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SharePoint Online: Data Retention and Preservation Policies

Posted by: Michael Barton in Productivity

We recently had a question from a customer who wanted to know how they would go about backing up their SharePoint Online data. For the customer – they believed that their only option was to utilise a third party provider to backup and store their data.

The customer had completely locked down their SharePoint Online instance, rendering it totally unproductive, in order to prevent users from accidentally deleting or moving files. They came to us and asked if there was a cost effective way to back up their data, so that they could remove these restrictions without fear that they would lose crucial data through accidental deletion. There’s obviously a second part to this problem around user training, but the customer wanted to ensure there was a safety net for the users that perhaps accidentally deleted critical data.

The good news for them (and you, if you’re asking yourself the question) is that as Microsoft handles all the backend servers & storage for SharePoint Online which means that you don’t have to worry about losing files dues to infrastructure failures, accidental deletion, and so on. Another safety net lies within SharePoint itself. By default, all SharePoint data has a 90-day retention period when data is deleted.

They presented another concern though – What if something happened to some of their files, with no one realising it past the 90-day retention period (say 6 or even 12 months) and no one realised that they were deleted until it was too late?

Fortunately, Microsoft provided the solution. Everyone has probably used SharePoint versioning features, but when you combine this with some of the relatively new features in the Office 365 Compliance Centre in the form of creating  “Preservation Policies”, you have the ability to keep a preservation hold copy of each SharePoint site.

Depending on the retention periods set, this essentially keeps a “backup” copy of each file, every version, regardless of whether it is deleted or moved. This functions in a similar way to Exchange “In-place” hold, so when required our customers can simply just export and download the preservation hold copy. The counter-point to this is that each preservation copy occupies data from your entire SharePoint Online allocation.

So there you have it. If you’ve been reluctant to use SharePoint Online to its fullest because of data retention concerns, you can now rest assured that you can easily protect your data with the right data retention and preservation policies in place.

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