Great questions, @depurnell! A recording is only saved if you are subscribed, or in the free trial period. When you not subscribed to a Protect Plan, or within trial period, your videos will not be saved, and can only be viewed live.
Events that will initiate a video are motion events, ring events (for doorbells), and live views. These are the only times when your device will trigger video and recording. At Ring we value your security and your privacy, thus there are various options in the Ring app such as the motion record toggle and other privacy related settings.
When subscribed to a Protect Plan, or in trial, and an event occurs, this recording can be found in your event history section of the Ring app, or even by reviewing your timeline history from the dashboard view in the Ring app. Activating your free 30 day trial is as simple as setting up the device. Once setup successfully in the Ring app, your device should automatically initiate the trial period. I hope this helps!