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Instant Messaging Schedule

Collaborative instant messaging refers to any platform used for university collaboration. Other record types associated with instant messaging will be added to this retention schedule as retention periods are prescribed.  View UFV's Instant Messaging Retention Schedule here.

Information in MS Teams, like all university information, is subject to FOIPPA. When using MS Teams, ensure that you:

  • limit the sharing of sensitive or confidential information (e.g. personal information), as you would with any communication tool (consider that Team membership may change over time and could potentially include external contractors), and
  • are prepared to respond to information access requests under FOIPPA or other legal obligations.

Placing a 180-day retention period on standalone chat within MSTeams supports timely information retrieval in the event of an information request.

Examples of Retention Applied to Chat vs Channels

Chat Example: UFV's 180-day instant messaging retention schedule only applies to standalone chat (one-to-one or group chat) outside an official Team and Channel. Standalone chat, whether it is between two people or many, can be found under the left side of MS Teams. Messages within a chat, pictured below, will be destroyed as they turn 180-days old. 

Channel Example: UFV's 180-day instant messaging retention schedule does not apply to messages within a Teams Channel. Here, departments may have organized official channels for project collaboration or courses might be administered via a channel. Messages within a channel fall outside the scope of the instant messaging retention schedule, however, they will likely contain university records and should still be managed following UFV's records guidelines.

Microsoft (MS) Teams is a communication and collaboration tool in Office 365. Features include team chat, one-on-one chat, document collaboration, video meetings, and integration with certain shared applications. Each MS Team has a designated Team Owner, or co-owners.

Instant messaging apps such as MSTeams have become one of our essential tools to communicate and stay connected with one another. We often overlook the amount of information that is collected by asking a simple question or participating in casual banter. To comply with UFV's transitory records schedule, UFV will be implementing a 180-day retention schedule to the MS Teams instant messaging feature starting Dec 31, 2021.

A Retention Schedule provides guidance on how long records must be kept and ensures records are not indefinitely stored if they are no longer needed.  This will reduce risk related to data breaches and maximize the usage of storage space.

In addition, MS Teams’ Chat feature is intended to be used as a communications platform for casual conversations.  It is not meant for exchanging confidential or sensitive data, or for critical/formal decision making.

Teams are a collection of people, content, and tools surrounding different projects and outcomes within an organization.

  • Teams can be created to be private to only invited users.
  • Teams can also be created to be public and open and anyone within the organization can join (up to 10,000 members).

A team is designed to bring together a group of people who work closely to get things done. Teams can be dynamic for project-based work (for example, launching a product, creating a digital ship room), as well as ongoing, to reflect the internal structure of your organization (for example, departments and office locations). Conversations, files and notes across team channels are only visible to members of the team.

Channels are dedicated sections within a team to keep conversations organized by specific topics, projects, disciplines—-whatever works for your team! Files that you share in a channel (on the Files tab) are stored in SharePoint.

  • Channels are places where conversations happen and where the work actually gets done. Channels can be open to all team members or, if you need a more select audience, they can be private. Standard channels are for conversations that everyone in a team can participate in and private channels limit communication to a subset of people in a team.

Chat is at the center of whatever you do in Teams. Messages are shared in Chat. From individual messages within chats with just one other person to group chats. Sometimes, you’ll want to talk one-on-one with someone. Other times, you’ll want to have a small group chat. In Chat, you can do either.

  • Chat happens in Channels, too. When you visit a channel in MS Teams, the first tab is Posts. Think of this as one big group chat. Everyone who has access to the Channel can see messages in Posts.
  • If you wanted to ask one person or a specific group of people a question, you would create a chat. In general, more short-term or day-to-day conversations should go through the chat/group function rather than the team function.
  • Messages in one-to-one chat or group chat hosted outside an official Teams Channel are subject to UFV's 180-day instant messaging retention period.

The 180-day retention schedule will only impact chats in the context of one-to-one and group chats (including meetings). The schedule does not impact conversations hosted within an official Teams channel. 

Any conversations that go beyond a 180-day period at creation will be authomatically destroyed from the system.  This will include any conversations that are over the 180-day period once the schedule is implemented.  

Links to files shared in one-to-one chats or group chats will also be removed from the conversation at the 180-day mark.

If you require files and information to be referenced past 180-days, please consider hosting your meetings in an official Teams channel or moving your business to e-mail. In addition, we recommend reviewing your conversations that will be older than 180-days by the time this schedule is implemented to ensure that you have the information that you need. Any official university records within Teams should be captured and moved to your departments digital storage system such as a UFV shared network drive. 

Conversations from instructors and/or students hosted outside of the official “Teams course” site that they belong to, will be impacted as they fall under the 180-day data retention schedule. For example, if a student messages an instructor in a one-to-one chat outside the official course channel, these messages are retained for 180-days. However, messages within an official course channels will not be affected.


