Today’s post is part four of a series on How to Archive Google Apps Accounts. For the complete story, download the free ebook.

In the first three posts of this series, I outlined the four major factors that should influence the user-archiving process. I also presented two of the four options for archiving a Google Apps account from your company’s domain. Today, I will present the third method to use if you want to archive Google Apps users: Migrate.

Option 3 - Migrate

It is possible to transfer most of the data from the departed user’s account to another account on your domain (or on a different domain altogether). Simply download all the data you can from the old account, then upload it to the new one. The receiving user now has unfettered access to all the departed user’s Google Apps data in his own account.

Cost Grade: A

This is the ultimate low-cost option. The expense of maintaining the old user’s data is now borne by the new user’s account, which your organization was already planning on paying for anyway. Unless the assumption of the departing user’s data puts the receiving user’s account above its storage quota—a concern that doesn’t exist if you’re running Google Apps Unlimited—there’s little to no marginal cost for migrating a user.

Complexity Grade: D

The process of migrating data from one account to another is typically straightforward, but it is a laboriously manual, repetitive process rife with opportunities for user error. Each Google App’s data must be individually downloaded, converted to a neutral format, then uploaded to the new account. Conversion errors are not uncommon. It’s very easy to misplace or misload data. Moreover, the receiving user bears the brunt of this decision, with a Google Drive, Google Calendar, list of Google Contacts, and, worst of all, a Gmail inbox weighed down with someone else’s data. Assuming the receiving user knows what to look for, this makes the departed user’s data relatively easy to find. However, this also makes the receiving user’s own information increasingly difficult to locate.

Compliance Grade: F

The migration approach to Google Apps archiving is major headache for compliance auditors. All the data that belonged to one user now belongs to another. Any changes made to any document, message or contact must be cross-checked to determine when the change occurred and which owner made the alteration. This assumes that the original user’s data is maintained in your compliance solution, as the migration tool will effectively “create” the migrated data in the receiving user’s account with no previous ownership history. If the departing user’s audit history is maintained, that likely comes with an attached cost that would drag down this approach’s cost grade. Moreover, this intermingled data means it’s almost impossible to purge historical items belonging to a departed user. Separating what belongs to the old user and current user is a dubious proposition that will only become more difficult over time.

Continuity Grade: C

Migrating data between two Google Apps accounts is a bit of a continuity quagmire. All the primary data assets—messages, contacts, documents and calendar events—are preserved, but much of the metadata is typically lost. Additionally, the act of converting data to a neutral format and re-converting it back to Google Apps can introduce unexpected corruption, formatting errors and data fidelity concerns. For example, Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint are particularly bad at cross-converting. Sharing settings and revision history are almost always severely curtailed (or outright absent) after a migration, which can limit the utility of the transferred data.

Composite Grade: C-

When it comes to archiving Google Apps accounts, data migration is a middling solution at best. The cost savings are often not enough to justify the severe compliance and complexity drawbacks. There are tools available to automate this process and avoid user error, but they are not without (often significant) cost. What you would gain in simplification, you would lose in cost effectiveness.

A composite grade of C-? Is that the best I can do? Find out next week, when I’ll reveal the fourth and final method for archiving Google Apps users. Is the anticipation killing you? Why wait? Download the complete, free guide to archiving a Google Apps account today.