An Overview of Microsoft Office 365 Backup Best Practices

Office 365 is a reliable cloud solution that operates using the infrastructure of Microsoft datacenters. Microsoft’s top priority is operations continuity, high availability of cloud services and data redundancy. Nevertheless, Microsoft doesn’t back up Microsoft Office 365 data of customers even if the most expensive subscription plans are used by its customers. Office 365 data can be lost for multiple reasons – accidental deletion by users, ransomware attacks and others.

In the service-level agreement (SLA) for Office 365, Microsoft states that Microsoft is responsible for data availability and protects the infrastructure of its datacenters, but the company is not responsible for the recoverability of your data. Microsoft recommends that you regularly back up your Office 365 data. Native recovery features in Office 365 have limited functionality. That’s why you should know how to protect Office 365. This blog post covers Office 365 backup best practices to help you protect your Office 365 data.

Protect All Needed Office 365 Applications

Define what Office 365 applications are used in your organization and which data should be protected.

  • Back up emails of your users who use Outlook Online/Exchange Online. Email accounts, calendar and scheduler should be protected.
  • Back up files stored in OneDrive. OneDrive is a file cloud storage in Office 365. OneDrive backups may require the most storage space. Enable versioning for stored files and retention period in the Recycle Bin. These native features can be used for short-term data recovery in some cases. Read details in sections below.
  • Back up SharePoint sites. SharePoint is a collaboration and data management platform. SharePoint lists and libraries should be protected if used in your organization.

Office 365 Best Practices Backup

Calculate the Amount of Data You Have to Protect

Office 365 provides diverse monitoring features including app usage reports, which help identify the active Office 365 users and the storage space used in the cloud. A good rule of thumb is calculating the approximate storage space occupied by user data every week (for example) and then use that figure to estimate the space required for storing daily/weekly/monthly backups. You’re better off paying for backup storage rather than spending time and money trying to recover lost data without a backup. Only backups can guarantee successful recoveries.

Back Up Microsoft Office 365 Data Regularly

You don’t know when you can lose data. For this reason, you should back up Microsoft Office 365 data regularly. If users in your organization use Office 365 intensively, consider Office 365 backup once a day. If users don’t write a lot of changes to the cloud storage, you can consider backup of Office 365 emails daily and OneDrive weekly, for instance. Use backup software that support incremental backups to save space when performing backups regularly. With incremental backups, only changed data is written to the backup destination. This approach allows you to save time and disk space.

Follow the 3-2-1 Backup Rule

The 3-2-1 backup rule states that you must have at least three copies of your data – your production data and two backup copies on two different media, with one of them stored offsite. For example, the first copy of your data is located on your production server, the second copy is a backup stored on NAS located in your office and the third copy is a backup recorded to tape stored offsite. Cloud storage can also be used as offsite backup storage locations. Given that Office 365 is a cloud solution, you should avoid storing your two backup copies on OneDrive, which is a cloud platform in Office 365. Consider storing Office 365 backups on backup servers in your office or datacenter, on NAS devices, on USB hard disk drives that can be detached, or in another cloud such as Amazon S3.

Configure Retention Settings

Retention settings define how long data is stored before the data is deleted permanently without the possibility to recover it. Office 365 provides retention settings to store deleted items in Recycle Bin, and the maximum retention period is 93 days. Configure retention settings in Office 365 but keep in mind that items from Recycle Bin are deleted if the amount of data stored in the Recycle Bin exceeds the storage quota (50% for a site collection recycle bin in SharePoint, 10% of OneDrive storage by default). Due to these limitations of native recovery features in Office 365, consider using Office 365 backup and recovery software that supports customizable retention settings.

Enable Versioning

Versioning allows you to preserve previous versions of SharePoint documents and files on OneDrive after editing or deleting. This native feature of Office 365 can help recover data that was corrupted or unwanted changes were written to files. Keep in mind that additional storage space is used to store multiple versions. Check that you have enough free space in the Office 365 cloud storage. Versioning is a good feature but it has a limitation on the number of retained versions.

Backup Security

When you configure Office 365 backup and recovery, don’t forget about security. The general rule is don’t store backups on production servers. In the case of using Office 365, you should not store Office 365 backups on OneDrive. Store backups in a well-protected safe place to avoid data leaks and data corruption. Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are popular now. Use encryption when you copy data to the backup storage destination.

Use Software that Supports Granular Recovery

Granular recovery allows you to restore custom items from a backup and helps you save time spent during recoveries. If you need to recover a lost email message you don’t need to recover the entire user account with all emails and wait until the large amount of data is recovered. This is also true for OneDrive. If you lose particular files, select them from a backup and recover only these needed files without the need to recover all OneDrive files from a backup. Granular recovery provides added flexibility for Office 365 recovery.

Office 365 Best Practices Recovery

Use NAKIVO Backup & Replication for Office 365 Backup and Recovery

If you are choosing among third-party Microsoft 365 backup solutions, consider NAKIVO Backup & Replication. The solution supports Office 365 backup and recovery including backup for Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online data. Here are some of the advantages of using NAKIVO Backup & Replication to protect Office 365 data.

  • Incremental backups. Save your disk space and time spent on backup jobs. Only changed data is written to a backup repository during backups.
  • Onsite backup destination. Back up your Office 365 data to local storage. You can detach a backup repository to preserve data backup in a consistent state and move it to a different location.
  • The GFS retention policy allows you to preserve both new and old recovery points that can be used to recover data even if you failed to notice data corruption or data loss as soon as it happened. Keep up to 4,000 recovery points for your Office 365 backups.
  • Granular recovery. You can select only needed items such as emails, mailbox folders, OneDrive files, folders, and SharePoint lists and libraries to recover from a backup. Don’t restore the entire mailbox if you need to restore only one email message. Restore only what you need without wasting time.
  • Custom recovery destination. You can recover Exchange Online emails, OneDrive files and folders, and SharePoint Online content to the source (original) location or to a custom location in your organization.
  • Scheduling options allow you to run Office 365 backup jobs automatically and back up Office 365 regularly. The Calendar dashboard helps you schedule backup jobs and avoid the interference of multiple backup jobs at the same time.
  • Search capabilities help you find the needed item in your Office 365 backup in a short time.
  • Scalability. Protect multiple users from multiple Microsoft Office 365 accounts by using one instance of NAKIVO Backup & Replication.
  • A user-friendly web interface allows you to find all needed options quickly for effective and convenient administration of Office 365 backup and recovery.

Download NAKIVO Backup & Replication from the official website and perform Office 365 backup in your environment. Learn how to protect Office 365 email and read the blog post about Exchange Online backup. Read also about OneDrive backup. In addition to Office 365, NAKIVO Backup & Replication supports VMware vSphere VMs, Microsoft Hyper-V VMs, Nutanix AHV VMs, Linux and Windows physical machines, Oracle databases and Amazon EC2 instances.


The risk of data loss when using software as a service solutions is always present. If you use Office 365, Office 365 backup and recovery is important and should be performed on a regular basis. This blog post explained Office 365 backup best practices. Follow the best practices, protect all needed Office 365 applications, and don’t forget about security and data protection. Choosing the right data protection software to back up Office 365 can save your time and money. If you are looking for the best Office 365 backup solution, try NAKIVO Backup & Replication. This enterprise backup solution can fit your needs and ensures low RTO and RPO values.

People also read