What is the difference between Google Vault and a Google Workspace backup solution?


As a Google Workspace administrator, you can never attach too much importance to protecting your valuable business data using Google Vault or other Google Workspace backup solutions. If you are concerned about accidental data loss, ransomware attacks, or even disgruntled employees, the comparison below will help identify the different strengths and weaknesses of each solution.

Google Vault Pros and Cons

Google Vault is a powerful archiving and searching tool for Google Workspace data. Purpose-built for information governance and eDiscovery, Google Vault is extremely helpful when you need to:

  • SEARCH FOR DATA. The powerful search module of Google Vault allows global search by specific users, phrases or even keywords in email attachments. Wildcard search operators are also supported.
  • RETAIN DATA. in an organized way. Google Vault supports setting up custom retention rules based on a specific OU, user or data range. Users can choose to permanently delete sensitive data in the entire Google data system after a set time period to prevent regulatory compliance breaches, or place indefinite holds on a user’s data in case of queries related to litigation, such as an employee suspected of leaking sensitive customer information.
  • EXPORT CRITICAL DATA. Google Vault allows a comprehensive export of data that matches your search for further analysis. For security concerns, only Vault administrators with delegated privileges can access the Vault data.

However, Google Vault does not make a copy of data and is therefore not a backup solution. It is somewhat limited in the case of:

  • RECOVERY REQUEST. Google Vault does not offer a built-in restore feature and is not suitable for high-volume data exports. Once a recovery request arises, there is no way to select a specific point in time and only the latest version of a file can be exported. It will then need to be manually uploaded back to Google Workspace.
  • OVERALL PROTECTION. Google Vault does not support all Google services such as Calendar and Contacts. Intact folder structure and share permissions in Google Drive are also not maintained when exporting data from Google Vault. In the event of an unfortunate data loss, your data in Vault cannot be easily recovered back to its original structure and condition in Google Workspace.
  • RANSOMWARE ATTACK. Google Vault does not keep a separate copy of your data but only helps manage it within the same Google data system. If a file should ever be corrupted in Google Workspace, or attacked by ransomware, data in Google Vault will also be corrupted with no previous version to retrieve for later use.
  • DELETED USERS. When a user account is deleted in Google Workspace, Google Vault will forcibly expunge the corresponding data after 20 days. The only way to preserve the user’s data is to assign an Archived User (AU) license, leading to extra trouble and cost.
  • OTHER HUMAN ERROR. Google Vault’s data retention policies directly apply to the data in Google Workspace. Without extra copies, there is a single point of failure, so a small mistake could permanently delete critical data from a user’s account.

What can I do with a Google Workspace backup solution

If you are concerned about the issues raised above, a professional Google Workspace backup solution may help to set your mind at ease.

  1. An automatic recovery tool is a must for any backup solution. You can easily restore your Google Workspace data from any point in time by simply clicking a button. Large-scale restoration across different user accounts or even different Google Workspace organizations is also possible and much more convenient.
  2. Most Google Workspace backup solutions in the market provide an overall protection of Gmail, Google Drive, Calendars and Contacts in Google Workspace, and run a regular backup to preserve all versions of constantly changing files. There is no need to worry about losing important meeting invitations and contacts, plus the entire folder structure and file share permissions will always be accessible and recoverable in your backup.
  3. In the event of a ransomware attack, the affected data in your Google Workspace cannot infect the backup data in another platform. As long as the backup data is accessible, a backup solution can always help you recover to a previous version before the attack.
  4. Backup data for deleted users remains available in the backup for as long as you wish. Self-hosted backup solutions like CubeBackup don’t even require you to pay for a license for deleted users.
  5. Although a professional Google Workspace backup solution does require additional administrative overhead, it also allows you to keep a separate copy of all data totally independent of Google. Any operations in the backup storage will never overwrite the existing data in Google Cloud, and this adds another layer of security in the event of a Google outage or even human error which can take a costly toll on your critical data across the Google system.

CubeBackup is a self-hosted backup solution which is committed to providing reliable backups for Google Workspace users. You can test drive our product in the live demo, and start your 14-day free trial by downloading it here.

Comparison of Google Workspace Admin, Google Vault, and a third-party Google Workspace backup solution

Google Workspace Administrator Google Vault Google Workspace backup solutions like CubeBackup
Gmail Can be restored for 25 days Can be exported if protected by your Vault retention rules Always restorable, even if license has expired
Drive/Shared drives Can be restored for 25 days Can be exported if protected by your Vault retention rules Always restorable, even if license has expired
Contacts No No Yes
Calendar No No Yes
Removed user Can be recovered within 20 days Data is removed Data is retained forever
Individual files/messages No Can be exported Yes
File share permissions No No Yes
End user self-service data recovery No No Yes
Point-in-time recovery Recover data within the selected period No Yes

Best practice to secure your Google Workspace data

Google Workspace and Google Vault are excellent at improving productivity and efficiency of information governance within Google Cloud. But they provide limited protections against most cases of data loss such as overwrites, ransomware, accidental deletion or other malicious intent.

A backup solution can provide an overall protection by keeping a second copy of all your Google Workspace data, and can easily perform point-in-time recovery. However, it is a third-party tool, which can only apply the retention policies on the backup data and does not support the advanced search feature across the entire organization. A backup solution will not be able to fulfill regulatory compliance obligations or e-Discovery queries.

For companies which are responsible for considerable amounts of sensitive customer information in their Google Workspace or large companies with many OUs and users to manage, Google Vault would be invaluable in accommodating the high standard requirements for data security and compliance policies across the entire Google platform.

Most small businesses are responsible for relatively fewer users, and do not require a strict and granular data compliance policy or advanced search functionality in daily business. For these kinds of companies, a professional Google Workspace backup solution should be sufficient to protect their data and provide peace of mind. Most backup solutions provide basic search functionality.

Even companies which rely on Google Vault could greatly benefit from the enhanced protection provided by an easy-to-restore backup solution. There is simply no substitute for having a second copy of your data. An independent backup grants a greater measure of security than can be provided by Google alone.