Records retention schedules are UFV policies that ensure information is kept as long as required for administrative, legal, fiscal and historical purposes. They also provide recommendations around when records can be disposed of. 

Retention schedules are critical in mitigating risks and serious consequences of a privacy breach. They also reduce the cost of storing information that is no longer needed and help reduce unnecessary clutter and information overload. 

Retention schedules ensure that records with institutional value are managed appropriately and preserved for a period of time that reflects the University's administrative, legal, and operational requirements. They also reduce the time and costs to administer requests under FIPPA. 

At UFV, records retention schedules are established according to the Records Management policy.

No, conversations cannot be recovered once they have been permanently removed from the chat history.

Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate alternate retention schedules. It has been recommended by University Records Management to have a unified retention schedule for all systems to avoid any confusion.

Users will see a note in their chat history informing them that older messages have been removed. There will not be any advance notice that messages will be removed. 

Messages in meetings scheduled outside of an official Teams channel that are older than 180-days will be removed as part of the retention schedule. 

Post-secondary bodies must create and keep adequate records sufficient to document their decision-making and work activities, in accordance with government information management policy and standards.

MS Teams is a communication and collaboration tool; it does not have the necessary functionality and controls for an appropriate recordkeeping system.

When working within MSTeams, employees are responsible for ensuring critical information that they create or receive is filed in an appropriate recordkeeping system such as the unit shared drive. 

MS Teams primarily holds transitory information (i.e. information that is not required to meet legal obligations or to sustain administrative or operational functions). Transitory information is eligible for deletion in accordance with UFV's transitory records schedule when no longer needed.

It is recommended that employees use e-mail or pre-existing business processes for making university decisions. MSTeams is not an appropriate platform for conducting official business. If your chat becomes an official record, there are steps in place to help you capture the information in MSTeams to ensure it is preserved longer than 180-days.

Because MS Teams is not an appropriate recordkeeping system, you must

  • document any MSTeams chat information that provides evidence of a decision or work activity,
  • copy, summarize, or transcribe the information to another document, and
  • file it to your record keeping system.

While chat messages are usually transitory in nature, UFV employees are reminded that it is the content of a chat message that determines whether it is transitory - not the format. Important university information should be stored in an appropriate recordkeeping system. If needed, chat messages that are considered university records (not transitory records) can be copied and pasted from MS Teams into a word document that can be saved in such a system.



Most collaboration tools are not appropriate recordkeeping systems due to limited control over records and the potential for alteration or loss of records over time. Consistent and appropriate management can mitigate some risks, but limitations make them unsuitable for the long-term storage of university information and records. Risks of leaving university information within a collaboration tool include:

  • Restricted access: Limited access to the information may mean employees who need access don’t have it, or access is lost over time as people move on or retire.
  • Difficulty finding records: Records may not be named, classified or filed appropriately and may be missed when responding to requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) or for a legal search.
  • Incomplete records: The integrity, authenticity, and trustworthiness of records are not maintained.
  • Unauthorized destruction: Records may be inadvertently destroyed due to ambiguous or inconsistent records management procedures.
  • Inappropriate access: Leaving records in the tool beyond their active use may mean sensitive or confidential information is accidentally disclosed as permissions in the tool get updated.

Discuss this RM guide at your next team or project meeting. Your team can use this guide to plan and implement good information management practices when using collaboration tools. Consider adding this as a goal in your performance plan.

Contact UFV's records management unit for one-to-one or department specific training sessions.

As a group, take time to ensure any official university records within MSTeams at the time of UFV's instant messaging retention schedule implementation are captured and stored on a shared drive.

Discuss how your department will use MSTeams for collaboration and e-mail for official university business.

Within MS Teams there are two broad categories of chat messages:

1. Standalone one-on-one or group chats, meeting chats, and

2. Conversations within an official channel

Conversations from instructors and/or students hosted outside of the official course Teams channel that they belong to will be impacted as they fall under the 180-day data retention schedule. 

Instructors and students are encouraged to use UFV e-mail or exisiting university processes or platforms to make official decisions, provide advice concerning student related matters, and when submitted official university records. 

The schedule does not impact conversations hosted within an official course or Teams channel. Conversations within an official channel will be retained until manually deleted (based on UFV's record retention schedule) and dependent on the context of the records value or when the channel is decommissioned. For example, an official course hosted within Teams is considered an official university record, not a transitory record, as it is related to a course with a separate retention period outside the instant messaging timeframe of 180-days. 

Employees are encouraged to visit UFV's records management employee guide for support on managing chat records and organizing information in MS Teams. 

Contact UFV records management within the Secretariat for further assistance.