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The 4 Options You Need to Know About SharePoint Online Backup and Restore

SharePoint Online Backup and Restore

With Office 365, Microsoft ensures some level of service by providing financial incentives if they do not meet a certain amount of uptime (if you are interested, see the Microsoft Online SLA or a good blog summarizing the SLA).  Microsoft also ensures that your SharePoint Online data isn’t lost for any reason.  Internally they manage backups on their own, but they do not provide any interface into accessing or restoring those backups.

That begs the question: What do you do if you really want to restore from a backup?  Do you have any options?

It turns out that there are basically 4 options:

  1. Use the recycle bin and version history.
  2. Use a 3rd party tool for backup and restore (there are several).
  3. Manually backup sites, lists, and libraries (see: Information about manual migration of SharePoint Online content and How to back-up an Office 365 SharePoint Online site and data)
  4. Create an Office 365 support request (see: Restore options in SharePoint Online)

The recycle bin and version history are great, but they don’t solve every problem.  Third party software is likely the way to go for many enterprises, but that is not my focus of this blog post.  The third option above is limited and laborious (which means it won’t reliably occur).

Using an Office 365 support request to restore a backup may be a reasonable alternative and I’d like to focus on it for the remainder of this post.  The Restore options in SharePoint Online link referenced above does not look like official Microsoft documentation, but at least it is on TechNet.com.  I spoke with O365 support and got the same answer as the blog above, which I will summarize here since I have a few more pieces of information:

  • Site collection backups are performed every 12 hours and are kept for 14 days.
  • If you want to restore a backup, you need to create a support ticket and specify the earliest backup time, latest backup time, and optimal backup time.  Say your site collection was messed up during the day on Tuesday.  You could state the earliest backup time as close of business Monday (e.g., 6 PM), the latest backup time as open of business on Tuesday (e.g., 6 AM), and the optimal backup time as Tuesday at 4 AM.  The support team will get you the best backup based on this information.  You should have at least 12 hours between the earliest and latest times.
  • The restoration is done to a site collection.  The entire site collection will be replaced and any changes made after the backup time will be lost (must be re-done after the restore).
  • Once a restore is requested, it may take 2 or more days for the restore to be performed.  This is done based on O365 support’s triage process and the perceived priority of the request.  The tenant license or overall number of users for the tenant does not change the priority.

If you know you are going to restore on top of an existing site collection, you may want to go ahead and lock the site collection so users don’t make changes that will get overwritten.  I haven’t seen how to do this in SharePoint Online like you can manage the lock status for site collections in SharePoint 2013 on-premises.  However, it appears that PowerShell may be an option using the Set-SPOSite cmdlet. Unfortunately, that PowerShell cmdlet may only allow for NoAccess vs. having a ReadOnly lock.

If you have any experience with locking a SharePoint Online site collection or with requesting a site collection restore from O365 support, I’d love to hear how this went.  Add a comment below to share your experience.


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Kirk LiemohnThe 4 Options You Need to Know About SharePoint Online Backup and Restore

8 comments

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  • jpineiro - October 11, 2014 reply

    Perhaps the toughest sell in moving our users to SPO is DR. The challenges we see:

    – Recycle bin does not cover “changed” items. Only deleted items.
    – SPO objects don’t come with Version control turned on automatically
    – No Admin restore portal.
    – Restore options for item level and destination site would be huge.
    – 14 days is just not enough. How about 60?

  • backup office 365 - October 27, 2014 reply

    We use a product called Office 365 backup . You can export all mailboxes in PST files and take it as backup.
    Visit here : office 365 backup

  • Emilia Dariel - November 10, 2014 reply

    CloudAlly offeres online daily secured backups for Office 365 and also for Sharepoint online. There is a free trial : http://www.cloudally.com

  • akshay nangare - October 12, 2015 reply

    Hi is that possible to take SharePoint online site collection backup , using CSOM in powershell ,

    Kirk Liemohn - October 19, 2016

    No, it is not. I would love to be proven wrong, but I feel pretty confident that it is currently not possible. Granted, you can use tools to copy a site collection, but that isn’t the same.

  • jj_the_skeptic - October 19, 2016 reply

    I know this is an old post, but figured I would chime in with my recent experience. I recently requested
    a site collection restore from o365 support because we accidentally chose to inherit permissions on a subsite which had complex permissions configured. Support said “restore from backup is only an option for data loss/corruption – not for permission issues”. Support suggested we contact our Microsoft Technical Account Manager (since we also have premier support) and see if they could restore. Our TAM said that is something they could do, at premier support rates. We decided to just rebuild (and document) the permissions.

    Kirk Liemohn - October 19, 2016

    That stinks. Next time I guess just say we lost some stuff in the site (stuff = permissions, but don’t say that word). Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • sandra diaz - November 11, 2016 reply

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.
    In our company, we faced issues while trying to download our SharePoint Online data.
    Our network admin has used a third party tool to backup ShareOnline site data. This can be an alternative to the methods mentioned below.
    The link to the tool is:
    https://www.systoolsgroup.com/office365-document-downloader.html

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