One of our favorite things about Office 365 is the ability to move between licenses and add and delete licenses as needed. But when an employee leaves, you shouldn’t delete their license – at least not immediately. When you delete an Office 365 license, you lose all the data associated with it, including email and OneDrive for Business files, after 30 days.
It’s likely you’ll need to get into their files or emails later for some reason, especially if the employee was customer facing. If you work in a regulated industry, it’s possible you need to keep their files for a set period for compliance reasons. If that employee becomes the subject of a lawsuit and you don’t have their files, you could be in for a major headache (or worse).
You have a few options for what to do instead.
Keep the licenses as is
One option is to keep the users license as is and change the password so the employee can no longer access the it. In most cases, this isn’t an ideal solution since you’re still paying for a license that isn’t being used, but it requires very little effort. This is usually best for short term scenarios.
Turn their email into a Shared Mailbox + Migrate their files
The most common solution, and what we recommend in most cases, is to turn the email into a shared mailbox. It gives you access to the user’s email after the 30 days are over and if it’s under 50 GB, you won’t need an assigned license for this.
Once it’s converted over to a shared mailbox, you can add other users to the mailbox so they can access the emails as needed. It’s best to add only essential people to this, since it’s still a working mailbox. Emails can still come in, be replied to (and appear from that contact) and information can still be deleted.
Please note, turning their email into a shared mailbox only saves their emails. To keep their OneDrive for Business files (or files they saved somewhere else), you’ll need to save those somewhere else. We typically recommend migrating their OneDrive for Business files to another license you’re still using (either their replacement or their supervisor tends to work best).
In-place Hold or Litigation Hold
If you have compliance needs requiring you to save files or if the employee is involved (or may become involved) in a lawsuit, you’ll need to move their mailbox to an In-Place Hold or a Litigation Hold. Both In-Place Hold and Litigation Hold put a hold on the user’s mailbox so nothing can be altered or deleted (whether on purpose or inadvertently).
A Litigation Hold puts all mailbox items on hold, including deleted items and original versions of modified items.
An In-Place Hold has a few more options. You can use it to save only items that fit a certain search criteria (keywords, sender and receiver, specific dates, etc). Multiple search criteria can be set.
In-Place Holds and Litigation Holds are not available for every Office 365 plan, so you may need to change that user’s license before putting one (or both) in place. But the cost of this license is going to be worth the headaches saved if you lose the files while dealing with a lawsuit.
In-Place Holds and Litigation Holds in Office 365 only preserve mailbox items. If you need to also preserve SharePoint and OneDrive for Business files, you can use the eDiscovery Center is SharePoint Online. If you need to save ALL content in Office 365, your Office 365 admin can set up preservation policies in the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center.
In an ideal world, all employee departures would be on great terms, with all their projects and files passed off quickly and efficiently. There would be no questions after they left and certainly no need for litigation holds. But unfortunately, we live in the real world where that very rarely happens. Taking one (or more) of these steps after an employee leaves can help make the transition a little easier, though.
If you have any questions about these steps, please contact us and we can help!