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How to Conduct eDiscovery With Google Vault and Google Workspace

December 15, 2020  |  4 min read

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When litigation or an investigation arises, you need to act fast to preserve, review, and ultimately produce pertinent electronically-store information (ESI). If your organization uses Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite), you will most likely be figuring out these steps using Google Vault. Google Vault is Google Workspace’s main ESI preservation program, and allows your organization to organize and export data from Gmail, Google Drive, Google Chat, Google Meet, and more.

Google Vault allows you to set up retention rules for different types of Workspace files. It also enables you to search for relevant evidence by account or Workspace app—even if the worker you’re investigating had tried deleting it.

For G-Suite companies—sorry, Google Workplace companies—you’ll need to use Google Vault and Workspace effectively to ensure defensible eDiscovery workflows.

Here’s how you can use Google Vault and Workspace together to ensure a seamless collection and review of relevant ESI.

Collecting and Producing Documents from Google Workspace For eDiscovery

To leverage Google Vault’s eDiscovery capabilities, you will need to create an investigation file to organize your documents. In Google Vaultspeak, this means you will need to create a "Matter.”

Matters serve as virtual bins for storing and displaying the messages and files you’re searching, all of which you can review within the Workspace platform. From there, you have many options available to search and retrieve pertinent ESI evidence. You can create legal holds within matters to pull relevant data by document type, date range, user account, and department. You can also refine and narrow down your searches with Boolean shortcuts such as deliveredto:username or type:slide.

Once finished, you’ll need to export your data. To do this, select the Workspace files you want to export, click “Export Data,” select appropriate file formats for your evidence, and you’re set! If the export process takes more than 24 hours, keep in mind that you may receive a partial export and will need to start another export to retrieve any remaining data.

Or you can skip the manual export altogether, by connecting Google Vault to your eDiscovery platform, where you can transfer files directly for review. More on that below.

Using Google Vault with an eDiscovery Integration

Google Vault on its own can be helpful for preservation, but you would still need to reupload that data onto your discovery platform for review.

Fortunately, Google Vault’s API allows you to connect Google Vault with your chosen discovery or document review platform, all while helping you access data much more efficiently.

Logikcull’s Google Vault extension, for example, connects directly with Google Vault so that your data transfers cloud-to-cloud between platforms. That eliminates the need to download data from Google Vault onto your local system only to then upload it once again to your review platform, saving hours if not days of time and reducing the likelihood that data will be left somewhere it should not.

Once your data is transferred, you can simply cull and review your messages for relevance and privilege before securely forwarding them to outside counsel or vendors.

While Google Vault matters for initial preservation and review, pairing it with apps and extensions that accommodate lawyers’ eDiscovery needs will allow your Google Vault-based eDiscovery workflows to become more resistant to attempts at sanctions.

Google Workspace Discovery Without Google Vault

Although Google Vault makes preserving and accessing your data much easier, it’s possible that you or your company may not have access to Google Vault if you’re not on the right plan. A Google Vault license is included in Business Plus, Enterprise, Education, and G Suite Business plans and available as an upgrade Enterprise Essentials and G Suite Basic plans.

Without a Google Vault license, the discovery process can be more cumbersome—but not impossible. Super administrators of Google Workspace plans without Google Vault installed can still export Workspace evidence using Google’s Data Export tool. To do so, an administrator would need to open Google Admin Console to open the Data Export tool and click “Start Export.” Once the export is complete, Google’s Export Tool will generate user data zip files that super administrators can open and send.

However, keep in mind that Export Tool can take anywhere from 72 hours to 14 days to process exports and will only allow you to perform new exports 30 days after a previously-scheduled one.

Administrators also cannot download data from user accounts that are suspended, archived, or deleted, or app-specific data from users who are revoked access to particular Workspace apps.

Best Practices for eDiscovery with Google Docs, Sheets, Meet, and More

Your Workspace eDiscovery process will ultimately be seamless with the help of sound preparation and execution. Regardless of whether you incorporate Google Vault into your Workspace licenses, your organization will need to be strategic in organizing new data your workers create and delegating eDiscovery tasks. As you review your Workspace files for relevant or privileged information, keep in mind the following:

With Google Workplace, eDiscovery doesn’t have to be a drag. Google Vault makes life a lot easier and helps you defensibly meet your preservation obligations. Especially when paired with the right extension.