<!–:st–>Have a policy in place for outgoing staff.<!–st:–>
UPDATED: Added detail on indefinite suspension of accounts.
One of the biggest mistakes Google Apps admins can make is to delete the account of a user who has left the business before checking that all the user’s documents have been handed over to another user.
If the admin deletes an account before transferring ownership of all documents created by that user then those documents are deleted forever. In some cases Google can attempt to restore the documents within a set time after they have been deleted, but within a month they will have been wiped from Google’s servers.
Admins commonly make this mistake on the mistaken assumption that a document which has been shared will not be deleted. This is not the case. Any document that still shows the outgoing user as the owner will be deleted regardless of how many people are sharing the document at the time.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you. The most fundamental is to have a policy in place that is strictly followed by the admin whenever an employee leaves.
Transferring ownership is relatively simple. Either the outgoing employee or the admin logs into that user’s account and selects all documents and shares them with the recipient. Then in the sharing settings click on the drop-down menu to the right of the recipient’s name and change it to “is owner”.
Ownership can be confirmed by looking at the original user’s permission in the same sharing settings window which should now say “can edit”. The user account can now be deleted without losing the documents.
Here are some more suggestions from Google staff for retaining documents created by ex-employees.
an archive account. Google’s informal advice is to set up a user account solely for archiving documents and email of ex-employees. Call it firstname.lastname@example.org or something similar. Some Google Apps users call this a “Catchall” account where they can move all ex-staff’s emails using the IMAP migration tool that comes with the paid edition, Google Apps for Business (see suggestions in the comments by AW Rouse on this blog).
rename and replace. Often an outgoing employee will be replaced by a new hire for the same position. In that case it may make sense to keep the same user account and just replace the old employee’s name with that of the new one. The new employee will inherit all emails, documents and site permissions as the replaced staffer. If you would like to keep the former employee’s email correspondence private you could create a new user account first, transfer ownership of all documents to that new account, and then delete the old user account.
suspending accounts. Google Apps lets you indefinitely suspend user accounts. Google doesn’t charge a fee for suspended accounts but it won’t delete the data. This is intended for users who are on maternity leave or sabbatical rather than people leaving permanently.