Companies face multiple legal issues in the modern business world, from regulatory changes to contract disputes. If you’re a decision-maker at a company, the company will undoubtedly face legal proceedings at some point. When that time comes, you need to be prepared, and there’s no better way to do so than understanding what Litigation Hold in Microsoft 365 is all about.
What Is a Litigation Hold in Office 365?
Companies collect and need to track vast volumes of data. According to a recent report, 2020 to 2022 witnessed a 42.2% increase in annual data growth. With so much data needing to be collected, you need the capacity to preserve its integrity within your Office 365 ecosystem.
Litigation Hold in Office 365 is the process through which all of your company’s mailbox content, including modified, original, and deleted versions ger preserved for eDiscovery and litigation purposes. The deleted or modified content stays safeguarded for a stipulated timeframe until the removal. When a Litigation Hold is in place, employees must not delete any electronically stored information (ESI) in your Office 365 ecosystem, which may be critical to impending or ongoing litigation.
Thanks to the Litigation Hold capability, your organization’s Office 365 administrators can preserve data such as OneDrive files, Teams conversations, and Outlook emails, all while preventing employees from deleting the files. A downside to the Office 365 ecosystem is that these don’t go into immediate effect. You may need to wait up to 24 hours.
When to Use Litigation Hold
Typically, Microsoft enables organizations to put data sets and sources on hold via its Purview tool. For instance, you can place Litigation Holds on a mailbox linked to Exchange accounts, Teams, and Office 365 Groups. You can also place legal holds on data in OneDrive for Business accounts.
Office 365 Litigation Hold is critical to your company when facing a lawsuit. In such situations, a Litigation Hold can help the organization to comply with applicable regulatory requirements. Besides coming in handy when facing lawsuits, this can also be beneficial when your organization needs to protect sensitive information. When implemented, your company will retain copies of ESI even if users delete it.
A Litigation Hold can also help when your company wants to:
- Place users’ mailboxes on hold and preserve the items therein immutably.
- Preserve mailbox items that get deleted through automatic processes like MRM or by users.
- Preserve mailbox items for a specific period or indefinitely.
- Place users on multiple holds for different investigations or cases.
- Preserve items forwarded to other mailboxes.
- Maintain the transparency of the Litigation Holds by avoiding the suspension of MRM.
Besides helping to preserve ESI, Litigation Hold also includes legal holds for private channel chats. Typically, these holds are stored in individual users’ mailboxes, unlike standard channel chats, which are stored in mailboxes associated with the parent teams. So, if there’s an existing Litigation Hold for a specific user mailbox, the hold policy automatically applies to private channel messages therein. No further action will be required for the admin to turn on the hold.
Within Microsoft Teams, selected users or entire teams can be put on Litigation Hold. Nonetheless, it won’t include messages exchanged between team members, including shared and private channels. Placing users on hold doesn’t automatically place a group, and vice versa.
The typical workflows involve the following:
- When users permanently delete mailbox items of entire mailboxes, the items will move to the Deletions subfolder within the Recoverable Items folder.
- When the items’ retention period ends, mailbox items will automatically move to the Deletions subfolder.
- Lastly, when users purge items in the Recoverable Items folders or the retention period ends for items in the folder, the items will automatically move to the Purges subfolder within the Recoverable Items folder, slated for permanent deletion.
When there’s a likelihood of facing litigation, your company’s Office 365 admins can place mailboxes and content locations on Litigation Hold. Nonetheless, the mailboxes you want to put on hold must include the following licenses:
Exchange Online Plan 2
This is a fully functional license that comes with enterprise features such as unlimited storage, data loss prevention, and hosted voicemail. You must have an Exchange Online Plan 2 license to place Exchange Online mailboxes on hold. In doing so, all mailbox items, including modified and original versions of the items. Likewise, content in users; active mailboxes are also retained when you create a Litigation Hold.
If you run an education institution that uses Office 365, Litigation Hold will be supported by your Office 365 A1 license included in an Online Exchange Plan 2 license. This license costs $5.96 per license per month.
