How to back-up a Office 365 SharePoint Online site and data

If you are considering moving you data and documents to Office 365, you might wonder how you can perform the reverse operation - move data from Microsoft Online Services to file shares or to a local computer (called off-boarding). In this version of Microsoft Online Services, this is a manual process using the “Connect & Export” section of the Ribbon in SharePoint Online. This section is contextual and will be slightly different depending if you are in a Document Library:

or in a List:

or in a Calendar, Contact list a.s.o

So - which commands to use when? Below you’ll find a table listing which commands you can use to save a SharePoint document library or list content from a SharePoint Online environment to file shares, or to a local computer.


SharePoint Online Element

Backup Using

Ribbon Command



Connect to Outlook



Connect to Outlook

Discussion Lists


Connect to Outlook

Document Libraries


Connect to Outlook

Document Libraries

SharePoint Workspace

Sync to SharePoint Workspace

Document Libraries

Windows Explorer

Open with Explorer

List Content


Open with Access

List Content


Export to Spreadsheet



Connect to Outlook

You need to be owner of the content or administrator to perform the above actions. Furthermore you must be aware of a couple of known limitations when it comes to downloading documents and exporting lists.

Document Libraries

SharePoint document libraries can contain many different types of files and SharePoint maintains information about each file that it stores. Most of this other information is not preserved when files are downloaded. For example, the following information is not preserved when a file is downloaded using Outlook or Explorer:

  • Document properties
  • File access permissions
  • Relative links between files
  • Workflow information
  • Versioning information
  • Templates


SharePoint list content must be exported to Office Excel or to an Access database. Simple lists can be exported to Excel. However, if the content of a single cell exceeds Excel’s maximum cell size limit (32,767 characters), the information that exceeds that maximum is lost. If your lists contain large cells, you should export to Access.

SharePoint lists are used to host complex data like Wikis and Blogs. These complex data forms consist of several tables. For example, Blog tables are: Categories, Posts, Comments, Links, and Other Blogs. For the best results, export Wikis and Blogs to Access. When exported to Access, each of these tables is exported correctly, but all properties, permissions, and relationships between tables and contents are lost.


You can save your SharePoint Online site (including lists, views, workflows, logos, and other elements) as a template. You can also choose to include the contents of the site in the template.

By using this method, the template you create will contain the same files (for instance, the same .PDFs, .docx, and .xlsx files) as were on the site from which the template was made, up to a limit of 50 MB.

Attempt to create a template of a site and include greater than 50 MB of content will result in an error message stating “Error creating solution. The maximum total file size limit (52428800 bytes) has been exceeded.”

See the article "Save a SharePoint Online site as a template" - link for details.

See also

  • Migrating Content Between SharePoint Online Site Collections - link
  • Information about manual migration of Sharepoint Online content in Office 365 - link (last updated Nov 17 2012)
Comments (24)
  1. I share your pain. Hope this gets better down the road.

  2. vishal0soni says:

    Is there an option to import the list back into sharepoint? how do i use the data that i backup again?

  3. BTW... says:

    This is called 蛋疼 in Chinese.

  4. Ishai Sagi says:

    We have an application that downloads 365 data to offline usage. See our web site at…/Office365%20Exporter.aspx

  5. Dave Coleman says:

    If you wish to Backup your Office 365 SharePoint then MetaVis have a product to do this check out this link for details…/backing-up-office-365-at-last-an-answer

  6. Daniel McPherson says:

    We just released a cloud backup for SharePoint online, walkthrough here:…/Post.aspx

    Hope that helps.


  7. Akim says:

    A lot of sites and blogs talk about the Metavis solution lately. This company do a good job in spreading the word. But it is way too expensive for a SMB, considering it does only what it does. And when I talk about SMB, I'm not talking a 5000 users SMB like in US… SMBs in europe are from 10 to 200 users, in many countries.

  8. Oxy Hsing says:

    There is a solution for sharepoint content migration beetwen site / cloud:…/Default.aspx – it allows to export / import a​ll supported data types in SharePoint.

  9. Richard says:

    I tried a trial of the Metavis solution and found it buggy and unreliable. I would have paid if it worked. Still searching for a solution.

  10. Murray Moceri says:

    We just released our SharePoint Online automated daily backup service, including OneDrive for Business. You can get more information on our SharePoint and Office 365 backups, as well as sign up for a free trial (no cc required) at Please feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback at

  11. Rob says:

    I’m only here because I need to change plans and MS say there is no automatic way. We are not technicians, all I need is to dump the entire site somewhere and reload it to All the Microsoft articles I’ve read say
    lots of things like permissions and workflows are not supported, this is a major issue for us, is there a tool that does backup and restore everything?

  12. Ira Michael Blonder says:

    Unfortunately SharePoint Workspace is no longer used, and there is nothing here about how to back up an access database published as a SharePoint Online App.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Pingback from Include a Back Up Method Before Implementing SharePoint Online | Blogging Thoughts on SharePoint

  14. Eliya says:

    Activate daily backups for all selected users with office 365 domain. Backup for office 365 you gain all emails, daily automated backups and more. Read more about">office 365 backup from this blog.

  15. Leon says:

    I also backup my office 365 with CloudAlly. Very easy to use and it works quit well. I recommend it.

  16. Chuck says:

    Not every kind of site can be saved as a template. In fact, even Team sites will not be saved if publishing features are on. I am searching for a full description of what can and cannot be saved.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Updated some bullets on request of the tech support team.

    Recently I got into a discussion

  18. Daniel says:

    I have started to use CloudAlly backups recently. They also added backup for box so it’s very useful for me to backup 3 SaaS in one place (Office 365, Salesforce and box). It’s very simple to use and reliable.

  19. Akshay Nangare says:

    Hi Jesper_Osgaard, nice article , is that possible to take SharePoint online Site Collection backup using CSOM in Powershell?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Not that I’m counting but I just realized one of my blog posts actually is closing in on 100k views

  21. Pablo says:

    I do not understand how this can happen. The truth, sharepoint online brings more problems than solutions. This is a vital and basic need !!, should be the easiest thing to do.
    How do we continue ?, Breaking our heads, or at least me 🙁

  22. Johan says:

    Hi, one of our customers ask if it is possible to backup the entire share point data base in office 365. Is this possible or not?
    There are som products that claims they can backup office 365 share point and restore.
    What shall I tell the customer?

    Best Regards

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