What Business Data Needs to Be Backed Up in Microsoft 365?

Post Date: 07/22/2021
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Backing up data provides an insurance policy against loss, corruption, and any other factors that may result in unfavorable changes to production data. In a time where the majority of collaboration content is acted on and stored electronically, having a Microsoft 365 backup plan becomes even more imperative, as this provides a fallback against unintentional accidents and malicious actors alike. So, having identified the purpose of backing up data, the question then becomes, “What business data actually needs to be backed up in Microsoft 365?”

Collaboration Data

Collaboration data is probably the most common candidate for data backup as it is the most susceptible to accidents and the target for corruption. These are the files that are modified and edited on a regular basis and drive user productivity. Given the importance of this content, it’s important to consider the following when deciding what needs to be backed up.

Where Is the Data Stored?

In a platform like Microsoft 365, users typically work in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and even other services like Planner. Perhaps Dynamics or Salesforce are used as important CRM systems of record. It’s important to understand where the primary locations of this data are as backup plans are developed and solutions are identified.

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What Is the Importance of This Data?

This can vary from organization to organization. In some cases, all user collaboration data is seen as important while in others it will only be content that is stored in a specific location. The goal of answering this question is to help understand the scale of the content that will be included in the backups and the impact this might have on storage capacity.

How Often Does This Data Change?

This question is going to help determine the frequency at which backups are going to be taken. The answer could vary depending on the locations identified in the previous question, but nevertheless will be important when determining a recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).


To better define this ambiguous term – the hierarchical structure and containers in which the data is stored. Well, if the data itself is taken care of, why is this important? In the event of a large-scale mishap, having a backup of the structure and the data will allow for a seamless restoration process and maintain continuity for users without introducing much change.

Think about something like OneDrive for Business or Google Drive. Some users take careful consideration when creating their sub-folder structures and being able to maintain that organization will be extremely beneficial. Lastly, this allows for better support of the last topic. Some examples of structural components include:

  • Site Collection
    • Sub-sites
    • Lists/Libraries
    • Folders
  • OneDrive Site
    • Folders
  • Teams
    • Channels
      • Files
      • Conversations
    • Planner
      • Tasks

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Configurations can include permissions, settings, and other specifics of a workspace that help define how it operates. When capturing both the data and the structure, configuration settings can then be included in the backup scope and applied to the content when restored. In this way, administrators won’t have to worry about needing to make adjustments to bring a workspace back to the status quo. This also has more of an impact on guest users who may still need to access the content previously available prior to a data loss event.

Supporting the restoration of configurations is a unique differentiator for some backup solutions because of how collaboration services differ. Here are some examples.

SharePoint configurations could include:

  • SharePoint Group and Unique Permissions
  • External Sharing (both as a permission and a feature)
  • App Parts, Site Designs, and Site Templates
  • List & Library Settings

Whereas Microsoft Teams configurations could include:

  • Owners & Members
  • SharePoint Group and Unique Permissions
  • Guest Access & External Sharing
  • Channels (including Private Channel architecture)
  • Planner data
  • Tabs

The provided example shows that while there’s some overlap in configuration data, there are still enough differences to make it worth understanding what’s necessary for business continuity.

Closing Thoughts

A backup job is only as good as its ability to restore. If the restoration process is too complicated or poorly structured then it’ll impede your ability to back up the data most necessary to your company. The process needs to be simple for both admins and end users and should encompass the options that matter most to your organization. As long as your backup method maintains the fidelity of the data and covers collaboration data, the data’s structure, and configurations, you should be golden.

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Antoine Snow is a senior solutions manager at AvePoint, leading the Public Sector business unit. He has held various positions in IT over the past several years ranging from front-end web developer to Microsoft 365 Service Owner. In his current role, Antoine focuses on governance and adoption challenges plaguing the modern workplace and helping government organizations understand the components of a governance strategy and its implementation. Antoine's views on these topics can be found in various blog posts and has been the focus of one-to-one workshops.

View all post by Antoine Snow
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