Introduction to Microsoft 365 Backup and Archive Functionality

January 16, 2024
5 min read

Microsoft has finally introduced a Microsoft 365 built-in backup feature, as well as archiving capabilities. I will begin by explaining the difference between the two features, so you understand why there are two different features, when sometimes the names are used interchangeably.

Important: Both new features are currently in Preview mode and are expected to be in General Availability (GA) sometime in 2024.

Only tenant-level admins can create and manage your Microsoft 365 backups using Microsoft 365 Backup. End users won’t have the ability to enable backup or restores for their user account, mailboxes, distribution lists, or SharePoint sites.

Currently, the admin roles determine which products you can manage with Microsoft 365 Backup as shown in Table 1.

Admin roleOneDriveSharePointExchange
Global adminXXX
SharePoint adminXX 
Exchange admin  X

Table 1: Microsoft 365 Admin roles used by Microsoft 365 Backup

Microsoft 365 Backup

Microsoft 365 Backup provides high-speed recovery from common business connectivity and disaster recovery (BCDR) scenarios of your OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange Online data including a restore Service Level Agreement (SLA), and it ensures your data remains within the Microsoft 365 security boundary.

You can use the backup to recover from disaster recover scenarios like ransomware attacks or accidental/malicious content overwrite/deletion. Microsoft achieves this by creating replicated copies of the data across geographically disbursed datacenters to help protect against natural disasters.

Note: Backups are protected against malicious overwrites by using Append-Only storage, meaning data is only appended so data previously backed up can never be overwritten. For additional information on the Microsoft 365 Backup architecture, you can visit:

Microsoft 365 Backup is accessed from the Microsoft 365 admin center which allows:

  • Backup all or specific SharePoint sites, Exchange mailboxes, and OneDrive accounts within hours depending on the data being backed up.
  • Restore files, sites, and Exchange mailboxes to a previous point-in-time either at a ginormous scale or at a granular level within hours depending on the data being restored.
  • Full fidelity SharePoint site and OneDrive account restores. This means they are restored to their exact state from the specific point-in-time backup.
  • Full Exchange mailbox item restores or by performing a search and restoring at a more granular level.
  • Backups can be searched and filtered within select restore point date ranges by using item, site names, event types, as well as owners metadata.

Microsoft Backup can be integrated with several partner’s applications using the Backup APIs. I’ll discuss this more below.

Backups are performed by creating a protection policy that identifies which SharePoint sites, OneDrive accounts and Exchange mailboxes are to be backed up. After creating a policy, you submit a request to activate the protection policy which takes up to 60 minutes to process and an additional 60 minutes to create and publish the restore points.

Note: The restore points are physically created when the policy is confirmed to be activated. However, it will take some time for the restore points to display in the restore tool.

Microsoft 365 Archive

A company’s data storage tends to grow exponentially because of an organization’s collaboration policies, as well as the importing of massive amounts of data driven by the desire to utilize Microsoft’s advanced content AI services, as well as integrated security, compliance, and search.

However, eventually some content becomes less valuable or inactive, but is still essential for business records and compliance, which therefore increases your extra storage costs for this non-collaborative data. Microsoft 365 Archive provides a more cost-effective solution for securing data while still adhering to your compliance requirements.

Microsoft 365 Archive provides a cost-effective cold storage tier that allows you to keep inactive or aging data within SharePoint during its lifecycle. Since the data is archived in place, it continues to be available for search using metadata and adheres to your security and compliance policies.

Note: When you archive a site, it goes to a specific colder tier and no longer consumes your tenant’s storage quota. This site is only accessible by using an admin search or using Microsoft Purview.

Microsoft 365 Archive benefits include:

  • Speed – High-speed archive of any size site and number of sites.
  • Cost savings – Lower price on storage usage beyond your M365 subscription storage quota.
  • Lossless metadata – A site retains all its metadata and permissions after reactivation.
  • Decluttering – Explicit separation between active and inactive during content lifecycle.

Reactivation is the process of migrating a site that has been archived to the original Microsoft 365 tenant, which at that point will be consuming your paid storage quota.

There are three archive states and allowed operations as shown in Table 2.

Archive stateDescriptionAllowed operations
Recently ArchivedThe first stage for seven days after archiving a site.



ArchivedThe second stage after seven days.



ReactivatingStage reached when reactivating site is in progress.None

Table 2: Microsoft 365 Archive has three states: recently archived, archived, and reactivating.

Microsoft 365 Archive allows:

  • Selecting and archiving or reactivating entire sites in place without migrating the data outside of Microsoft. Eventually Microsoft Archive will be so granular, there will be file-level archiving.
  • Additional site lifecycle control capabilities, (creation, modifications including archiving, governance, compliance policies, and finally deletion) and decluttering experiences.
  • Automate scaled mass archiving using PowerShell
  • Archived data maintains full admin-level features including:
    • Search capabilities
    • eDiscovery
    • Access policies
    • Sensitivity labels
    • Data loss prevention (DLP) retention policies
    • Access control settings
    • Many other security and compliance measures

Microsoft 365 Backup and Archive partners

Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive primarily focus on Microsoft data, so many Microsoft partners offer backup and data protection solutions that extend outside of Microsoft 365 sources. Their solutions include a wider range of data sources, third-party applications, and other more sophisticated data protection scenarios.

Some of the early-adopter partners working to extend Microsoft 365 Backup include: (alphabetical order)

  • AvePoint
  • Barracuda
  • Commvault
  • Rubrik
  • Veeam
  • Veritas

With Microsoft extending their Microsoft 365 Backup APIs with these partners, they can integrate the Microsoft 365 Backup features into their data management and data protection applications providing an easily adaptable full-service backup solution.

Note: At the time I wrote this article (January 2024) both Microsoft Backup and Microsoft Archive are in Preview. There will be changes to these products and I will update this article when they are both GA.

Brian Alderman

Brian Alderman

Brian Alderman is a former Microsoft MVP, and has his Master's in Computer Information Systems. Since 1995, he has held several Microsoft certifications that currently include; MCT, MCSE for SharePoint, MCSA for Office 365, MCITP for SQL Server(R), MCSA and MCSE for Windows Server(R), and also his PMP certification. As a Senior Technical Instructor and Consultant, he has 30 years of experience in networking, SQL Server databases, SharePoint technologies, and project management. Brian's publications include Windows 2000 Professional, SQL Server 2000 Administration, SharePoint 2010 Administrator's Companion, and Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Administration Inside Out. He is an active speaker at SharePoint Industry conferences including SharePoint Saturday's, SPLive, DevIntersection, SharePoint Fest, Microsoft Ignite, and several international SharePoint conferences including London, Milan, and Madrid.