Microsoft applications have been a trusted platform and business enabler for many years. Applications like Exchange and SharePoint have been the messaging and collaboration choice for most organizations in their data centers.


With the advent of the cloud era and the resulting change in economics, organizations began to move their on-premises application data into the cloud. Aligning with this trend, Microsoft introduced Office 365.


Office 365 for Business is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering from Microsoft that includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and more.


Microsoft does a great job with data and service availability for Office 365. However, the responsibility for protecting data still resides with the customer’s IT team, as shown in the figure.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.  The same statement applies to data loss scenarios. This means there’s a good chance that an organization may lose data for any of several reasons.


What scenarios can cause data loss in Office 365? The most popular services for Office 365 are Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business. We will focus on these three services to discuss data loss scenarios. The most common causes for data loss are:

  • Accidental deletion
  • Deletion due to malicious intent
  • Hackers, malware, and ransomware

Data loss can also occur due to administrator or user negligence or ignorance, such as misconfiguration.


Here are a few examples pertaining to specific services.

Exchange Online

Incorrect retention period. When a user permanently deletes a mailbox item (such as an email message, a contact, a calendar appointment, or a task) in Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web App, the item is moved to the Recoverable Items folder and into a Deletions subfolder.


A mailbox item is deleted and moved to the Recoverable Items folder when a user does one of the following:

  • Deletes an item from the Deleted Items folder
  • Empties the Deleted Items folder
  • Permanently deletes an item by selecting it and pressing Shift + Delete

How long deleted items are kept in the Deletions folder depends on the deleted item retention period that is set for the mailbox. By default, an Exchange Online mailbox keeps deleted items for 14 days. Use the Exchange Management Shell to change this setting. You can increase the period up to a maximum of 30 days. Read More.


Data deleted from the Recoverable Items folder. As explained above, the mailbox items are moved to the Recoverable Items folder and remain there until the retention period expires. An administrator can purge data from this folder before the retention period expires.  When an administrator purges the data from the Recoverable Items folder, that data is lost forever.

OneDrive for Business

Synchronization issues. Some customers have lost data due to synchronization issues in OneDrive for Business. In some cases, it took 4 to 5 days for the data to be restored. (The problem may sometimes have been with the administrator’s/users understanding of OneDrive functionality, rather than with OneDrive itself.)

SharePoint Online

Data loss due to migration activity. Data loss or corruption can happen during a migration, possibly because of a faulty of migration plan. 


Data loss due to programmatic errors. Errors during customizations can result into data loss.


SharePoint issues with Excel files. Many customers have reported on different Microsoft forums like  Tech Communities, Technet, Answers that they entered data in an Excel spreadsheet on SharePoint online and saved it. However, the changes didn’t get committed which could lead to data loss.


It’s clear that data loss is a common scenario, and that there’s a real need to protect your corporate data residing in the cloud. For such data protection, you need the guaranteed ability to recover your data quickly.

How NetApp Cloud Control Can Help

NetApp Cloud Control guards against possible data loss or corruption from any of several causes. Cloud Control is an easy-to-use, cloud-native SaaS offering that simply requires you to sign in and choose the service you want to back up, choose your backup target, and then start protecting your data. The entire configuration can be completed in less than 5 minutes. The single user interface allows you to set your schedule, search your backups, and recover the information at any time. You simply purchase a 12-month, 24-month, or 36-month license and launch the service. There’s no software or hardware to buy and nothing to install. You get a complete backup service from NetApp for your Office 365 data.


Here are the key capabilities of NetApp Cloud Control:

  • Ease of configuration. Agentless solution eliminates the need to install, upgrade, and maintain client-side software.
  • Granular recovery. Restore specific items or sets of items to any point in time.
  • Back up to cloud or on premises. Securely transfer backup copies to a location that satisfies your business needs.
  • Flexible policies. Easily group users and sites to satisfy different SLAs.
  • Automated and on-demand backups. Backup and restore SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online automatically as scheduled, or any time on demand.
  • Search capabilities. Quickly and easily find and restore affected data.
  • Comprehensive monitoring. Track and monitor the success of all backup and restore operations.

Learn more about NetApp Cloud Control. Download an IDC Analyst Connection report, “The Cloud is Changing Data Backup: Here’s What IT Leaders Need to Know.” Read the NetApp e-book “How to Secure Your Microsoft Office 365 Environment.” Watch the video “Guard Your SaaS data with NetApp Cloud Control.”


And start your free trial today!

Saurabh Singh

Saurabh Singh is a Technical Marketing Engineer with the Cloud Business Unit at NetApp. He has over 8 years of experience in IT industry. His focus areas include product Design, Roadmap, Go-to-Market Strategy for NetApp Cloud Control, NetApp’s SaaS Data Protection Platform.