How to Enable Retention Policies in SharePoint Online

How to Enable Retention Policies in SharePoint Online

While SharePoint is a much more organized document management system than a regular file server, it can still become cluttered with old documents. And, as we discussed previously, old documents can cause storage, security, and liability issues. So, this week, we’ll show you how to create a retention policy in Office 365 for SharePoint Online.

Plan Your SharePoint Online Retention Policy

When creating a retention policy, it’s important to make sure you understand how it will affect existing documents. A retention policy specifies that a document will be deleted a certain amount of time after it has been created or modified. When you apply a retention policy to a SharePoint site, it will apply to all documents -- even those that were created before the policy was applied. So if you set a retention policy of three years from the creation date, and apply it to a site that contains documents that are over three years old, these documents will be deleted.

You also have the option to choose whether to apply the retention policy based on the creation date or the last modified date. Setting the retention policy based on the modified date means that the timer will get reset each time someone updates the document -- even if it’s the day before it would have been deleted. But, using the created date means that even frequently-updated documents could get deleted sooner than expected. Once you choose one, it’s good to make sure that your users understand how the policy works and how it will affect their workflow

Third, you can decide how to apply various retention policies to your SharePoint sites and documents. Do certain documents need to be retained for longer -- or deleted sooner -- than others? Are users allowed to tag certain documents to opt out of the retention policy?

Once you’ve decided on these things, you’re ready to create your policy.

Creating a Retention Policy in SharePoint Online

First, log in to Office 365 with your global administrator account. Browse to the Security & Compliance Center, then select Data Management > Retention.

Under Delete, click Manage document deletion policies for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Then, click Deletion Policies and choose New Item. Enter a descriptive name for the deletion policy.

Next, you’ll create deletion rules to specify what documents are to be deleted when the retention period is up. Click New to create a new rule.

Give the rule a descriptive name, and then specify the options. Select whether to delete items permanently, or move them to the recycle bin first. Choose whether to delete items based on the creation date or the modified date, and then specify the retention period in days, months, or years. Since this is the first rule, keep “Set as default rule” checked. Click Save.

If you’d like to create other rules for this policy, go ahead and do so. These can be applied to sites selectively by you or other site owners.

Apply The Retention Policy to Site Collection Templates

Finally, to apply the retention policy to sites, you can apply it to the site collection templates in use in your organization. You also have the option to specify a retention policy as mandatory -- this is the most effective way to ensure that the policy is applied across your organization.

First, return to the SharePoint Document Deletion Policy Center, and choose Policy Assignments for Templates. Choose New Item, then choose a template to apply retention policies to. Click Save.

Then, choose Manage Assigned Policies, and select the policy you created earlier. Also, click the radio button to select it as the default policy. If you’d like to make the policy mandatory, choose “Mark policy as Mandatory”. Then, click Save.

Now, you have a working SharePoint Online retention policy for Office 365. Within 24 hours, the policy will take effect, removing old documents from your SharePoint libraries.


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