Understanding Your File Restore Options In Office365

O365 Restore.png

A visual representation of the restore options in Office365

I’ve been asked by a few educational institutes recently how the backup and restore of files works inside of Office365 so I thought I’d collate a few links and try to summarize it in brief in a blog post.

I’ve previously blogged about retention policies which are very powerful and allow administrators to configure granular controls on how documents are retained inside their organisation. Usually based on the file creation date or the last modified date, the retention policies work on the basis of either preventing documents from ever being deleted (i.e. retained forever) or conversely, will permanently delete a file when a defined retention date is reached (the equivalent of a digital paper shredder). Read more about Retention Policies here.

As core functionality, Office365 provides both personal file storage and shared team file storage in the cloud that can easily be synchronized to your local computer, tablet or smartphone. When files are accidentally deleted, corrupted or infected by malware you can restore these quickly using self-service tools inside of Office365.

Restore options are typically determined by whether a file or folder was deleted (stored for 93 days in the online recycle bin by default) or still exists but has changes that need to be rolled back by versioning (500 versions are available by default).

For individual users, personal files and folders are typically stored in OneDrive and a user can self-service restore their entire OneDrive library with a single click from a designated point in time over the last 30 days (for example, if all files were encrypted by a cryptolocker attack). Alternatively, you can choose to restore only selected files and folders that have been deleted from your OneDrive – again, the 93 day period applies here.

Files and folders that are intended for collaboration with colleagues are usually stored on SharePoint Online or in Microsoft Teams for Education, both of which have versioning turned on by default. This creates up to 500 versions of a file by default and any of those can be restored in the event of unexpected content change or corruption. Scenarios where this might apply include accidental deletion / overwriting of content inside the document itself when multiple authors are at work inside the same document, or where an individual file has become inaccessible through corruption or unintended encryption (again, cryptolocker could be a culprit here).

Of course, many organisations have formalized drafting policies around documentation and Versioning supports both major and minor versions of documents that are works in progress.

If the file itself is deleted from SharePoint Online or Teams for Education then it can be restored within 93 days by retrieving it from the Recycle Bin inside of SharePoint Online. I’ve used the word “default” a few times in this blog post because the Global Administrator actually has significant control over how long documents exist in Recycle Bins, how many versions are of documents are retained before the oldest are automatically culled and how Retention Policies work. It’s worth checking with your orgnanisation if you’re working to the defaults (which I’ve listed here) or whether custom policies apply.

Another cloud backup service offered by Microsoft is Azure Backup Services and is for organisations that wish to back up on premise content to an off site cloud location. Some organisations will also choose to backup their Office365 content out of the Microsoft cloud – a quick search online will find third party services that offer this functionality.

I trust this blog post answers some of the questions you may have had about how to restore content inside your Office365 tenant in a simple way, with links back to the core documentation to understand these important features more deeply.

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...

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