In part 1 of our blog around Office 365 backup we cover Microsoft’s methodology on how it protects your Office 365 data against loss. In this second part we cover:

  1. versioning and the restore process
  2. The most important arguments when choosing a 3rd-party backup tool.


When versioning is activated, it saves different versions of your data.  How this works in operation is again different for mail and Sharepoint hence both are covered below.

  1. Sharepoint

Versioning here can be activated separately from retention. Versioning can also be activated for subscriptions where retention cannot be used. For Sharepoint, versioning is therefore not only limited to E3 and E5 subscriptions. The image below highlights what setting options there are for versioning within Sharepoint.


For mail, the option of versioning is linked to retention in the case of mail. Versioning for mail is therefore only available for people who use an E3, E5 or Exchange Online 2 subscription.

Once retention is activated, versions of a mail item are automatically saved in the following situations:

  • Subject of a mailbox item changes
  • The body of a mailbox item changes
  • An attachment is added to a mailbox item or removed from a mailbox item
  • Senders or recipients are added to a mailbox item
  • The sent or received date of a mailbox item is changed

Restore process

The most important part of a backup is, of course, the restore process.


Only versions per file can be restored within Sharepoint, with the following process:

  1. Select the file;
  2. Press the right mouse button and choose ‘version history’;
  3. Select the desired date and choose ‘restore’.

It is not possible to restore files in bulk when using standard tools in Sharepoint. This means you are unable to recover from ransomware attacks with the standard tools.

There are developers that make Powershell scripts available to perform bulk recovery, but these are not supported by Microsoft.


For mail, the recovery process is roughly as follows:

  1. Create a new filter within ‘In-place eDiscovery & hold’ which is located in the ‘compliance management’ section
  2. Export the items that meet the filter to a .PST file
  3. Open the .PST file in Outlook. The items are placed within a new folder in Outlook
  4. Drag the desired items from the new folder to the desired folder in Outlook

It is important to note that it is not possible to perform a so-called point in time restore for mail.

Reasons to opt for a 3rd party backup solution

Summing up our two articles, although there are capabilities within Office 365 to be able to retrieve data, we can conclude that these are not sufficient to secure data in every situation. Below an overview of the most important reasons to use a 3rd party backup tool to optimally protect that data within Office 365:

  1. Possibility to secure the data vendor independently
    • Access to your data in the event of problems with Microsoft
    • Enables data restoration in the event of corruption of a mailbox or a site
    • Meets minimum legal requirements for organisations
  2. Standard retention is limited:
    • Only 30 days for email
    • Only 90 days for sharepoint
  3. E3 or E5 subscription options (for longer retention within Office 365) cost much more than a Business Premium subscription and a 3rd-party backup tool.
  4. Office 365 does not offer a bulk point-in-time restore option and therefore offers no possibility to recover from ransomware as standard
    • With email, you can only select a date based on the email creation date
    • With Sharepoint, you can only restore a file
  5. Low and guaranteed RTO. Office 365 often uses tools that are not primarily developed for backup and restore purposes. As a result, it can sometimes be cumbersome and time-consuming to use the tools, which does not benefit the RTO
  6. A 3rd party backup tool enables you to generate backup reports. In this way you can verify that your backup is functioning properly. Office 365 offers no options for this
  7. Office 365 uses backup tools that are not primarily developed for restore purposes. This may create uncertainty about what is and what is not regulated and it is difficult to give customers the guarantees they expect
  8. 3rd party backup tools are much more user friendly than those available as standard within Office 365

Plan B’s Webinar on 10 July discusses Office 365 and the considerations for backup. Register here to join the Webinar.

If you would like to discuss Office 365 with Plan B we can be contacted on 08448 707999 or