What You Need to Know About Google’s Trash Folder

When you ask most people how they restore lost data in Google Workspace, their response is usually, “From the Trash folder.” While this may be a convenient way to protect against short-term data loss accidents, there are certainly some limitations to its capabilities making this approach a less than ideal backup and recovery strategy.

First, the Trash folder is a frequent target for purging when storage limits are about to be exceeded, but even if the Trash isn’t manually emptied, items in the Trash will be automatically deleted for good after 30 days.

Google has recently made an effort to address these shortcomings by giving administrators the power to restore deleted messages and files up to 25 days after they’ve been permanently deleted from a user’s Trash folder. But again, there are some limitations to be aware of:

  • All-or-nothing restore. In the admin restore process, there’s no way to view or select which files will be restored before the process is initiated – it’s all or nothing. To further complicate matters, neither administrators nor end users get a list of what was actually restored; the restored files are not marked or flagged in any way. This spells clutter and confusion for a user’s Google Workspace account, and these extra files may take up valuable space in the account when freeing up space might be why the Trash was emptied in the first place!
  • Unable to restore sharing settings in Drive. Sharing settings on Drive files 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.
  • Only 55 days maximum of data protection. A piece of data can spend 30 days in the Trash and 25 days in this post-Trash, still-recoverable state, which only provides 55 total days of data protection. After that, the data is permanently deleted and there is no way to get it back.
  • Requires administrator assistance. If the items needed have been permanently deleted from a user’s trash, the user must contact the Google Workspace administrator for assistance with this last-ditch restore effort instead of being able to manage it independently. It’s 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 account, and the user won’t have visibility into the restore process. This restore process could result in lost productivity and adds additional burden to the IT staff.
  • Doesn’t cover all Google Workspace. Unfortunately, only Gmail, on-the-record chats and Drive files can be recovered in this administrator restore process. If you’ve accidentally deleted contacts, calendar events or pages from your Google Sites, you’ll be out of luck as soon as those items are removed from the Trash.

Because of these limitations, relying on the Trash folder for your data protection strategy just isn’t feasible. As Gartner put it in their recently released report titled “Do You Need to Cover Your SaaS to Prevent Data Loss?”:

“Google Workspace for Work offers basic backup/recovery functions to recover from user deletions. Organizations desiring more robust backup/recovery functions, such as longer retention and backup of all key components of Google Workspace for Work, should consider a third-party backup tool to achieve those goals. Organizations that plan to have a backup in a different cloud and/or on their own premises may also find a third-party tool useful.”

If you’d like to explore some better options for backing up and recovering lost data from Google Workspace, check out the article below.