In every business, employees resign, retire or are terminated regularly. If your company happens to run a Google Apps domain, what do you do with a departing users’ data? Simply deprovisioning a Google Apps user is more complicated than it seems—there’s an easy way and a nuanced, security-conscious process—but any competent user-removal checklist should address the disposition of user data. Put more simply: You can delete a Google Apps user account, but before you do, you’ll want to (and may be legally obligated to) archive that user’s data.

In today’s post, I’ll outline the four factors that should influence your user-archiving process. Next week, I’ll present (and evaluate) the four major methods for archiving your departing users’ Google Apps accounts. By using the former to evaluate the latter, you can find the right Google Apps user-archiving process for you.

The Four Cs of Data Retention

There are four main factors to consider when evaluating a Google Apps archiving solution: Cost, Complexity, Compliance and Continuity. Every organization will weigh these factors differently, but no company should ignore any of these aspects of a Google Apps archiving policy or process.

1. Cost

Cost is a pretty straightforward factor here—what are the actual dollars required to complete an archiving process? Cost, however is often underestimated. Archiving data means maintaining it over a prescribed length of time, perhaps indefinitely. Archiving costs should be evaluated as recurring monthly or annual costs, rather than one-time investments.

2. Complexity

How complicated is your archiving solution, and therefore how likely is it to fail or create problems for your system or organization down the line? Cheap solutions often have hidden complexities that cost you time or opportunities, rather than cash. The complexity of a Google Apps archiving solution can be evaluated with a single sentence: How likely is it that the average administrator will complete this process without error every time?

3. Compliance

Regulatory and underwriting organizations often have explicit rules about what data you can and cannot purge when a user departs your company. These same entities may also dictate how long data must be maintained and, in some cases, when you are obligated to purge certain information from your records. The compliance aspect of a Google Apps archiving solution can be evaluated on how well it allows you to control what data is preserved, accessed, and purged, and how quickly those tasks can be executed.

4. Continuity

Any Google Apps user of value creates data of value. Even if you have no regulatory or liability motive for keeping data around past a user’s time with your company, the information stored in a departing user’s Google Apps account will be of use—if not outright necessity—for some future job function. The continuity aspect of a Google Apps archiving solution should be evaluated based on how well it maintains data over time, and how easily you can access that data for future use.

There you have it - the four factors to consider when archiving a Google Apps account. Next week, I’ll dive into the four major methods for archiving your Google Apps users and evaluate each one based on these four Cs. Hanging off the edge of your seat? Download the complete, free guide to archiving a Google Apps account today.