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What is Litigation Hold in Office 365 and How Do You Set it Up?

Aidan Simister | 4 min read| Updated On - February 9, 2024

Litigation Hold in Office 365

If your organization is facing legal action, you may need to provide specific pieces of electronically stored information (ESI). This could include retaining the contents of an employee’s email inbox or producing any documents related to the case.

What is Litigation Hold in Office 365?

The Litigation Hold feature in Office 365 enables businesses to preserve and safeguard all mailbox content, including original, deleted, and modified versions of items, for eDiscovery in legal matters. This feature suspends the retention policy or automatic deletion, preventing employees from deleting data such as Outlook emails, Teams conversations, and OneDrive files. To be put on a litigation hold, the mailbox requires an Exchange Online Plan 2 license or a separate Exchange Online Archiving license.

During a litigation hold, an admin can use the Core eDiscovery tool to search for preserved ESI while the user can continue to send and receive new mail, and the user’s archive mailbox (if enabled) is also placed on hold. The duration of a litigation hold can be configured, and it is not an alternative to regular backup processes. In-place holds were removed, and Litigation hold is the only hold supported in Exchange Online as of fall 2018.

Office 365 Litigation Hold Challenges

Organizations that must comply with extensive legal requirements for holding information often face challenges when using Office 365 Litigation Hold. This is especially true for those that handle considerable amounts of sensitive data. The limitations of Litigation Hold can prove inadequate in such cases, as it has limited compatibility with fundamental record management practices. Additionally, non-IT personnel may require assistance from an IT specialist to implement holds. Moreover, mailboxes subjected to holds must be administered using a command-line interface or Exchange Administration Center, requiring specialized IT knowledge.

Litigation Holds can only retain information that has been deleted after the hold has been activated. If an end-user deletes any information without a Litigation Hold in place, it cannot be retrieved. Admins can set up Litigation Holds for mailboxes immediately after an employee is hired and maintain them for a specific duration deemed fit by the organization. Office365 offers the option of imposing Litigation Holds for a maximum of 365 days.

Why Should Companies Implement O365 Legal Hold?

In light of the fact that the majority of business activities and communication happen online, it is imperative for organizations to ensure compliance with relevant industry regulations. Office 365 Litigation Hold facilitates this by enabling organizations to preserve copies of electronically stored information, even if the user has intentionally deleted such information. This functionality is vital in safeguarding sensitive information and protecting companies in the event of a legal dispute. Hence, businesses must consider Office 365 Legal Hold as an important compliance measure.

What are the Steps to Setup Litigation Hold in Office 365?

To activate Litigation Hold:

  1. Access the Microsoft 365 admin center and select User
  2. Go to Active users
  3. Choose the user you wish to put on Litigation Hold
  4. Select the Mail tab under the properties menu
  5. Under More actions, select Manage litigation hold
  6. Select the Turn on litigation checkbox and provide any additional information
  7. Save changes to initiate the hold

Office 365 eDiscovery

Office 365 offers three eDiscovery tools: Content Search, Core eDiscovery, and Advanced eDiscovery. Administrators with appropriate permissions can use these tools to search for and export electronically stored information across Exchange Online mailboxes, Office 365 groups, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business sites, and Skype for Business Conversations.

Different roles exist in the Security & Compliance Center to specify the actions a user may perform. Content Search allows for larger searches of multiple content sources, while Core eDiscovery places hold on certain content locations. With Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery, legal teams have the ability to oversee eDiscovery custodians and the notification process for legal holds and conduct a thorough examination of case information.

Access to this feature requires either an Office 365 E3 subscription with the Advanced Compliance add-on, or an E5 subscription.

How Lepide Helps to Simplify Litigation Hold in Office 365

With data scattered across multiple platforms, including on-prem file servers and cloud-based repositories like Dropbox and OneDrive, locating relevant documents can be a challenge. As such, Office 365’s default tools may not be comprehensive enough to meet every company’s needs. The Lepide Data Security Platform provides a comprehensive solution for discovering, classifying, and monitoring important documents within Office 365, and other platforms. Lepide simplifies the process of e-discovery by offering a centralized dashboard with efficient sorting and searching capabilities. All changes to ESI are recorded on tamper-proof logs, and activity reports can be effortlessly generated and sent to the relevant authorities to demonstrate the company’s compliance efforts.

If you’d like to see how Lepide can help you protect data, detect threats, and meet compliance when using Office 365, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.

Aidan Simister
Aidan Simister

Having worked in the IT industry for a little over 22 years in various capacities, Aidan is a veteran in the field. Specifically, Aidan knows how to build global teams for security and compliance vendors, often from a standing start. After joining Lepide in 2015, Aidan has helped contribute to the accelerated growth in the US and European markets.

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