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Slack Archiving: How It Works and What You Need to Know

by Aware

Platforms like Slack are integral to fostering effective collaboration among distributed teams, but they generate vast amounts of data that must be managed and stored or purged appropriately. Slack’s native archiving feature provides a convenient way for workspace administrators to streamline their Slack environment, but is it a reliable retention tool? This post explores the uses and benefits of Slack archiving for retention and how to use it effectively to avoid data loss in Slack.


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What is Slack archiving?

Slack archiving is a feature designed to help teams manage their communication history by hiding inactive public and private channels from the Slack workspace. This simplifies the Slack environment, reducing the number of active channels to more manageable volume while preserving disused channels, messages, and files and while keeping them accessible for future reference. Archiving is often a simple and effective way of maintaining a searchable repository of Slack data.

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What's in your Slack data? We analyzed 6.6B messages to find out.

Who can archive Slack data?

Slack allows all workspace members to be able to archive channels by default, without having to be a channel member. Equally, any user can unarchive a channel and restore it to the live Slack environment. Workspace owners and admins can use additional options to restrict archiving capabilities if required, and only an owner or admin can delete a Slack channel, whether it’s active or archived.

Does Slack delete archived channels?

Archived Slack channels are retained indefinitely, although depending on your Slack membership level, some of the content within the channel may not be immediately accessible. Messages are only permanently removed when workspace admins delete Slack channels. Administrators have the option of deleting both live and archived channels at any time.

Admins can also amend how long an archived channel’s data is kept by adjusting the workspace retention polices. Customized retention periods override default settings and apply to all channels, including archived ones.

Is Slack archiving the same as Slack back-up?

Although Slack retains data indefinitely by default, archiving a Slack channel should not be considered a good alternative to a secure Slack back-up solution. Due to restrictions on channel message limits, not all the data contained within an archived Slack channel is always visible to administrators without petitioning Slack to release that information.

In addition, users still retain some controls over their content within archived channels. Although they cannot add or delete messages, all users can still add or delete Slack reactions, forward messages, or unarchive and re-archive the channel to edit its content.

An archived Slack channel is therefore not an immutable record of activity, nor a comprehensive back-up solution. Without a more robust alternative, data contained within a Slack archive is at risk of unauthorized access, exfiltration, and deletion.

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Slack Archiving FAQs

What is the function of a Slack archive?

A Slack archive is simply a way to reduce clutter and streamline a Slack workspace by removing disused and obsolete channels without losing the messages they contain.

What is the benefit of archiving Slack channels?

The ability to archive channels gives workspace admins and users the freedom to organize collaboration efforts into both long- and short-term projects without worrying about inflating their channel list beyond what is manageable.

How do you archive a Slack channel?

By default, any user can archive any Slack private or public channel except #general, which cannot be archived. To archive a Slack channel, follow these steps:

  • Click on the channel name
  • Choose the Settings tab in the pop-up window
  • Scroll down to Archive channel for everyone
  • Any users within that channel will be notified that you archived it

Can you retrieve an archived Slack channel?

Yes, Slack channels can be restored from the archive and reinstated. To do so, navigate to the archived channel through the search bar, click the channel name and then Settings in the open window, and select Unarchive this channel.

How do I view archived threads in Slack?

While Discord enables users to create temporary channels called Threads, Slack embeds threaded messages into the channel where the original message is posted. The status and visibility of threads in Slack is dependent on the status of the overall channel. Users with access to the channel can expand and view the full thread at any time unless it is deleted or hidden due to the account tier and settings.

How do I see old messages in Slack?

The ability to see old Slack messages depends on several factors, including the workspace account tier, the use of any custom retention policies, and access to the channel where the messages were sent. Direct messages are only visible to recipients and workspace owners in some instances.

Some Slack tiers only allow users to review messages from the last 90 days. Workspace admins can also impose their own retention policies on higher tiers that might delete messages in a shorter timeframe or retain them in a visible format for longer. Even if messages are accessible in Slack, they are still only visible to users with the right channel permissions to see them.

Assuming the messages still exist, and users have the right permissions, they can locate old messages in Slack using the standard search functionality or by browsing their message history.

Can you bulk archive Slack channels?

Bulk archiving Slack channels is not possible within Slack itself but can be accomplished using a third-party Slack app that connects via API.

Are deleted messages archived on Slack?

Deleted messages are not archived on Slack, but archived messages may still be deleted by custom retention policies. Users can also unarchive channels in order to delete messages. Without a DLP or Slack back-up in place, any message deleted by a Slack user is gone forever.

Does Slack automatically archive data?

Slack does not archive inactive channels unless workspace admins use an API application to build that rule. However, Slack does archive data in the sense that it retains all messages by default. It’s important for admins and users to understand that, depending on Slack plan tier, these messages may not be easily accessible even to workspace owners, and any custom retention policies will override this feature.


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What’s the difference between Slack archiving and Slack back-up?

Slack’s archiving feature does two things: removes the channel from the active list in the Slack sidebar and prevents users from adding or deleting messages in archived channels. The data within an archived channel is no more secure than in any other Slack channel, and still at risk of unauthorized access, exfiltration, or loss.

A Slack back-up is a secure storage solution that captures and retains Slack messages in an external repository that is under the control of the administrators, not Slack. Ideally, Slack back-up solutions connect natively to Slack via API to capture a complete, real-time record of all messages, including revisions and deletions. Without this capability, it is possible for negligent or malicious actors to act in Slack unseen—uploading a sensitive file to the wrong channel and deleting it without reporting the breach or using Slack to deliberately exfiltrate confidential data by syncing it between company-owned and private devices, for example.

  • Archiving: Hides data for space management and future reference but doesn't offer true data security.
  • Backup: Creates a separate, secure copy of data for disaster recovery and legal compliance.

Why Slack archive isn’t an ideal back-up solution

Workplace collaboration platforms like Slack have created a new dataset that has come to the attention of courts and regulators. Businesses that deploy these tools are expected to retain a complete record of their contents according to compliance regulations and to meet legal discovery demands. Relying on Slack’s native archive feature to fulfill these obligations is not enough.

  • Depending on account tier, archived data may not be accessible to admins without petitioning Slack for its release
  • Slack does not retain a complete record of all message revisions and deletions, resulting in incomplete record sets
  • Standard retention policies may not meet compliance needs for highly regulated industries
  • Users are able to add and remove channels from the archive, leading to potential spoliation in eDiscovery cases
  • Slack retains control of the data and can change its retention and access policies at any time
  • Archiving a channel does not create a secure copy of the data, leaving it vulnerable to corruption, ransomware, and technology failures

Related: All about exporting Slack messages and data

Trust Aware for secure Slack back-ups

Aware help businesses meet their compliance obligations to secure collaboration conversations, capturing and securing a complete record of all messages in a search-ready archive that accelerates search and eDiscovery workflows. Begin archiving Slack today with a secure, cost-effective retention solution, or connect via API for continuous DLP functionality from a bi-directional archive that supports granular retention and legal holds.


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Topics:Slack Messaging