Mass Delete Notifications for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business


Best-Effort Email Notifications for Mass Deletions

On August 28, Microsoft published MC147280 in the Office 365 Message Center to inform tenants that they’re about to introduce “best-effort” email notifications to users when “a higher than usual number of files are deleted per hour“. Microsoft doesn’t say what criteria they use to calculate a higher than usual number of deleted files in an hour.

For OneDrive for Business, the email notification will tell the account owner about the deleted files and how to recover the files from the Recycle Bin. For SharePoint Online, the person who deleted the files (a site owner or a member) gets the same kind of email.

The interesting thing about Office 365 updates like this is to ponder why Microsoft feels that they should introduce such a feature. Have we seen a rash of users deleting every file to hand in their OneDrive account, or site members going crazy in SharePoint? Has Microsoft come to the conclusion that they need to step in based on the data gathered about usage patterns in the Microsoft Graph?

Reducing Support Calls

The answer is likely more prosaic. I think this is another attempt by Microsoft to proactively reduce support costs by telling users when they might have made a mistake and deleted files that they shouldn’t – and the support call comes in to ask Microsoft where the files have gone and how to recover them.

Support is expensive and it makes sense for Microsoft to take steps to reduce the number of potential calls in this manner. Users are also likely to be happier if they get a note to inform them that they might have made a mistake. Let’s face it, avoiding the opportunity to log a support call for Office 365 is always a pleasure.

On the other hand, users might be annoyed when they receive email about a perfectly legitimate action that they deliberately and purposefully set out to accomplish. It smacks a little of “Big Brother is Watching” when email arrives out of the blue to say something like “We’ve noticed that you’ve just deleted a lot of files…”  Clippy for the cloud?

Retention Labels

Although you might not be able to stop users deleting files from their OneDrive for Business account (they are, after all, personal files), you can easily stop users removing documents from SharePoint Online libraries by assigning labels to individual documents or Office 365 retention policies to sites. For instance, if you assign a label called “Important” to a document, and that label has a retention period of five years, then site members won’t be able to delete it until the retention period expires.

Auto-label policies (part of Office 365 E5 and the advanced data governance add-on) can be deployed to find and label documents based on sensitive data types or keyword queries, so you can make sure that the most important files in an organization are retained.

More Detail to Follow

Microsoft says that they are rolling out the new feature to targeted release tenants now and will continue the roll-out for standard release tenants in late September, following the normal 30-day delay between targeted and standard deployments.

Earlier today I deleted 40 documents from my OneDrive for Business account to try and provoke a mass delete notification. Typically, I might delete one or two items a day, so 40 seemed to comfortably be in the zone for OneDrive to notice and react. So far, several hours later, no message has arrived. Maybe the feature hasn’t reached my targeted release tenant yet. Now how do I recover those blasted documents?

For more information about managing SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, see Chapter 8 of Office 365 for IT Pros. For information about creating, deploying, and managing Office 365 retention policies and labels, see Chapter 19.

3 Replies to “Mass Delete Notifications for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business”

  1. Yes I have seen users have SharePoint libraries synced to their pc’s and then when they do not need the files anymore just delete everything. Instead of removing the sync. Then only when someone realises an entire library contents is gone do they complain to support and blame SharePoint for deleting the documents.

    You then have to politely ask did you delete them
    They say no and you check the recycle bin…

    1. Users have lost data since the dawn of IT. The only thing now is that technology enables people to lose more data faster than ever before… But yes, I can see how synchronization accidents can result in the large scale loss of data, if people aren’t careful.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.