Top 3 Ways to Back up OneDrive for Business

Top 3 Ways to Back up OneDrive for Business

By Annu Palathingal
Published : 8 November, 2018 | Last Modified : 13 October, 2021 | Backup, Office 365, OneDrive

OneDrive for Business is a collaboration platform used by millions of organizations worldwide. Widespread adoption of OneDrive by businesses also means there is an increase in the risk of data loss due to a wide variety of reasons.

As per their terms of service, Microsoft is not responsible for backing up your OneDrive data. Don’t take our word for it; here is an extract from their Services Agreement (Section 6.b).


In this blog post, we explore different options available to back up OneDrive, along with compelling reasons to have a backup process in place for OneDrive.

How to Back up OneDrive for Business

Don't have time to read the whole article? Download the PDF

Yes! Give me the PDF

How to Back up OneDrive for Business Manually

It is possible to manually backup OneDrive for Business files to an external computer/hard drive to keep them secure in case your Microsoft 365 account is compromised. Follow the  below steps to back up your OneDrive files to a computer/hard drive:

  • Step 1: Log in to your Microsoft 365 account and go to OneDrive. Select the files you need to back up. You can also select all the files by clicking on the toggle selection for all items.
  • Step 2: Select Download by right-clicking the mouse or by clicking on the three dots beside the filename.

This will download the selected files to your device. The downloaded files can further be copied to an external hard drive. 

 Limitations of Backing up OneDrive Manually

  • Time-consuming, since all actions are manual
  • Since it’s completely manual, there is a high possibility that you might forget to download new or updated files.
  • Backup will be lost if something happens to the computer/external drive
  • In case of a data loss incident, restoring files is going to be a tedious process, since you have to manually upload all the files to the OneDrive.
  • Sharing permissions are not retained.

How to Back up OneDrive for Businesses Using Microsoft 365 Apps

The OneDrive Sync Client application can be used to:

1. Download OneDrive data to a local machine

2. Upload files on the local machine to OneDrive

The application is used to transfer files easily between the cloud and a local machine, but it can also be used as a backup for creating a copy of your data.

How to Set up OneDrive Sync Client

  • Step 1:  Click on the Cloud icon on your desktop and sign in with your Microsoft 365 credentials.
  • Step 2: Select Next to accept the default folder location for your OneDrive files. If you want to change the folder location, select Change location – this is the best time to make this change.
  • Step 3: Click on NEXT until you finish the steps, and click on the Open my OneDrive folder option.
  • Step 4: Once your files are synced, click on the OneDrive icon in your taskbar and click on the Settings option.
  • Step 5: From the available options in the Settings tab, choose when you want the data to be synced.
  • Step 6: Choose the folders for syncing with the local machine in the Account tab.

All the selected OneDrive folders will be available on the desktop. However, the files will be in sync with OneDrive, and therefore, any deletion in OneDrive will be reflected in the desktop, erasing the backed up data.

To create a backup, copy all the downloaded files to another folder on the desktop or to an external hard drive.

Though the Desktop Sync Client can be used as a backup, relying on it completely could be risky, as local machines are prone to crashes or malware attacks.

Limitations of Using OneDrive Sync Client as a Backup Solution

  • Infrequent Backups: Since the process of taking the backup is manual, creating consistent, regular backups will become a challenge.
  • Limited Storage: To manage your storage space, you will be forced to delete older files that are of less importance at the moment.
  • Possibility of Data Loss: If a file is lost between two backup processes, it cannot be restored.
  • Responsibility on End User: This approach is applicable only if individual users take responsibility for backing up their data. An administrator cannot manage backup for individual users.

How to Back up OneDrive for Business Using Third-Party Tools

Unlike OneDrive Backup and Sync Client which is not designed for backup and restore, third-party cloud backup applications serve this purpose better.

Why Should You Use Cloud Backup Software for OneDrive Backup?

Using an online cloud backup application to secure your OneDrive business data comes with its own set of advantages:

1. Effortless Backup: Users can take customized backup to effortlessly backup whatever that’s necessary.

2. Incremental Backup: No duplication of backup data; after the initial backup, only newly-added data and modified data are backed up.

3.Automatic/Scheduled Backup: Take regular backups at a set frequency, so that you don’t miss out any important files.

4. Easy Data Retrieval: Even if an account is permanently deleted, a specific user’s data will be available in the backup tool and can be restored easily in just a few clicks.

5.Better storage space management: Set retention periods and extensions to avoid backing up unnecessary files.

6. Regular activity reports: Get granular reports of all the activities in the backup account.

SysCloud is a leading third-party cloud backup application that offers a fully-automated backup and restore solution for all Microsoft 365 apps, including OneDrive.

Using SysCloud, businesses can easily back up OneDrive data for all their domains and restore them in just a few clicks.

How to Back up OneDrive for Business Using SysCloud

  • Step 1: Log in to SysCloud application using your Microsoft 365 admin credentials.
  • Step 2: Navigate to Backup in the menu bar and select the Start Backup option from the drop-down menu.
  • Step 3: Next, specify if you want to back up the entire domain or only some users or teams and click on NEXT.
  • Step 4: Locate the respective domain and click on Add Users & Teams.
  • Step 5: Select the users you want to back up and click on CONFIRM.
  • Step 6: Click on NEXT to select the apps that need to be backed up.
  • Step 7: Choose the Drive option and click on START BACKUP to back up the OneDrive data of the selected users.

