Many businesses rely on Microsoft Office 365 for email, collaboration, document storage and other productivity needs. With so much important data stored in Office 365, it’s natural to wonder: does Microsoft backup Office 365?
The short answer is yes, Microsoft does backup Office 365 data. However, it’s important to understand exactly how Microsoft backs up Office 365, what data is protected, and the limitations of relying solely on Microsoft’s backups.
How Microsoft Backs Up Office 365 Data
Microsoft uses a distributed cloud architecture to provide robust backup for Office 365 data. Here’s an overview of how it works:
- Data is stored on geographically distributed servers – if one data center goes down, others remain online.
- Data is copied in near real-time to multiple data centers. This provides redundancy and failover protection.
- Microsoft generates continuous incremental backups, allowing point-in-time restores.
- Backups are stored on enterprise-grade storage infrastructure across multiple regions.
This distributed approach to backup provides strong protection against hardware failures, natural disasters, power outages, and other disruptions. Even a major data center outage typically won’t result in permanent data loss.
What Office 365 Data is Backed Up?
Microsoft backs up all core Office 365 workloads, including:
- Exchange Online (email, calendars, contacts)
- SharePoint Online (documents, lists)
- OneDrive for Business (personal files)
- Teams (conversations, meetings, files)
However, some third-party data connected to Office 365 is not backed up:
- Data in third-party add-ins or non-Microsoft cloud services
- External data sources indexed in SharePoint Online
- Azure Active Directory accounts
So while your core Office 365 data has strong backup from Microsoft, you may need to implement separate backups for connected SaaS apps and external data.
Backup Frequency and Retention Periods
Microsoft performs backups of Office 365 data on a continuous basis. Backup frequency and retention periods vary by workload:
- Exchange Online: Backups occur every 12 hours and are retained for 14 days.
- SharePoint Online: Backups occur every 6-12 hours and are retained for 14 days.
- OneDrive for Business: Backups occur every 3-6 hours and are retained for 30 days.
- Teams: Backups occur every 12 hours and are retained for 14 days.
So Microsoft retains 14-30 days of point-in-time backups that can be restored on request. Older data is not retained in Microsoft’s distributed backup system.
Accessing Backups and Restore Process
As an Office 365 subscriber, you don’t have direct access to backup copies or the ability to restore data yourself. You must go through Microsoft Support to request data recovery:
- Contact Microsoft Support to request backup restoration
- Provide info on which data needs restoring and to what point in time
- Microsoft Support will work to restore from the closest backup point
- Typical recovery time is under 12 hours but can take up to 24 hours
- There are no restore fees, but advanced requests may incur charges
So while Microsoft handles the backups for you, restoration does require assistance from their support team. Quick action is needed for recovery requests before backups expire.
Limitations of Microsoft’s Backups
While Microsoft provides robust backup for Office 365 data, relying solely on their backups has limitations including:
- No long-term retention of data beyond 14-30 days
- No ability to directly access backups or restore data yourself
- Recovery time can be up to 24 hours
- Data loss possible from time between backups
- No protection for external data sources, third-party apps
- No archival backups for compliance needs
For many organizations, retaining backups for longer periods, having quicker restore abilities, and protecting external data is important. That’s where third-party backup solutions for Office 365 come into play.
Third-Party Backups for Office 365
To augment Microsoft’s built-in Office 365 backups, many organizations deploy third-party SaaS backup tools. These solutions offer benefits like:
- Longer data retention of months or years
- More frequent backup intervals (e.g. near-continuous)
- Faster restore times (often under an hour)
- Ability to directly access and restore backups
- Protection of external data sources and third-party apps
- Archival backups for compliance and eDiscovery
Leading third-party backup solutions for Office 365 include Veeam, Commvault, Barracuda, and Asigra. Many IT teams use a hybrid approach – relying on Microsoft for short-term backup and a third-party solution for long-term retention and archiving.
Best Practices for Backing Up Office 365
To ensure strong protection for Office 365 data, we recommend these backup best practices:
Leverage Microsoft’s built-in backups – Take advantage of Microsoft’s continuous, incremental backups across geo-distributed data centers. This provides a first line of defense for data protection.
Implement a third-party backup solution – Augment Microsoft’s backups with a third-party tool to enable longer retention, faster restores, and broader data protection.
Test backup and recovery – Validate that your third-party backup solution is capturing Office 365 data properly and you can successfully restore items.
Backup external data – Have a plan to backup and protect any external data sources, third-party apps, and connected SaaS tools. Don’t assume Microsoft is backing these up.
Document policies and procedures – Detail your backup schedule, retention policies, recovery procedures, and validation testing. Document service levels and RTO/RPO targets.
Educate end users – Let employees know how their Office 365 data is being protected and what to expect in the event of data loss.
Consider an archival solution – For long-term retention and eDiscovery needs, look at dedicated cloud archiving tools.
By leveraging both Microsoft and third-party backup solutions for Office 365, you can ensure critical business data has protection – even in the event of unexpected loss or outage. Follow best practices around testing, documentation, user education, and external data coverage. With the right backup approach, you can confidently run your organization with Office 365.