Change to Remove Inconsistency
Retention policies and retention labels both make sure that workloads like SharePoint Online retain information needed by organizations. Retention policies are broader in scope and apply default retention to any location coming within their scope. For instance, if you apply a retention policy to a set of SharePoint sites, any file within those sites come within the scope of the policy. Retention labels are more granular and apply to individual items, whether assigned by users or through auto-label policies (like the example of using an auto-label policy to retain Teams meeting recordings). Because they are more specific, retention labels take precedence over retention policies.
It’s up to an application how to implement the application of retention labels to items. It’s also up to applications how to respect the fact that a retention label exists on an item. Different behaviors have existed in the SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business browser interfaces since the introduction of retention labels in 2017. According to MC264360 (June 24) – Microsoft 365 roadmap item 82063, Microsoft is closing the inconsistency in August and SharePoint Online will adopt the OneDrive for Business approach.
Deleting SharePoint Online Items
Today, if you try and delete an item in a SharePoint Online document library, the UI prompts for the deletion to proceed and if confirmed, attempts to delete the item. If the item is labeled, the deletion fails (Figure 1) and the user sees that removal isn’t possible because of the label.
There’s nothing to stop the user removing the label and then deleting the file, unless it’s a record label (only a site administrator can change a record label).
By comparison, you can delete an item in a SharePoint Online document library which comes within the scope of a retention policy. Although seemingly inconsistent (because the organization wishes to retain the items by policy), SharePoint Online allows the deletion to proceed and moves the item into the site recycle bin. Eventually, when the item expires in the recycle bin, SharePoint Online moves it into the site’s Preservation Hold library where it stays until its retention period lapses.
OneDrive’s Streamlined Approach
OneDrive for Business takes a streamlined approach to item deletion and allows users to remove items as they wish (Figure 2).
Deleted items go into the OneDrive for Business recycle bin (Figure 3). Users can recover deleted files from there using the Restore your OneDrive feature.
After 90 days, deleted files leave the recycle bin for either permanent removal or retention. If a retention policy or label applies to an item, it moves to the Preservation Hold library (Figure 4) and stays there until its retention period lapses. Of course, retention can be a complex business and an item might come under the scope of a retention policy after retention due to a label lapses. In any case, once no further retention applies to an item, a background job removes the item. Removed items are irrecoverable unless a backup exists.
The Goodness of Consistency
You can argue that either approach makes sense. Some like it that SharePoint Online stops people deleting labeled items. It’s a form of affirmation that the file is important. On the other hand, allowing deletion to happen but preserving files needed for retention is a lower-friction method which prevents potential user confusion (why can I delete that file but not this one?). Overall, achieving consistency across OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online is a good thing and lowering friction is also a good thing, especially if it stops some support calls. We’ll see how users react (or even notice) after Microsoft rolls out the change in August.
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