How to Recover Permanently Deleted OneDrive Files

Backup is just the first step in securing your business data. The ability to recover permanently deleted OneDrive files is critical for Microsoft 365 administrators. Read our in-depth article How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files from OneDrive for Business

Why You Should Back up OneDrive for Business

In addition to the fact that Microsoft is not responsible for backing up OneDrive files, here are seven more reasons why businesses should back up their OneDrive data:

Data Loss from Ransomware Attacks: Bitdefender’s Mid-Year Threat Landscape Report 2020 announced a seven-fold spike in the number of ransomware attacks in 2020 when compared to 2019. In the event of a ransomware attack, OneDrive users who do not have an off-site backup could lose critical data.

User Errors: According to Data Center Knowledge, 70 percent of data loss incidents are caused by accidental deletions. These can occur when employees in your organization:(a) accidentally delete important files while trying to free up storage space(b) end up removing the original version of a file while trying to get rid of duplicates. Such errors are hard to prevent and it would be impossible to restore the data past the default retention period.

OneDrive Sync Feature: Due to OneDrive sync feature, if a malware infects a local machine – unless the sync is turned off – it could be synced immediately, locking all the OneDrive data on the cloud.

Internal Threats: Steve Durbin, Managing Director of the Information Security Forum explains that the massive shift to a work from home model (as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic) may cause employees to become disgruntled or resentful due to lowered remuneration, reduced promotion opportunities and uncertainty about the future.A disgruntled employee could permanently delete critical business data.

SaaS Outage and Shutdown: If Microsoft suffers an outage, data could become temporarily unavailable, disrupting business continuity. Backing up your OneDrive data can help you access them even if OneDrive is not available.

Limitations of Native Retention Settings: The native retention settings offered by Microsoft do not serve as an effective data recovery option. This is because the deleted files are:(a) only retained for 93 days from the time you delete them, beyond which they are permanently lost.(b) stored along with your live account data. In the event of a ransomware attack, all your Microsoft 365 data is compromised, including the retention copies.Having an independent backup of your data stored off-site is an effective bulwark against such data loss incidents.

Legal Compliance and Litigation Purposes: Most companies are required to comply with several state and federal regulations. A backup strategy can help in supporting compliance requirements. 

OneDrive for Business Retention Policy

  • In OneDrive for Business items are retained for 93 days from the time you delete them from their original location. They stay in the site Recycle Bin (first-stage Recycle Bin) the entire time unless someone deletes them from there or empties the Recycle Bin. In that case the items go to the site collection Recycle Bin (second-stage Recycle Bin) where they stay for the remaining number of days.
  • If the site collection Recycle Bin exceeds its quota it will automatically start purging the oldest items even before the 93-day retention period is up.
  • All OneDrive for Business users have control of their first-stage Recycle Bin but only the administrator can access and restore files from the second-stage Recycle Bin.  

Frequently Asked Questions on OneDrive Backup

Q: Can you use OneDrive as a backup solution? A:  Yes, You can use OneDrive as a backup solution. Here is how you can do it:

1. Select the cloud icon in the Windows notification area.

2. Select Help & Settings -> Settings

3. Navigate to Backup -> Manage backup.

4. Select the folders that you want to back up. Click Start backup.

However, using OneDrive as a backup solution may not be ideal due to the following reasons:

1. It is not an admin-managed solution. The administrator cannot manage backup for individual users.

2. If the files on your PC are infected with ransomware, it can potentially infect all the OneDrive data on the cloud as well due to the OneDrive sync feature.

3. If Microsoft suffers an outage, OneDrive data could become temporarily unavailable, disrupting business continuity.

Q: Does Microsoft back up OneDrive? A: No, Microsoft doesn’t back up your OneDrive data.  It is clearly stated in their terms of service that they are not responsible for any data loss due to negligence or malicious activities, and they recommend backing up your Microsoft 365 data including OneDrive files and folders using third-party apps.

Q: Is OneDrive secure? A: Yes, OneDrive for Business is secure. OneDrive files are protected both in transit and at rest. Data in transit is protected using Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. Data at rest is encrypted with unique AES256 keys. These unique keys are encrypted with a set of master keys that are stored in the Azure Key Vault. Learn more about how OneDrive safeguards your data in the cloud.

Q: Are OneDrive files stored locally? A: OneDrive files are stored in the Azure cloud. You can download them and store them locally on your desktop or any other storage device. You can also enable the OneDrive sync feature to access your OneDrive files offline.

Q: Can anyone see my OneDrive files? A: All your files in OneDrive are private unless you decide to share them with others. You can choose whom to share your files with by using the Share option. If you share your OneDrive files with someone and give them edit access, the person will be able to share it with others.

Q: How do I download files from OneDrive to my computer? A: You can manually download files from OneDrive to your computer. Learn how to do this. The files will be downloaded as a .zip file.

Q: What is the storage limit for OneDrive for Business? For most subscription plans, the default storage space for each user’s OneDrive is 1 TB. Depending on your plan and the number of licensed users, you can increase this storage up to 5 TB. For more information, see the OneDrive service description.