Office 365 Mailbox Backup: The Do’s and Don’ts for Exchange, Outlook and More!

Post Date: 10/24/2018
feature image

Is your organization still transitioning to working online? AvePoint is offering free Office 365 migration services when buying Cloud Backup through June 30, 2020! Click here for details.

A lot of customers we interact with on a regular basis come from traditional on-premises instances where SharePoint, file shares, databases, Exchange, and other business applications were maintained by separate teams on separate servers. Most of our customers initially look for Outlook or Exchange backup solutions focused solely on backing up Exchange Online without understanding that their world is now converged in Office 365. It’s important to keep in mind that, beyond mailboxes, this is now a core part of Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams. 

What’s the Issue?

What had once been separate stacks are now offered as a unified service in Office 365. Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Groups & Teams—plus other solutions—are now offered to each user on a per-license basis. This makes for both an easier and more challenging place for administrators to configure and control elements of their tenant.

Since Office 365 is a multi-tenant system, administrators relinquish some classic controls at the server and architecture level (backup, some security configurations, resiliency policy, etc.) to Microsoft. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to consider when you backup your Office 365 mailbox.   

Email Backup Do’s and Don’ts

Doleverage In-Place Archive (and ensure that admins understand its purpose). In-Place Archive allows users to archive content to a specific spot in their inbox for long-term holding. This enables you, as the administrator, to control retention policy and leverage eDiscovery with what is required of the compliance framework for many companies. More on this topic can be found here.  

Don’t rely on end-users to ensure an in-place email archive meets the needs of all content needing backup. Just because an end user can archive content right inside of Outlook does not mean this is a true backup for Outlook 365 or Office 365 in general. Be sure to set tenant-wide policies regarding retention via smart solutions. Here is more information on the archive versus backup discussion.     

Need to backup your Office 365 mailbox but aren't sure how? Check out this article: Click To Tweet

Dolook at your license agreement and the SLAs listed for that license level offered by Office 365 and Microsoft. Plenty of customers think that Microsoft’s SLAs out of the box are enough to meet regulatory requirements or recovery requirements for their organization…that is, until something happens. Archive in Office 365 Email is not the same as a backup. More information can be found here.   

Don’t rely simply on archive as a backup. Just like on-premises, an archive is not the same thing as a backup solution. Exchange Email Backup is a service separate from what Microsoft makes available out of the box. More information on this topic can be found here.   


Do backup Office 365 content to another storage device, either in Azure or in another location. Depending on your organization’s requirements, backing up to either an Azure storage configuration related to your business or to another location can help meet your company’s requirements for data resiliency. Learn more here.  

Don’t expect backup for Exchange Online to be the same as the backup solutions on-premises. Because many of the solutions we are used to as administrators focused on everything from server configuration to end-user content, Office 365 changes the scope. Office 365 is a Software-as-a-Service or SaaS offering, and backup of the content in that SaaS should also be considered as Backup-as-a-Service, or BaaS. This includes the other components of your tenant as well, such as SharePoint, OneDrive, Groups, and Teams. More information can be found here.

Blog Post: On-Premises vs. Cloud Office 365 Backup: The True Cost of Ownership

Do take into consideration how your organization still uses Exchange. Backup for Office 365 email should include attachments, custom created folders, and the ability to restore or export email content to another location. Users should also be able to confer content/emails to another user via out of place restores once a licensed user is removed from the organization or the license is given to a successor. Tips on how to help your users with what to use when can be found here.   

Don’t be afraid to explore the offerings out there in the marketplace. There are plenty of solutions which offer a hybrid solution with backup to on-premises. However, hybrid on-prem solutions come at increased costs due to the inclusion of necessary architecture for continued support on-premises, extra licenses, and configuration management. Online Exchange backup should be part of your entire SaaS content backup, recovery, and resiliency strategy, including SharePoint, OneDrive, and Groups & Teams. Click here to learn more.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our blog for more great articles on Office 365 backup.

Formerly a Solutions Engineer at AvePoint, Bryan worked with enterprises to implement effective business-focused governance, GDPR and regulatory compliance, proactive training and solution deployments for enterprises of all sizes, balancing customizations and available technology to meet business needs.

View all post by Bryan Vanetten

Subscribe to our blog