How to Apply an Auto-Label Retention Policy for Teams Meeting Recordings

Picking Up Support for Retention Labels

Updated: 10-Nov-2021

We’re approaching the end of the transition for the storage of Teams meeting recordings from “classic” Stream to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online (ODSP). From August 16, 2021, Microsoft will begin the process of moving any tenant who has not yet transitioned to store new meeting recordings to ODSP. When Microsoft announced their intention to move away from the Azure-based storage used by classic Stream, they emphasized the advantages gained by storing recordings in ODSP. Among those advantages is the ability to apply retention policies to meeting recordings. Others include the ability to share recordings with external people and an increase in storage quota over the limited amount made available for Stream.

Building an Auto-Label Policy

The sad fact about meeting recordings is that they tend to age rapidly. After a month or so, the need to refer to the recording of any meeting is greatly diminished. And indeed, many organizations don’t want recordings kept for any great length of time. An auto-label retention policy is the best way to find and remove Teams meeting recordings. The policy contains some conditions to identify items stored in ODSP and a retention label to apply. The retention label specifies the retention period (for example, two months), and the retention action (for example, permanently delete the item).

When Microsoft originally discussed the movement of Teams meeting recording to ODSP at Ignite 2020, they referenced a special retention policy to control recordings (see 15:00 in the recording) to be available in H1 CY21. That functionality hasn’t been delivered yet, and it’s important because it covers all licensing plans (SKUs). For now, Microsoft documents how to create an auto-label retention policy to remove recordings. Conceptually, the policy is very simple:

  • Find Teams recordings: When Teams uploads a recording to ODSP, it stamps the MP4 file with ProgID attributes. This means that an auto-label policy can use a keyword search for ProgID:Media AND ProgID:Meeting to find recordings (Figure 1). Teams sets the ProgID (programmatic identifier) values for recordings when uploading the files to ODSP.
  • Select the target locations: Most Teams recordings are from private meetings and end up in the meeting organizer’s OneDrive for Business account. Channel meetings end up in the channel folder in the SharePoint Online document library of the host team. The important thing here is to choose Microsoft 365 Groups as the target location type. You can also choose SharePoint sites if you expect to move or copy recordings around, but selecting Microsoft 365 Groups ensures that the auto-label policy finds recordings captured in the SharePoint sites connected to teams.
  • Apply a retention label: Any retention label can be used, including those which require manual disposition.

Keyword query to find Teams meeting recordings in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online
Figure 1: Keyword query to find Teams meeting recordings in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online

Auto-label policies which run against ODSP locations depend on the indexing process to find matching items. As the process runs to populate the indexes used for Microsoft Search, it matches items using the criteria set in retention policies and applies the label specified in the policies.

The indexing process runs on an ongoing basis to detect new items and usually tags new recordings within a couple of days, depending on the overall load on the indexing service. My experience is that labels appear sooner in OneDrive for Business than they do in SharePoint Online. Frustratingly, it can happen that a policy labels some items in a location but not others, which might make you think that a policy isn’t working instead of reflecting how index updating proceeds. Eventually, everything gets caught up and all recordings have labels.

The Need for Licenses

Creating and applying an auto-label policy sounds like a good idea, until you realize that auto-label policies require Office 365 E5 or a Microsoft 365 E5 compliance license for all accounts covered by the policy. Many other licensed accounts generate Teams meeting recordings who can’t use auto-label policies. In these cases, users can apply retention labels manually (this function is covered by Office 365 E3 and E1 and Microsoft 365 Business Premium among other licenses). Manual application of retention labels is certainly feasible but this strategy relies on the discipline and thoroughness of user behavior, which isn’t always reliable. A generalized org-wide retention policy usually applies a longer retention period than desirable for Teams meeting recordings, so isn’t a good answer.

If you don’t want to use an auto-label policy, from January 2022 you should be able to apply a Teams-specific auto-expiration period to meeting recordings. The advantage of this approach is that retention is controlled by Teams meeting policies and is available to all Microsoft 365 plans which include Teams. And if you choose to use an auto-label policy, the retention labels assigned to meeting recordings will take precedence over Teams auto-expiration.

Interpreting the Effect of Black Box Policies

An auto-label policy is an impenetrable black box when it comes to reporting progress in processing items. Once you create or edit a policy and publish it to target workloads (ODSP in this case), all you can do is hope that the policy has the desired effect and labels the correct items. The compliance center gives no hint about when the policy last scanned a location, how many items matched, or overall totals for the tenant.

Three methods exist to check the effectiveness of an auto-label policy. The quick and easy method is to check the recordings in individual sites and accounts to verify if they have the correct retention label (Figure 2).

A Teams meeting recording stored in OneDrive for Business assigned a retention label
Figure 2: A Teams meeting recording stored in OneDrive for Business assigned a retention label

Checking individual recordings quickly becomes boring and there’s no guarantee when ODSP will process an auto-label policy against files. The Office 365 E5 and Microsoft 365 E5 licenses include access to the Activity explorer in the Data classification section of the Microsoft 365 compliance center. You can check there to see if the policy applies retention labels to recordings. Figure 3 shows the information captured for an auto-labelling action as viewed through the Activity Explorer.

Details of a retention label applied to a Teams meeting recording as shown in the Activity Explorer
Figure 3: Details of a retention label applied to a Teams meeting recording as shown in the Activity Explorer

The Office 365 audit log captures the same data for auto-labeling actions. You can search using the Audit log feature in the compliance center or by running the Search-UnifiedAuditLog cmdlet to look for TagApplied events. Here’s an example of the data available in an audit record:

Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate 11-Jun-2021 -EndDate 12-Jun-2021 -Formatted -ResultSize 5000 -Operations TagApplied

RecordType   : SharePointFileOperation
CreationDate : 11/06/2021 15:39:17
UserIds      : 6909d419-3589-4d38-85e3-d65e8c9aa408
Operations   : TagApplied
AuditData    : {
                 "CreationTime": "2021-06-11T15:39:17",
                 "Id": "63ee2402-1400-42bf-89e8-08d92cef12fc",
                 "Operation": "TagApplied",
                 "OrganizationId": "b662313f-14fc-43a2-9a7a-d2e27f4f3478",
                 "RecordType": "SharePointFileOperation",
                 "UserKey": "6909d419-3589-4d38-85e3-d65e8c9aa408",
                 "UserType": "CustomPolicy",
                 "Version": 1,
                 "Workload": "OneDrive",
                 "ClientIP": "",
               " for All-20210609_131449-Meeting Recording.mp4",
                 "DestinationFileName": "Meeting with Ivan-20210609_131449-Meeting Recording.mp4",
                 "DestinationLabel": "Teams Recordings",

A more extensive discussion about how to use audit log events to track the progress of auto-labeling is in this post. You can also use audit events to know when new Teams meeting recordings are created in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online.

If you don’t have the licenses needed to use an auto-label policy to manage Teams meeting recordings, you can at least find out when recordings are created and use that information as the basis to remove the recordings manually or programmatically.

To Keep or to Remove?

It’s hard to recommend a suitable retention period for Teams meeting recordings. The pressure which existed previously due to the limited storage quotas imposed by Stream doesn’t apply anymore, so you could keep all recordings if you wanted. But given that most recordings are not very useful after a month or so, the right thing to do is to remove them. That is, if you have the licenses for auto-label policies!

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