How to Backup OneDrive for Business to Avoid Data Loss

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OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s cloud storage service for storing user's Microsoft 365 data. Among other uses, OneDrive for Business is used to store SharePoint Online content in Microsoft 365. OneDrive for Business includes reliable cloud storage used by many companies for sharing files and collaboration, but it’s not a fool-proof file storage system. Files stored in OneDrive can be lost. This blog post explains why you should back up OneDrive for Business and how to back up OneDrive for Business to protect cloud storage data and enable point-in-time restores.

Before we start
OneDrive for Business data is subject to ransomware attacks, accidental deletion, intentional deletion and unwanted changes. To avoid permanent data loss, run regular OneDrive for Business backup using NAKIVO Backup & Replication. Get started right away with the free edition of the solution trusted by over 20,000 SMBs and enterprises worldwide. No credit card required.

Reasons to Back up OneDrive for Business

Cloud services provided by Microsoft are highly reliable and available and this applies to OneDrive for Business. However,  it is still possible to face data loss in OneDrive. This problem has nothing to do with Microsoft. Let’s take a look at the common reasons for data loss in OneDrive for Business.

  • Ransomware attacks. If ransomware infects a user’s computer, and this user has access to OneDrive for Business via OneDrive sync client, files stored in OneDrive become corrupted (encrypted). The probability of this event increases if multiple users access a shared folder in OneDrive, as corrupted files are synchronized from the local computers to the cloud storage. Read about how to protect data against ransomware.
  • Accidental deletion. Human error remains the most prevalent cause of data loss. A user can accidentally delete a file stored in OneDrive for Business, and admins are not immune to this kind of accident.
  • Intentional deletion. This situation is rare, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. A disgruntled employee with access to the OneDrive or other malicious actor can delete files stored in OneDrive for Business (for example, shared files used by a team). Data can be deleted if a Microsoft 365 account is compromised.
  • Writing unwanted changes. A mistake can happen, and a user can write unwanted changes to a file and save the file in OneDrive for Business. The file is then overwritten and important information is lost.

If you have a backup of the OneDrive files stored in a safe place, you can recover your files under these and other circumstances.

Is OneDrive Backed Up by Microsoft?

Microsoft does have large data centers with a great number of servers and storage devices. Data is redundant, and Microsoft performs backups inside its data centers for internal purposes. Data is also mirrored between data centers (known as geo-redundancy).

However, a Microsoft 365 client who loses files and sends a request to Microsoft to restore the files might not receive much help. In the Microsoft 365 service level agreement (SLA), Microsoft says that it is not responsible for any disruptions caused on the user’s side. Microsoft uses redundancy to keep its side of the agreement, providing uninterrupted services and ensuring platform uptime. To avoid losing data on the user’s side, Microsoft recommends that you regularly back up your content and data (including data stored in OneDrive for Business).

You can send a request to Microsoft support within 14 days after files are deleted from the second stage recycle bin (to which files deleted from OneDrive are sent). If the content can be restored, a OneDrive is restored in full to the state it was in on the available date. Selecting particular files to recover, generally known as granular recovery, is not possible in this case.

Sometimes the OneDrive recycle bin can help you recover deleted OneDrive files, but the OneDrive limits of the recycle bin must be taken into account. Retention settings and versioning are native options that should be enabled when you set up OneDrive for Business because they can help you recover data. OneDrive for Business limitations, especially those related to native tools, cannot help restore all data in different situations. The maximum period to recover data from the recycle bin and the second stage recycle bin is 93 days (if the recycle bin is not full). If you notice that important data was deleted more than three months ago, only a proper OneDrive backup can help you recover deleted OneDrive files.

OneDrive Backup Methods for Users

The most popular methods to back up OneDrive are:

  • Copying files manually
  • Using the OneDrive sync client
  • Using third-party dedicated backup software for OneDrive

Let’s explore these methods in detail.

1. Copying files manually

Every user can manually copy or download files from OneDrive to a local disk attached to the user’s computer. You can back up OneDrive to an external hard drive by copying files manually. Restoring files will also have to be done manually by uploading files to OneDrive. The recovery process can be complicated if you need to restore a large number of files.

Advantages. There is no need to configure any software, and this method is affordable for everyone. Downloading files can be done without setting up OneDrive for Business options. To copy files from OneDrive, all a user must have is read permission.

