With Office 365, users get all of the capabilities offered by Microsoft Exchange on-premises, like OneDrive and SharePoint, along with the added benefit of accessing their data from multiple devices. Team collaboration is streamlined, as users can see edits happening in real time. Office 365 offers users easy access to data and boosts productivity, but, of course, it also has its drawbacks. There’s a common misconception that data created and stored in the cloud is automatically being backed up. The truth is, data can easily be lost.
Common causes of data loss in Office 365 include:
- Human error (e.g., accidental deletion)
- Viruses (e.g., malware, ransomware)
- Hard disk or storage damage
- Natural disasters
- Fear not though! Data can be recovered.
Recovering Data in Office 365
If you’ve migrated all of your data over to Exchange Online, the hosted version of Microsoft’s Exchange Server, you have a few recovery options should data loss occur.
Deleted Items + Recovered Items
The Deleted Items and Recovered Items folder give users the ability to easily restore emails that have fallen within their retention period. The default retention period is 14 days, but administrators can increase it to a maximum of 30 days.
Files living in either the deleted or recovered items folders are the easiest to recover with the click of button. Single or multiple items can be selected at once.
Archive Mailbox Recovery + Request Email Restore
If you enable the archive feature on your core mailbox, deleted emails can be archived and restored as needed. Administrators can also apply Message Records Management (MRM) policies to a core mailbox. MRM allows admins to set retention longer than the default value mentioned above.
Items that fall outside the retention period will not appear in the archived folder and require a support call to Microsoft. Microsoft’s support team will then restore the mailbox data as needed.
If you’re using OneDrive for Business, you’ll find deleted items here. You can select single or multiple items at once to restore back to their original locations. If files do not exist in the Recycle Bins, users have to call Microsoft and request they restore the entire Site Collection. It’s important to note that any changes made since deletion will be overwritten and replaced with the backup.
Native Backup of the Core Infrastructure
To meet its Service Level Agreement (SLA), Exchange Online supports native backup of the core infrastructure if you follow the recommended approaches.
Email: For email, those approaches include the Deleted Item recovery, Recovered Item Recovery, and Archive Mailbox Recovery mentioned above. There is no other option for backup built in for mailboxes.
Contacts: Contacts stored in Exchange Online live in the Global Address List and are backed up by Microsoft as part of tenant administration. However, you cannot restore any one contact if you delete them (i.e., the backup of the list will not reflect recent changes depending on when they happened). To work around this, admins can manually export the Global Address List and keep an up-to-date copy handy.
Calendar: Microsoft recommends using outside tools to back up calendars. Export the calendar in an Outlook Data File (.pst). This can be done manually by admins.
OneDrive for Business: Files stored in OneDrive for Business are surfaced through SharePoint Online. Backups of this storage mechanism are taken every 12 hours. Microsoft holds onto to the backups for 14 days. A restore can be initiated by calling Microsoft’s support team.
Additional Backup Solutions
While there are some options to retrieve lost data in Office 365, it’s important to remember that it was not built to be a backup tool. With a third-party backup solution, like Office 365 Backup, administrators benefit from automated backups, visibility into restores, and a simple user interface.