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Microsoft 365 Backup for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange
A year ago, Microsoft announced their intention to enter the backup market with a product to backup Exchange Online and SharePoint Online data. Roll on to Ignite 2023, and Microsoft announced that a paid public preview will begin later this year (probably in December after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday period.) I expect general availability will follow in 2024. According to the SharePoint Premium announcement, the Microsoft 365 Archive product is now available.
The ISV Backup Conundrum
Backup solutions for Microsoft 365 is a market with many third-party (ISV) offerings. Backing up SharePoint Online sites and OneDrive for Business accounts (documents) and Exchange Online mailboxes are well-known challenges that ISVs know inside out. Microsoft’s decision to retire Exchange Web Service (EWS) in October 2026 complicates matters because many ISVs use EWS to read mailbox data. The replacement Graph APIs are not available yet.
However, Microsoft has made the APIs underpinning Microsoft 365 Backup available to ISVs. Microsoft always tries to line up a bunch of ISVs to support product announcements. It’s a way of proving to customers that the initiative is worthwhile. In this case, it was noticeable that many of the heavy hitters in the Microsoft 365 backup space are cited: Veeam, AvePoint, CommVault, Veritas, Rubrik, and Cohesity. However, that list is not exhaustive and doesn’t include other well-respected ISV backup vendors, like Quest and Keepit.
Some ISVs might have decided to wait for the APIs to mature before switching product direction or have concluded that their current solutions work well enough for now. It might also be the case that customers prefer not to put all their backup eggs into the Microsoft basket and want to maintain separate copies outside the Microsoft datacenter boundary. This isn’t possible using the Microsoft backup APIs.
Pay for Backup with an Azure Subscription
No matter if you use the Microsoft 365 Backup product or an ISV solution based on the Microsoft 365 Backup API, you still must have an Azure subscription to pay for processing backup data. According to the pricing information released by Microsoft, your subscription is charged $0.15 per month for every gigabyte or partial gigabyte processed (protected) by the service. The same price applies to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business content.
The public preview of Microsoft 365 Backup is a paid preview. If you want to kick the tires to see how backup (and more importantly, restore) works as smoothly and quickly as Microsoft predicts, you need an Azure subscription with a credit card that’s linked to Syntex pay-as-you-go. Linking an Azure subscription isn’t a difficult process as it literally takes a few clicks through the Setup section of the Microsoft 365 admin center (Figure 1).
Before starting, consider creating a new resource group to handle backup operations in your Azure subscription. It will make tracking costs easier. I created the “Backup” resource group for this purpose so it’ll be ready to go when I start to use Microsoft 365 backup.
Microsoft 365 Backup Not Yet a Complete Solution
It’s worth pointing out that Microsoft is starting with the easiest data to backup and that the more complex elements of Microsoft 365 are not included, like Teams, Planner, and Loop. Teams remains the most difficult Microsoft 365 app to backup because of the number of connections it has with other parts of the ecosystem and the lack of API support. Planner has never had a backup API, but it’s possible to read and write Planner data with Graph APIs (here’s an example of reporting Planner tasks for all plans in a tenant). The Loop app (now generally available) uses Syntex repository services to store its data. Although Syntex repository services is based on SharePoint Online, its data doesn’t show up as SharePoint Online sites, so I don’t believe that it is covered by Microsoft 365 backup. Loop components used in Teams channels, chats, and Outlook are stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business and are therefore covered.
Microsoft will doubtless grapple with and solve some or all of these challenges in the future to create a backup solution that can process the data generated by a complete Microsoft 365 tenant. The approach of keeping data within the tenant (but hidden and inaccessible unless needed for restore) offers many advantages, not least being speed of backup and especially restore operations. But we need more knowledge about how Microsoft 365 backup works in production before arriving at a measured conclusion. The paid preview should answer many questions.
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