Exchange Online Plan 1 + Exchange Online Archiving License
This license offers secure corporate mailboxes for as low as $4.00 per user per month. Users get 50GB of inbox storage and can send messages up to 150MB. When it comes to Litigation Holds, Exchange Online Plan 1 with archiving ensures easier recovery of deleted data.
With this license, Litigation Holds applies to individual users or teams. It also prevents the hard deletion of entire mailboxes and emails. There’s a cap of 1,000 specific policies per tenant and ten companywide policies per user. It may take up to 24 hours upon the implementation for the retention to start working. The Exchange Online Plan 1 + Exchange Online Archiving License costs $3.00 per user per month.
Microsoft 365 A1 Licensing
This license includes Office 365 for the web with popular applications such as PowerPoint, OneNote, Word, and Outlook. It helps learners, staff, and faculty in educational institutions communicate seamlessly and effectively. With the Microsoft AI license, you can administer your Office 365 ecosystem using the Microsoft 365 Windows or PowerShell admin center. It also includes Litigation Hold as an expanded feature in Exchange.
How to Turn on Litigation Hold in Microsoft 365
Implementing a Litigation Hold in your Office 365 ecosystem is straightforward. If you need to put a single mailbox on hold, you first need to ensure that the mailbox you’re eyeing has an Exchange Plan 2 license or a similar add-on license. Administrators can then browse your company’s active user list within their dashboard and select the specific mailbox they want the Litigation Hold to apply.
After that, they should select the “Manage Litigation Hold” icon option on the user’s panel. The duration of the hold and the custodian letters the administrators want to send should then be confirmed for it to take effect.
If your company has an E3 plan or relevant add-on licenses, you can leverage Office 365’s Core eDiscovery features. This allows you to undertake a Litigation Hold via OneDrive, Teams, and more. You’ll also be able to activate searches related to specific OneDrive and Teams accounts.
How to Use PowerShell to Turn on Litigation Hold
Here are steps to follow to retain emails, calendars, and other items for litigation and future case investigations using PowerShell:
Set an Indefinite Hold
- Set-Mailbox <username> -LitigationHoldEnabled $true
Set a Limited Duration Hold
- Set-Mailbox <username> -LitigationHoldEnabled $true -LitigationHoldDuration <number of days>
See if a Specific Account is on Litigation Hold
- Get-Mailbox <username> | FL LitigationHoldEnabled
How to Turn Off Litigation Hold in Microsoft 365
Once the litigation or investigation is over and you no longer need to keep the previously retained data, you may turn off the Litigation Hold. These are the steps to follow:
- Click on the Management tab on Microsoft 365.
- Click on the Microsoft 365 Management icon in the left pane, then click the disable link under Mailbox Management.
- Choose the Microsoft 365 accounts you want to disable.
- Select the individual mailboxes from the list.
- Select the Configure icon at the far-right panel.
- When the field appears, select disable.
- Click Apply.
How to Turn Off Litigation Hold in PowerShell
A Litigation Hold doesn’t allow users to delete mailbox items or emails. If you want to remove it using PowerShell, you only need to set the LitigationHoldEnabled parameter to False. In doing so, you’ll automatically turn off this feature for the relevant mailboxes.
- Set-Mailbox <username> -LitigationHoldEnabled $false
Enable Litigation Hold and eDiscovery With Agile IT
As an enterprise-sized organization that leverages Microsoft 365, you should ensure seamless service delivery even when Litigation Holds are in place. When facing litigation, you may need to migrate mailbox data, file server data, SharePoint sites, and a lot more data within your Office 365 ecosystem. For this reason, you may need to work with experts like Agile IT to help you leverage the cloud while maintaining compliance in Microsoft 365.
We boast decades of experience helping businesses with their Litigation Hold and eDiscovery efforts. With your company collecting and storing more data by the day, Agile IT can offer robust solutions for helping you pinpoint the necessary documents when facing investigations and legal proceedings. Agile IT has deep experience in compliance and security. If you need assistance in enabling Litigation Hold, advanced eDiscovery, or managing data governance in your environment, we can help.