In this article
  • What is Google Vault?
  • Use Cases for Google Vault
  • Who Needs Google Vault and Who Does Not?
  • Understanding the Difference between Backup and Archive
  • Why Shouldn’t You Use Google Vault as a Backup Solution?
  • Use Cases for Backup Solution
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Google Vault

What is Google Vault? How is it different from backup?

13 Aug 2021
10 min read
Athi Karthick
Blog Articles

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.

What is Google Vault?

It is an archiving solution specially designed for large businesses that need to search 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.

Use Cases for Google Vault

Google Vault lets you – assuming you’re a Google Workspace 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.

How to Retain Data using Google Vault?

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.

1. Google Vault Retention

How to Search for Data in Google Vault?

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, messages in chats and groups, and files in a user’s Drive.
Here is a simple example of searching for emails that contain the word “Confidential.”

2. Google Vault Search

Below are the search results.

3. Google Vault search result

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.

How to Export the Search Results from Google Vault?

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.

4. Google Vault download

NoteEmails 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.

Who Needs Google Vault and Who Does Not?

Small Businesses Don’t Need Google Vault

A small business, using a basic plan of Google Workspace, that does not have a lot of data to deal with would not require Google Vault’s advanced search functionality.
Also, Google Vault costs $5 a month per user in addition to the $5 per month per user for Google apps. Even after spending a large sum of money on each employee to store the data, they would still need a backup solution like SysCloud to view, restore, or recover the data.

Note: SysCloud provides basic search functionality that 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.

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.

  • Even though Google Vault restores data from Gmail, Drive, Groups, and Meet, restoring data from Google services like Calendar and Contacts is not possible. 

  • There is no second copy of your organizational data. This can become a problem during Google outages.

  • Google Vault does not retain sharing permissions and folder structure which makes it difficult for the users to organize their exported data from Google Vault.

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 them.

Archive: An archive is used for keeping your historical data aside in an organized way for future reference. This becomes helpful when you have to search for a specific piece of data, which is decades old.


Protects an organization’s data by continuously taking second copies and securing them.

  • Allows to recover and restore critical business data in case of unforeseen data loss

  • For example, backup solution platforms like SysCloud take a scheduled backup of all the Google Workspace apps and data is available for instant restore.


  • Contains historical data stored for investigation or legal purposes.

  • Archives are meant for data search and do not have an option to recover or restore data

  • For example, Google Vault is an archiving and eDiscovery tool that retains data for as long as necessary. It is not meant to recover data as a backup solution does.

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 Backup Solution

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

  • Back up your organizational data.

  • Restore/Export the backed up data.

This is what the application’s homepage looks like.

SysCloud dashboard
SysCloud dashboard

Viewing Your Backed-up Data

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

Backup status

SysCloud even makes viewing the backed up data of individual users easy and hassle-free.

Restoring Data Using SysCloud Backup Solution

Restore All Your Emails

Let’s assume one of your employee’s entire Gmail data was accidentally deleted.

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

Email restore

All your emails – inbox, sent items, trash, and custom labels – are restored to their original destination.
Data loss will no longer be a pain.

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

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 Google Workspace Business, Enterprise, and Education plans. A Google Workspace 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 back up anything; however, it can retain Google Drive files of active and suspended users. Click Here to know more about Google Vault and Backup

Q: Does Google Vault back up Calendar?

A: Google Vault does not back up anything. Google Vault archives Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, Chat, and Groups but not Calendar or Contact.

Q: How long is data kept in Google Vault?

A: The data can be stored in Google Vault based on different retention policies the organizations set for Vault. In case of accidental deletion, administrators can recover the data within 30 days for active users and within 20 days if the user is deleted.

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. Google Workspace 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. It can never replace a backup solution.

In this article
  • What is Google Vault?
  • Use Cases for Google Vault
  • Who Needs Google Vault and Who Does Not?
  • Understanding the Difference between Backup and Archive
  • Why Shouldn’t You Use Google Vault as a Backup Solution?
  • Use Cases for Backup Solution
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Google Vault