who Does Not?

Small Businesses Don’t Need Google Vault

A small business using the basic plan of G Suite would not require Google Vault’s advanced search functionality because of their limited data. They would still need a backup solution like SysCloud.

Note: SysCloud provides a basic search functionality which will address the eDiscovery needs of a small business.

Large Organizations Need Google Vault and a Backup Solution

Google Vault will make it easy for large organizations to conduct eDiscovery; however, they can’t rely only on Google Vault for their complete data protection.

To recover from data losses quickly, organizations will need a backup solution like SysCloud.

Large enterprises will need both Google Vault and a backup solution.

Frequently Asked Questions about Google Vault

Q: Is Google Vault a backup?

A: No. It is an archiving and eDiscovery solution.

Q:  How much does Google Vault cost?

A: Google Vault comes as an add-on for G Suite Business, Enterprise, and Education plans. A G Suite Business plan costs $10 per user/per month, whereas the Enterprise plan costs $25 per user/per month. The Education plan is free.

Businesses subscribing to the Basic plan can purchase Google Vault licenses at $5 per user/per month.

Q: Does Google Vault backup Google Drive?

A: No. Google Vault does not backup anything; however, it can retain Google Drive files of active and suspended users.

Q: Does Google Vault backup Calendar?

A: No. Google Vault covers only Gmail and Drive. Google Vault does not cover Google services like Calendar, Contacts, Sites, etc.

Q: Can I back up user data to Google Vault before deleting a user?

A: No. Once an admin deletes a user, Google removes all the data associated with that user.

Q: Does Google Vault archive the data of former employees?

A: It depends. Google Vault archives the data of suspended users and not deleted users. G Suite admins can suspend the user, but suspended users will be billed as active users.

Q: Is Google Vault a backup solution if set for a long period?

A: Google Vault is an archiving solution used to retain historical data for a long period. But, it can never replace a backup solution.