Backup solution for sharepoint online document libraries

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We are planning to have a copy of our sharepoint online document libraries. After certain research i found that there are essentially 4 Different ways we can recover data.

  1. Using the Recycle bins and version control (which is not enough)
  2. Third party tools that can back up your Data
  3. Make a manual backup of your Sites or Document library

Which most recommended option please?

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best response

It totally depends on what you want to do. What is it that you want to protect yourself from?


If you want backups like you would do in the on-premises environments then you would probably look at expensive 3rd party solutions.


In general I find that more and more customers simply don't bother.


Traditionally you would take backups for disaster recovery ( well this is Microsoft's problem as they manage the systems)


Then to handle the "oops I deleted a file", you can go to the recycle bin.


Then finally the option of "I made a mistake in my document update and I need to get my document back" ... You should have considered version control if you hadn't already done so.



Hi Hajer,


Full disclosure, I’m the Technical Evangelist at Datto and figured you would be interested in knowing about another solution. Our product Backupify has comprehensive backup, restore and export coverage for all areas of your O365 accounts - including SharePoint sites and site collections.


Once you’ve authorized access to your O365 account on our behalf (we use OAuth based tokens), we can backup your designated accounts - SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange - 3 times daily. You can recover individual items from the trash or restore entire accounts back to a previous state in the event of accidental deletion or a ransomware attack. We support one-click non-destructive restore to the original user or another in your system. You can also choose to export data for onsite storage.


Unlike other providers we don’t charge you for storage costs - you can get unlimited retention and storage for your O365 data. We’re also securing data both in transit and at rest, making us secure and compliant at the app level.


You can trial the service here or you can request a demo with one of our sales engineers.  Pricing is on a per user per month basis and scales to your team’s needs. All customers have access to our 24/7 phone and web chat support.


Any questions, reach out to me directly.

You have to understand what each option gets you, and their limitations.

1. Recycle Bin and version control.

In the case that someone wants to get back an older version of a document to compare it, version control is essential. It is turned on by default (major versions) in SharePoint Online libraries. They are retained according to the settings in the library. If you are updating the document yourself all the time, it may just overwrite the same version number, so can be a little hit and miss, unless you explicitly check it out and check it in at important points, or someone else edits it (which creates a new version.)

We find this useful.


If you delete a document it goes into the site recycle Bin for (I think) 90 days, and then into the Second Stage Recycle Bin or site Collection Recycle Bin for another 90 days. So its gone after 180 days. That is enough time for most people to realise they can't find a file, and make a request. A lot of my restores have been like this.

3. Manual backup

If you have the storage and you want to capture a point in time, then this can be useful, such as after a major release. You would probably want to script it with powershell, or you run the risk of forgetting.  You will typically forget or be too busy to do it right before something catastrophic happens. Not recommended except occasionally. 

Depending on how many users you have and how large your tenant is, this may be unworkable.

4. Microsoft can restore your data

They backup your data as well. However, they will only restore a complete Site Collection, and they only retain it for (I think) 90 days. So this would only be useful in complete disaster times, or some disgruntled employee goes on a rampage and deletes everything. Restoring a Site colllection will overwrite all the document updates made since then


2. Third party Software

None of the above do proper retention, so if you need to ensure that your documents are retained for regulatory or other reasons, you probably need third party software.

We use AvePoints DocAve Online, and we find it mostly useful (I do not have any association with them). Choices you need to make are

  • whether the backed up data  is encrypted and can only be read by the backup tool (In which case you are tied to the tool)
  • is the storage on their storage, or can you backup to your own location.
  • Can you backup to local company storage or to cloud storage
  • performance considerations.

Performance consideration aree worth talking about. On Premises you can backup the Content Databases, and there are tools for mounting a Content Database and restoring from that. Not so in Office365. Microsoft provide an API for accessing the Content, and you cannot get at the Content Databases. You have to backup each file in the site collection individually. This means that backup is Slooow, as typically a Site Collection has a lot of very small files. You will never get the sort of backup performance as on premises. In addition, Microsoft throttle users that try to access large numbers of files, including backup accounts. We recently had our OneDrive backup of 1.5TB take 50 hours to backup. you can set up multiple accounts to mitigate this to some extent, eg. for backing up different sections of your tenant, but its not ideal. I don't know any backup tool that doesn't use the Microsoft API to backup SharePoint Online/OneDrive.


With DocAve Online, we can go back into the backup schedule and selectively restore a particular file from the backup of last week, or tell people what was in a folder at a point in time. I have used this a reasonable amount as well, sometimes when people are tying to track down where their changes may have gone to.

 Does anyone knows if it is possible to backup SP online with Azure Backup for example ? I have a project to put 3TB of data Under SP Online, and backup is a sensitive point on this case study. Thanks in advance for your help 

I don't know definitively, but from what I read it seems not. Azure Backup seems to backup servers, and doesn't understand the SharePoint Online structure enough to back it up.

@Ciaran Fletcher - I am looking for a backup solution only for disastrous times. Exactly the kind of situation that you mentioned where an employee who has access to the database deletes the whole database, or an employee who's credentials are compromised has the data downloaded and then deleted from the server to be used as ransomware. 

In those times, I would not mind if the whole server can be restored back to it's original state by MS. I will not care for individual file modifications then.

Do you have more info on how frequently MS backs up the SharePoint server and how does one approach them for restore etc.?

Thank you. 

@Stephane KLOIS You probably already have this solved.

How about a solution that makes use of standard features out of the box:

[1] run in Azure a virtual windows machine with sufficient for your needs storage

[2] Install on the machine the Office 365 install for OneDrive for Business

[3] SYNC whatever document library you want

Hope this helps, if not you then others.

@Asjad_Hasan in te servicetrust portal you can find audit reports how Microsoft copes with disaster recovery. Get this doc there "Microsoft Cloud - EBCM - Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan Validation Report - FY19 Q3.pdf" 

Thank you very much for your feedback. In the end, we went with a third party vendor to do the backup. We deployed on premises server for a part of the backup and some cloud storage space for others (requirements from the project)

Also thank you for the link below ( ). Every day, I'm Learning Something new about microsoft and their cloud services.

@carry2web - Thank you for the help. It looks like MS is backing up SharePoint Online every 12hrs. It might just be for HW/SW resiliency but it works for me. I am not expecting granular backup, as long as I am safe from disastrous events.


Thanks again for all the help people!!! You guys are the best.

@Asjad_Hasan Where did you find the information in regards to how often MS backs up SharePoint online please? 

@Pieter Veenstra So what if a malicious insider deletes everything and after two months we realize we needed to revert to an old backup? 

Hi guys,
I would like to show my solution for independent backup on external hard drive with raspberry pi. I am using it successfully for some time now on monthly basis with 5x 1tb drives exchanged each month.

@Henry Washburn  


Hi Henry, I am in a similar situation however, i need a backup solution that is FedRamp approved OR we can secure based on NIST standards, does Backupify fit that?


May Sharepoint alerts and Microsoft security alerts can help you. You can define the alerts for file deletions and actions like block users when they do massive exclusions.