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Google Workspace : Managing the costs of recurring Archive User (AU) licenses

By Patronum

February 13, 2023

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Is keeping data of ex-employees costing you and your business, and how much could you save by implementing smarter offboarding processes with Patronum?

Most organisations move to Google Workspace because of the ease of deployment, increased scalability and hopefully decreased costs.

However, in order to maximise the cost benefits, IT departments must pay particular attention to their operating costs, especially when it comes to departing employees and unused licenses.

Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) is more than simply a change in branding. The new name also comes with new storage limits and an updated pricing structure, which means some businesses may find themselves needing to purchase enterprise licenses as well as Archive User licenses.

Google Workspace
Off boarding and Onboarding

Before Google Workspace Archive User licenses, some customers had access to a legacy (Postini-based) license known as VFE or Vault Former Employee license. This license was free and allowed an organisation to store leavers’ data within Postini as was, or Google Vault as it is known today. However, good things can’t last forever, and someone has to pay for the vast amount of storage leavers’ data was consuming.

This is likely why Google created the Archive User license, with its cost ranging from $4-$7 per month depending on the starting point license of the user. As a large organisation with 1,000 former employee accounts, moving from the free VFE license to a Google Archive license could cost you $60,000 per annum, however, that’s better than paying full price.

Cloud Storage Archive Solutions

You may be tempted to invest in a Cloud Archive solution, however as we discussed recently you’re not necessarily storing anything of value, and you’ll still be paying for former employee accounts, which are only going to increase.

Smart Offboarding with Patronum

With Patronum you can create a smarter way of addressing the challenges around former employee data, and licenses. But before that, we need to talk about Google Workspace backups. We’re still surprised to see very few organisations invest in a backup solution for their Google Workspace system, yet they worry about losing data from former employees. If you don’t have a backup you should be worried about losing data from existing as well as former employees.

The table below shows the costs for an organisation holding data for 1000 former employees.

Enterprise Standard
Enterprise Standard Archive
Cloud Storage Archive Solution
Smart Offboarding with Patronum
1000 Users$240,000$60,000$10,000$0

Offboarding Automation

Patronum can help you configure an auto-response as part of an offboarding policy. With a Patronum Policy, you can streamline the offboarding process automatically with a massive 40+ individual steps to make sure that everyone is offboarded in a structured and consistent fashion.

Storing Leaving Gmail

As we’ve discussed in the past, one of the guidelines for managing leavers’ email is to allow them, before they depart, to delete or forward personal emails. However, from our experience departing employees don’t need to be officially told to do this. Leavers will often tidy up their inboxes by deleting their emails before they leave, sifting through potentially decades of emails is a tiresome task, so typically the leaver will delete all their emails before they depart.


The decision on what you should do when offboarding your leavers from Google Workspace must be defined within the IT policy and be fit for purpose based on your business and regional legislation and laws. GDPR recommends an approach to keeping a minimal amount of personal data and only keeping personal data if there is a specific and lawful requirement. If you are in the EU or fall under GDPR we would recommend completely removing the user and all their email communication after a specific and minimal length of time.

To summarise we recommend:-

  1. Auto-responder – Use Patronum to set an auto-responder as part of an offboarding workflow.
  2. Backup – Make sure you have a regular and automated backup solution in place. We recommend and integrate with
  3. Archive License – Allocate a Google Workspace archive user license for a maximum of 3 months.
  4. Deletion – Automatically delete users’ data 3 months after they have departed.

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