In legal actions, a business can be required to turn over all emails on a topic, or between certain employees.
It’s a huge and expensive headache to hunt down these emails, especially for smaller businesses who don’t have dedicated IT staff. Even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll REALLY get everything relevant.
But Gmail business customers are about to get some help.
Google Apps Vault lets IT staff set make sure that all relevant emails are stored forever, then gives them an easy way to search those emails.
Before, staffers would have had to download each user’s inbox to a new location and search all of them manually — and even then, users might have deleted potentially incriminating emails.
Vault also lets IT staff set policies for when an email should be deleted. For instance, when an employee leaves the company, Vault could be set to automatically delete all emails to and from that employee within 90 days.
That could be useful because Gmail (unlike traditional email systems) is designed to store everything forever.
Google’s Postini service has a similar feature for e-discovery, and Google will continue to support it.
But Google Vault leader Jack Halprin told Business Insider that Vault is better because it works right within the Gmail system — with Postini, each email has to be duplicated and stored in a separate backup archive, which can be prone to errors.
Halprin said that Vault isn’t meant for any particular market — it’s not like big banks or government agencies were holding out against Gmail because Postini’s discovery features weren’t good enough.
But it does give Google a better story to tell when competing against the email archiving offered by Microsoft’s Office 365.
Vault is $5 per user per month for Apps for Business users, with discounts for government and educational users.
Today, it works only with Gmail and Google Chat sessions that are designated “on the record,” but eventually it will work with other data in Apps, like documents stored in Google Docs.