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Backing up email in Exchange Online

Exchange Online

Applies to: Exchange Online

Topic Last Modified: 2014-05-06

One of the questions we often get is “How does Exchange Online back up my data?” You may be asking this because you’re concerned with how your data will be recovered if there is a failure. Or you may be wondering how to recover your data if it gets deleted accidently.

There are lots of things that can disrupt service availability, such as hardware failure, natural disasters, or human error. To ensure that your data is always available, the Exchange Online infrastructure uses the same technologies found in Exchange 2013 to ensure that services continue and data is up-to-date, even when unexpected events occur. For instance, Exchange Online uses the Exchange 2013 feature known as Database Availability Groups to replicate Exchange Online mailboxes to multiple databases in separate Microsoft data centers. As a result, up-to-date mailbox data is readily accessible in the event of a failure that affects one of the database copies. In addition to having multiple copies of each mailbox database, the different data centers act as backups for each other; if one fails, affected customers are transferred to another data center with limited service interruption. On a side note, you can obtain the most current information related to a service interrupting event by logging into the Service Health Dashboard at

Exchange Online provides a number of features that can help you restore that data:

  • Deleted Item Retention Your users can restore email items that have been deleted from any email folder. Here’s a quick overview of how the process works: When an item is deleted, it is kept in the Deletions subfolder of the Recoverable Items folder. Items remain in this folder until manually removed by the user, or automatically removed by retention policies.

  • Single Item Recovery Email recovery has been improved in Exchange Online to allow users to recover single items without having to restore mailbox databases. When the Managed Folder Assistant processes the Recoverable Items folder for a mailbox that has single item recovery enabled, any item in the Purges subfolder isn't purged if the deleted item retention period hasn't elapsed for that item.

Check out Recoverable Items folder to see more information on recoverable items.

Check out Recover deleted messages or items in Outlook Web App and Restore deleted items in Outlook to see how users can restore deleted items in Outlook Web App and Outlook.

Your users can export their Outlook data to Outlook on another computer or make a backup by following the steps in the Export items to an Outlook Data File (.pst) topic. Unfortunately, the Microsoft Outlook Web App users cannot perform backup of their data themselves.

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