3 Options for Restoring Lost Data in Google Apps

With Google’s recently announced Data Loss Prevention feature, you may think your Google Apps domain is safe enough, but you’d be wrong. Their Data Loss prevention will protect Google Apps Unlimited customers in rule-based ways, but can do nothing to protect customers from sync errors, or errors where admins or users accidentally delete critical email. Here’s the question you really need to ask:

“If I were to lose my Google Apps data, how would I get it back?”

Fortunately, there are three Google Apps restore options available, but it’s important to be fully aware of the capabilities and limitations of each.

Option 1: Google’s Built-In Restore

Google allows admins to restore Drive data for their users up to 25 days after it is “permanently deleted” from the user’s Trash. Admins can also restore Gmail that had been deleted in the past 30 days via the Email Audit API. But there are some limitations to take note of:

  • 30 days max. The first and most obvious limitation is that this restore method only works for 25 days after the Trash is emptied, or 30 days if an admin uses the Email Audit API.
  • All-or-nothing restore. There’s no way to view or select which files will be restored before the process is initiated – it’s all or nothing – and, neither admins nor end users get a list of what was actually restored. The restored files are not marked or flagged in any way. This process could result in all kinds of other files being restored that didn’t need to be, which clutters up the user’s Drive and takes up valuable space.
  • No sharing settings. Sharing settings are not restored and must be manually reassigned by the user, which could be a problem if they don’t remember with whom it was originally shared.
  • Requires Administrator assistance. There’s no way for a user to perform this restore operation on their own; they must contact their Google Apps administrator for assistance. This could result in lost productivity, time delays and adds additional burden to the IT staff.

Using Google’s built-in restore for Google Drive is best if it’s a recent data loss incident and when there aren’t too many files in the Trash that can clutter up the user’s Drive during the restore process. It’s also important for the user and the administrator to be in close communication throughout the process since the administrator won’t have the necessary visibility into what’s happening in the user’s Drive, and the user won’t have visibility into the restore process.

Option 2: Google Vault Export/Import

Google Vault is another option for restoring lost data, but it may not be the best one. Since Vault is not built with data restoration in mind, there are some significant limitations:

  • Only applies to current file versions. Prior versions of files are not recoverable with Vault.
  • Requires Administrator assistance. There’s no end user interface in Vault, so admins have to manage the process.
  • Export/import only. The only way to restore your data with Vault is to export it and then import it back in manually; there is no direct restore.
  • No sharing settings. In the export/import process mentioned above, all of your sharing settings get lost. Again, trying to remember your previous sharing settings for every document is error-prone and inefficient.
  • Depends upon having an active Google Apps account. If a user’s account is accidentally deleted from Google Apps, all of their data is also deleted from Vault.
  • Gmail and Drive only. Vault only applies to Gmail and Drive, and not other Google Apps.

To sum it up, Vault is built for (and is great at) legal eDiscovery, and while it can give you the ability to restore some files, the process can be limited, is pretty cumbersome and certainly misses the mark if what you’re trying to achieve is getting all of your data back to its original location intact.

Option 3: Spanning Backup for G Suite

Spanning Backup for G Suite is built specifically for restoring lost data. Whether you’ve lost one piece of data or a whole account, Spanning Backup enables you to:

  • Restore data forever. As long as you have a Spanning Backup license assigned to an account, you can restore data for as far back as you have it – even if the Google account has been deleted.
  • Restore exactly what you need. Choose a single file, a folder or an entire account from any previous point in time and get it back with folder structure and metadata intact (including sharing settings).
  • Direct restore. Recovered files go right back into the app they came from in a separate folder so it’s easy to see what was restored and move files around without overwriting anything that shouldn’t be overwritten.
  • Enables user self-service. Spanning is designed for end users to restore their own lost files – no delays or putting additional support burden on IT.
  • Unlimited storage. Spanning doesn’t nickel and dime you per gigabyte or terabyte; store as much as you like, for as long as you like.
  • Cross-user restore. Administrators have the option to restore data into the original user’s account, another user’s account, or into their own admin account, and all changes are recorded within an immutable audit log.
  • Restore sharing settings. You can choose whether or not to restore sharing settings in Spanning Backup.
  • More Google Apps covered. Spanning Backup can restore data in Gmail, Drive, Calendars, Contacts and Sites.
  • 100% Restore – Guaranteed. If Spanning can back it up, we’ll restore it for you back to its original state and location. If not, we give customers 10x the money back for 1 year of the individual account. Learn more here.

Here’s a handy chart to help you compare:

Capabilities Google’s restore Vault Spanning Backup
Restore Ability 25 days after Trash is emptied As long as Google Apps account still exists Forever
Restore Type All or nothing Granular, but tedious Point-in-time restore of a single file or all of them
Restore Location Somewhere in user’s Drive Export only Non-destructive in-app restore to the account of your choice
Restore Initiator Administrator Administrator Administrator or User
Sharing Settings Not restored Not restored Restorable
Apps Covered Gmail and Drive Gmail and Drive Gmail, Drive, Calendars, Contacts & Sites


There are different solutions available to restore Google Apps data, but we happen to think that Spanning Backup for G Suite is the best because it has the most capabilities and the fewest limitations. We invite you to try it free for 14 days – we think you’ll feel the same.