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How to (Really) Archive Microsoft Teams Chats and Channels

If you're familiar with Microsoft Teams, you probably know about its built-in archive feature. By visiting the Microsoft Teams Admin Center (you need to be a Teams administrator to do this), you can quickly archive a team, which removes it from the active list and makes it read-only. 

How to Archive a Team in Microsoft Teams

To archive a team simply:

  1. Go to the Admin Center and select "Teams."
  2. Select the specific team you want to archive.
  3. Select "Archive," which will bring up the prompt below.
    Screen Shot 2023-04-21 at 10.18.08 AM
  4. To maintain the integrity of the SharePoint site and Wiki tab linked with the team, opt for making it read-only for team members. This will bar them from modifying the content while still allowing the team owners to update it as required.
  5. After selecting "Archive," the team's status will transform to "Archived" and it will be temporarily stored in the "Hidden teams" section at the bottom of the teams list. A small icon will indicate that it has been archived. Once it is removed from "Hidden teams," it will be accessible in the "Manage teams" view under "Archived." You can view and explore the content of the archived team by selecting its name in the "Archived" list.

The Limits of Native Teams Archiving

While quick and easy to do, this native archiving function has some limitations. In fact, it's not really an archive function in the traditional sense of the term at all—it's more akin to Instagram's archiving tool than a traditional archive.

First, this archiving only exists at the teams level. It's impossible to archive a specific conversation or channel—it's either the entire team that's being archived or nothing at all.  

Second, this is more of a "hide" function than a true archive. Any robust archiving solution should offer the following:

  • A second data store that duplicates and protects the integrity of associated data, even if information is altered or deleted on the original platform. 
  • A user interface that gives information governance, legal, and compliance professionals easy and reliable access to archived data. In other words, backup files with obscure file extensions that are hard to open or review are not good enough.  

The Teams archive function provides neither, which means that it doesn't offer the kind of archiving that governance, compliance, and legal teams need. 

Using Microsoft Purview Compliance Center

The fact that Teams doesn't really offer native archiving is arguably not that important, since Microsoft also provides its comprehensive Purview Compliance Center for those looking to access Teams records for legal and compliance purposes. 

Purview, and its built-in eDiscovery tool, are designed with legal and compliance use cases in mind—and they undoubtedly have some impressive capabilities. However, when it comes to archiving Microsoft Teams data for use during legal and compliance matters, there are some challenges and limitations to keep in mind. 

Microsoft eDiscovery Standard

It's worth noting that not all Microsoft Teams users have access to the full range of governance and compliance capabilities. For those with the more common E3 license, limitations exist, such as the need to manually identify specific locations for data searches. Additionally, targeted collections within Teams will only return search hits rather than the surrounding conversation messages, and linked files in Teams are not logically connected to their corresponding messages. Furthermore, each archived Teams message is exported as an individual item in PST format, making it necessary for legal and compliance professionals to manually reconstruct conversations from PST files. This can be a cumbersome and error-prone process, as individual messages in a discussion thread are presented as a single email.

Microsoft eDiscovery Premium

Despite being a robust solution, Microsoft eDiscovery Premium also has its limitations, particularly when it comes to MS Teams. For instance, the required top-tier E5 Microsoft license is more expensive than the E3 license, which is why some organizations may not find it justifiable. Additionally, eDiscovery Premium is complex and may require time and effort to onboard users. Searches can also be slow and challenging, especially when dealing with large data volumes, and PDF exports of Teams data are not available. Lastly, there is the issue that both the original Teams content and the archived copies available through Purview are essentially housed in the same environment. From a best practice perspective, this is less than ideal, since there is an increased chance that all available data can be lost or corrupted in one fell swoop. It is far better to keep archived data in its own immutable data store.    

While the tool excels at finding data within the Microsoft ecosystem, it may not be the best solution for Teams chats and channels, particularly if cost is a significant factor. 

Microsoft Teams Archiving for Legal & Compliance Purposes

So, how should Microsoft Teams data be archived to assist governance, legal, and compliance professionals? 

To streamline compliance and eDiscovery, legal and compliance teams should consider adopting a solution that utilizes Microsoft's Teams Export APIs. These APIs enable third-party vendors to provide dedicated solutions, such as Pagefreezer for Microsoft Teams.

With Pagefreezer, professionals can access Teams data through a dashboard that replicates the native platform perfectly. This means content can be viewed in its original context, complete with all the GIFs, videos, and emojis.

Advanced search capabilities also allow for accurate and swift delivery of relevant content across all users, chats, and channels within Teams.

Additionally, Pagefreezer enables users to select relevant content, add it to a case file, leave comments and notes, and export this data to local servers in user-friendly PDFs with associated metadata.

Pagefreezer is specifically designed for Teams chats and channels, which means that it offers a level of granularity that most other solutions simply can't match. With Pagefreezer, you can easily search and export conversations, including all associated metadata, to ensure that you have a complete record of all Teams activity.

Pagefreezer is also affordable, making it accessible to organizations of all sizes. In fact, it offers a cost-effective alternative to other license options, which can be prohibitively expensive. Pagefreezer is a must-have tool for any governance, legal, or compliance team that needs to archive Microsoft Teams data.

Want to learn more? Read our guide, The Complete Microsoft Teams Field Guide for Legal & Compliance Teams. Simply click the button below. 

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George van Rooyen
George van Rooyen
George van Rooyen is the Content Marketing Manager at Pagefreezer.

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