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Do we need continued access to the departing employee’s inbox?

When you delete a user profile in Microsoft 365, you lose access to the user’s inbox, and data residing there. This may be past communications or key contacts. You can restore the inbox for 30 days before it is permanently deleted. It may seem like plenty of time to determine if you lost something that you need.

However, that time can pass in the blink of an eye. Say your team works on annual contracts and a client’s renewal isn’t due for six months. Suddenly, it’s time for renewal and you realize you are missing some important background information that is only available in the former employee’s inbox. Unfortunately, it would be too late to perform a restore.

The good news is that Microsoft does have a native fix. Before you delete the user, you can convert the inbox to an inactive inbox. Simply block the former employee from accessing their old mailbox and share the inbox with another user. This allows you to free up their licenses without losing access to their information for as long as you set the retention policy.

At this point, you have the option to delete the user profile. But there are still some downsides: there might be new emails coming into the mailbox which you will not have access to once the user profile is deleted. After deletion of user profile, you also can’t set up an autoresponder. It is a helpful solution for external contacts that have no idea about the employee’s departure.

While you’re more prepared to remove the user profile now, it’s still important to think through these last few issues. You might find it valuable to buy yourself a bit more time with a longer retention policy. This will ensure that you no longer need the former employee’s inbox before hitting “delete.”

Will we need access to any files the employee might have saved to their OneDrive?

While you encourage your employees to save important documents to Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, or other globally accessible platforms, they will save a few key documents to their personal OneDrive – unfinished projects, notes on important customers, or even checklists of work that they yet have to tackle.

Just like Outlook, once you delete a user profile, you have a 30-day grace period to recover the deleted user’s OneDrive files. Again, 30 days can be limiting. Particularly when attempting to find and train a replacement who may have the final say on which information is helpful and which can safely be deleted.

While 30 days is the standard time Microsoft allows the inbox to be “soft deleted,” just like with Outlook, you can apply a retention policy that extends to a maximum of 3,650 days or 10 years. This is a great option to buy yourself more time before permanently deleting the former employer’s data.

Remember, if you are retaining their data, their files are taking up space in your storage, which can get costly. While you could theoretically keep their data for 10 years. You must set an earlier deadline and work to determine what’s essential to keep and what to delete to save yourself unnecessary storage fees.

What is our backup plan if my employee deletes their data before leaving?

Not all tenures end on a good note. There’s no predicting how a disgruntled employee may react before their departure. If the employee had been working on an unfinished project and deleted key information before they left. The loss could be detrimental to the project or deal’s success.

Even employees who end on a good note delete their files and emails when “cleaning up” before their departure. What seems like a favor to your storage capacity may be a disaster in the future if important knowledge loses.

That’s why it’s always best practice to have a backup plan that ensures there is a back up to key data in case of the unthinkable. While Microsoft 365 has some native functionality that can help protect key workloads, it does have limits.

Having a third-party cloud backup solution is key to ensuring you can preserve data and easily restore it if needed.

The bottom line? Offboarding best practices in Microsoft 365 aren’t only an issue for the tech team. As organizations grapple with increased staff turnover, they must consider more than just storage space when considering former employees’ data. Business continuity and institutional knowledge should also remain top of mind.