SharePoint Online Backups


I get lots of questions about how/if data is backed up with SharePoint Online. Remember, that SharePoint Online is composed of two items , Team Sites and OneDrive for Business. Both of these are SharePoint, OneDrive for Business is simply a very limited set of standard Team Site features, but it is STILL IS SharePoint.


As I say over and over and over again, SharePoint is a collaboration system not just a file share. It is very different from a traditional network share. Thus, the way that data is stored is very different to start out with.


Firstly, all of SharePoint’s data is stored in a database. Calendars, contacts, lists AND flies are all stored inside a database because they are objects. This means that when you upload a file to SharePoint Online it is wrapped inside an object that contains additional information not just the file. This information could be meta data, workflows, previous versions and more.


When a user deletes something from SharePoint Online it will generally be sent to their recycle bin. They can recover it from here themselves currently for a period of 93 days.

If in that 93 days the file is deleted from the users recycle bin it is moved to an administrator recycle bin for the remainder of those 93 days.


Points to remember with the recycle bin:

- Deleted items can be recovered up to 93 days after deletion

- Items in the users recycle bin count against the storage quote for that site. Items in the administrators recycle bin don’t count against the storage quota for the site.

- The administrator recycle bin can only be accessed by a Site Collection Administrator.

For more information about various recycle bins and how to recover see:


Manage the Recycle Bin of a SharePoint Online site collection


Document Libraries, i.e. where files are stored in SharePoint, have version history enabled by default and set to save 500 versions of a file. Each time a file is changed and save a new copy is retained. This versioning can be edited and disabled if required and also counts against your storage site quota.


For more on versioning see:


How does versioning work in a list or library?


Apart from that SharePoint Online

- Is backed up every 12 hours and kept for 14 days

- The only recovery option is a full site collection restore

- To perform a site collection restore you must contact technical support

- The restore location is the same as the source, so you will loose all data that is currently hosted there.


Further details are contained in this blog post:


Restore options in SharePoint Online


If none of these options are adequate then there are third party backup providers like:


Leaphq and CloudFinder and others that can provide an alternate method of backing up SharePoint data.


With all SharePoint Online backup option, you need to understand that some allow recovery of any items (i.e. appointment, list item, contact, file etc) while some just allow recovery of files.


In my experience, with document library versioning now enabled by default and presence of a recycle bin, there is generally no need for a third party tool, however they are available if your needs are not adequately covered by the tolls built into SharePoint.

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