How to Back up Sharepoint Online and OneDrive for Business

Organizations use SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business in Microsoft 365 to improve collaboration between workers by enabling multiple users to manage and store documents seamlessly. The importance of SharePoint Online backup is hard to overestimate.

Without recovery from backup, you risk losing critical business data after, for example, human error or a ransomware attack. Keeping in mind that Microsoft 365 data is stored in the cloud, you need to consider some things when planning your SharePoint backup strategy.

In this post, we will look at whether Microsoft 365 offers any native SharePoint Online backup and restore. After that, we will show a reliable all-in-one backup and recovery alternative to those methods for gaining control over your cloud data. In case you are already looking for a universal solution for all your workloads, including for SharePoint Online backup, you can find more information here.

Back up SharePoint Online: Native Microsoft 365 Data Protection Methods

With Microsoft 365, OneDrive for Business is used as the cloud data storage for SharePoint Online. The SharePoint Online data is distributed across many sites, libraries, lists, and folders in OneDrive. Consequently, backing up the necessary data from OneDrive manually becomes more challenging and time-consuming.

Microsoft 365 provides some native functions enabling you to restore the data that had been corrupted or deleted. Though, the functionality of the native features is limited, and none of them can help you create an actual SharePoint backup.

Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin is the simplest instrument to use when you need to recover deleted SharePoint Online items, such as files, sites, lists, libraries, calendar events, or folders. The maximum retention period for deleted items in the Microsoft 365 Recycle Bin, including the second-stage Recycle Bin, is 93 days.

After the 93 days expire, items are deleted permanently from the Recycle Bin. In case the size of deleted items exceeds the maximum available size of the Recycle Bin, the oldest items sent to the Recycle Bin are deleted permanently to fit the newest added items.


Microsoft 365 enables you to store several versions of one file. When you introduce an unwanted change to a file, one of the previous versions can be used as the SharePoint rollback point to restore the file version that you need. You should be aware that multiple file versions require additional space in the Microsoft 365 cloud to store them.

If your current Microsoft 365 subscription plan does not provide unlimited storage space, additional payment may be required from your side to access more storage space and store more versions of your files.

Additionally, Microsoft 365 has certain limitations applied to the maximum number of file versions. The default limit is 500 versions for document libraries. You can increase that limit to 50,000 versions if necessary.

By default, SharePoint Online has Versioning enabled for document libraries, and you can enable the feature manually for SharePoint Online lists and page libraries. Versioning is not available for site metadata.

As the users edit a document, versions are created automatically. However, new versions are not created after each document change. The approximate period between versions is 30 minutes. Another version of the document is saved after you close a file. Data recovery from modified or lost files with Versioning can be complicated, as SharePoint Online users can delete the saved versions of the files.

Retention Policies

Again, the Retention Policies feature in Microsoft 365 is not for SharePoint backup. Nevertheless, with this feature, you can create policy rules that define the duration of the retention period for documents and other items in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. You can use the retention policies to configure the data to store and the exact retention period of that data.

In SharePoint Online, you can set special retention policies for various types of content. Thus, the appropriate retention policy is applied automatically after you create the content of the matching type. Retention policy configuration is possible for document libraries, files and folders.

Keep in mind that SharePoint Online requires a different backup strategy than the traditional methods used to back up SharePoint on-premises. Fortunately, Microsoft has application programming interfaces (API) that enable third-party backup solutions to access Microsoft 365 data and interact with the files, objects, lists, and folders.

Native Microsoft 365 Recovery Features: Not for SharePoint Online Backup

Standard Microsoft 365 features are not the best tools for responding to the various potential data loss scenarios.

For example, the fact that the Recycle Bin stores deleted files and items for only 93 days means that you risk losing the file or item in case you don’t notice that deletion soon enough.

With Versioning, it takes too long to recover multiple files by picking the required file versions manually, if, for instance, a chain of human errors makes multiple SharePoint Online items unusable for original purposes.

Additionally, Microsoft’s area of responsibility starts and ends with the company services and platform availability. Microsoft can’t be responsible for the loss of data stored in the cloud.

Microsoft ensures the geographical redundancy of cloud data across datacenters, thus the company is able to keep services available if a failure occurs.

Still, Microsoft 365 data, including SharePoint Online sites, is backed up by Microsoft once in 12 hours. If all other measures fail to recover your data, you can send a ticket and ask Microsoft to restore the entire SharePoint Online site.

The data recovery option from Microsoft’s backups is available for 14 days after the files are permanently deleted from the Recycle Bin. Granular recovery doesn’t work in that case, and you lose the latest changes made to SharePoint Online items.

A SharePoint Online rollback that Microsoft can initiate for recovery will overwrite the existing data in the site, including the changes you made after the recovery point was created.

Moreover, according to the Microsoft service level agreement (SLA), the company doesn’t guarantee the successful recovery of your data. Finally, if data is not restored within 14 days after the deletion from the second-stage Recycle Bin, the data is lost forever.

You can’t count on native Microsoft 365 features if you want to ensure critical SharePoint Online data protection and availability. The most reliable way to control your cloud data and have flexible recovery possibilities regardless of circumstances is to create and store a SharePoint Online backup.

Third-party SharePoint backup solutions are among the best options you can consider in that case. Learn more here about backups for Microsoft 365.

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