Disadvantages. As the data copying is done manually in this case, errors come into play. Some files can be missed – a user can forget to back up some files, and data backups might not be done with regularity. The backup process is also time-consuming.

Copying files manually is done mostly by home users. Organizations need more streamlined solutions to back up OneDrive for Business. It is better to choose an automated way to back up OneDrive for Business, especially if the amount of data stored in OneDrive is large.

2. Using the OneDrive sync client

OneDrive sync client is an application installed on Windows. It allows you to configure synchronization from selected folders on a local computer to OneDrive and vice versa. As a result, you get a copy of the data stored in OneDrive. If a large amount of data is stored in OneDrive, make sure to have enough disk space on your computer on which the OneDrive sync client is installed, since synchronized files are not compressed. As for OneDrive for Business limitations in cloud storage, the storage limit depends on the Microsoft 365 subscription plan.

Advantages. This option is available for all Windows users using the latest Windows versions containing the OneDrive sync client as a pre-installed application. Synchronization is performed automatically. Configuring a sync client is simple. There is even a OneDrive sync app for macOS.

Disadvantages. Synchronization with the OneDrive sync client cannot be considered a fully reliable backup, especially at scale. If a file is deleted on the computer, after synchronization, this file is deleted in OneDrive (and vice versa). Put broadly, unwanted changes written on one side are reflected on the other side.

Data is also at risk from ransomware attacks, and data copies stored on the workstations of OneDrive users are not immune to hardware failures such as a disk failure. Even when things are going well, the lack of compression puts an unnecessary burden on the company’s data storage devices.

OneDrive sync client should be used when multiple users are working with OneDrive files rather than for backing up OneDrive for Business. The preferred manner of using the OneDrive sync client is by accessing files and working with files stored in OneDrive from everywhere. Limited storage space can be a reason for deleting files by users on their local computers. Some important files (for example, older files) can be deleted manually. Users can copy files synchronized from OneDrive to a local folder on your computer to a USB drive, and as a result, back up OneDrive to an external hard drive.

Read more about manual backup and OneDrive sync client in this blog post, which contains detailed instructions and configuration with screenshots.

3. Using special backup software for OneDrive

The most reliable method of OneDrive for Business backup is using dedicated data protection software.  Microsoft provides an API (Application Programming Interface) to allow third-party companies to develop Microsoft 365 backup software including backup software for OneDrive.

Advantages. OneDrive backup can have a powerful functionality with a wide set of options to configure. OneDrive for Business backup can be performed automatically. If a Microsoft 365 user account is deleted, data can be recovered from a backup created with a backup application.

Disadvantages. OneDrive for Business backup software is provided on a paid basis.

Use a professional OneDrive backup solution for the most effective data protection strategy to back up the data stored in OneDrive for Business by users in an organization. Specialized backup applications provide the best result when talking about setting up OneDrive for Business backup. Backup software for OneDrive and other Microsoft 365 applications is classified as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) backup solution.

OneDrive Backup with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

NAKIVO Backup & Replication is a universal data protection solution that supports Microsoft 365 OneDrive for Business backup, SharePoint Online backup, and Exchange Online backup.  The solution allows you to back up OneDrive for Business data to a backup repository created on one of your servers on-premises.

NAKIVO has a wide set of options to configure OneDrive for Business backup. Create up to 4,000 recovery points for flexible point-in-time restores when needed. Backup automation and scheduling allow you to configure backup jobs and edit them on demand.

Read the detailed step-by-step walkthrough about how to back up OneDrive for Business with NAKIVO Backup & Replication to learn more.


OneDrive for Business as cloud storage is a reliable platform to store data. But even data stored in the cloud should be backed up to avoid data loss and enable granular recovery. This blog post has explained how to back up OneDrive and went over the three main methods for this purpose. Copying data from OneDrive manually and using the OneDrive sync client are native methods available to everyone.

Native methods for OneDrive backup can be used temporarily or can be used by individual users who store very little data in OneDrive. These two native methods have too many disadvantages to back up OneDrive for Business in organizations where many users work with cloud storage. The OneDrive recycle bin and versioning can help, sometimes, but keep in mind the limitations of these features.

Organizations that use OneDrive for Business should use a professional OneDrive backup solution to benefit from point-in-time restore options. Use NAKIVO Backup & Replication to back up OneDrive for Business and other Microsoft 365 apps including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.

Download a free edition of NAKIVO Backup & Replication to see for yourself how you can back up Microsoft 365 data.

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