How to backup OneDrive Files & Folders?

Acronis Cyber Protect
formerly Acronis Cyber Backup

OneDrive is a critical element of the Microsoft 365 offering, allowing easy data sync, storage, and remote access. Businesses globally rely on OneDrive for quick file syncing and collaboration options to unlock their workflow across hybrid environments (on-premises and remote work).

However convenient, Microsoft OneDrive doesn't offer the utmost cybersecurity features. Although MS 365 has some built-in data protection tools for OneDrive, businesses must take the time to create additional, dedicated backups to fortify data saved in the OneDrive cloud.

This article will explore why OneDrive backup is important, the different OneDrive backup approaches, and how to back up OneDrive via a reliable third-party solution, such as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office.

Why should you backup your OneDrive folders and files?

The native data security options in MS 365 are limited. Both MS 365 and OneDrive are offered as a SaaS service, operating on a shared responsibility model.

According to this model, Microsoft is responsible for the infrastructure, application uptime, and other data access features for MS 365 apps, whereas users (businesses) are responsible for data protection in line with any required compliance or retention regulations that might concern their organization.

Unless you implement adequate data protection practices, your critical data can fall victim to various data-loss events, such as accidental deletion and ransomware infections. While OneDrive offers a retention period for deleted data, businesses must act quickly and reverse accidental deletion. (only if they notice it quickly enough)

As for cyber attacks, advanced threats can block access to company systems, erase data from both on-premises devices and OneDrive, or even exploit weak credentials to infiltrate your organization's network via OneDrive. MS 365's protection and retention options won't be able to revert the data loss in such a scenario.

It's best to protect OneDrive files and folders via dedicated backup software, ensuring regular, continuous backups of all crucial information. Having multiple backup copies, stored both on-site and in the cloud, ensures you will always have at least one readily available backup to initiate recovery following a disaster event.

The Role of Backup in Digital Security

Continuous, reliable data backups are critical for ensuring business continuity by providing access to important documents and files in a data-loss scenario.

This allows companies to resume business processes even during or after a cyberattack or a disaster event.

As mentioned, backups also offer data redundancy by providing multiple data copy versions stored in several locations, readily accessible when needed. The three primary benefits of data backup for digital security can be summarized:

Data loss prevention (DLP)
DLP is crucial for organizations of various sizes to safeguard their systems against breaches and malicious attempts. In addition to countering unauthorized third parties, reliable backups enable swift data recovery following a system malfunction.However, to be able to restore critical data from backup, businesses must regularly test and monitor their backup systems to ensure optimal accuracy, effectiveness, and data integrity while remediating potential issues before they become full-blown vulnerabilities. 
Disaster recovery
Various disaster scenarios can cause data corruption or loss - power outages, hardware failure, ransomware infections, ill-intended insiders, natural disasters, etc.Critical data backups ensure organizations can employ the required processes to restore business operations during such an event. Backups equip companies with multiple protection layers to remediate threats while minimizing data loss and downtime. 
Cyber threat protection
Best cybersecurity practices require businesses to implement various data security measures, such as strong passwords, 2FA, user access control, anti-virus and anti-malware software, firewalls, employee education, EDR, and more.However, a highly sophisticated cyber threat can sometimes bypass all defensive measures and take over a company's systems and data. In such a scenario, readily available backups can enable the organization to switch to a secondary site while remediating its primary systems and restoring all critical data to resume business processes quickly.

Overview of OneDrive backup features (native tool)

Cloud storage services enable companies to easily access and share files regardless of location. The efficient collaboration features and compatibility with all MS 365 apps and services make OneDrive a preferred choice for many organizations.

Below are ten of its primary features and benefits for companies.

While OneDrive lets you quickly access company data, defining what information is synced to the OneDrive cloud is crucial. Even if you have a business subscription to OneDrive (meaning a lot of storage space), it's best to optimize sync data to locate and share data more efficiently and ease data retention policies.
Unlimited anywhere access

OneDrive mobile app

Two-stage file detection

Easy accessibility and collaboration

AutoSaving files

Microsoft Teams integration

Customizable sync options for admins

Microsoft service and app Integration

Multimedia support

Document scanning

Understanding what needs to be backed up

Let's explore several key factors to define what data to transfer via the OneDrive sync client.

The guidelines below emphasize outlining important files and folders to back up. Still, since this article explores how to back up OneDrive files, the suggestions can apply to both syncing and backup for this particular topic.

The data's business impact
First, it's best to categorize different data by its potential impact on your company if said data is compromised or lost. How would it affect your day-to-day operations, customers, revenue, and reputation?You can identify what data is critical for the core company functions - services, contracts, transactions, orders, invoices, customer information, etc.Moreover, you must consider what data is required to satisfy audit, compliance, and legal purposes - financial records, personal data, tax documents, etc.Data categorized to serve the abovementioned elements must have the highest backup priority. Even if OneDrive is a syncing service, essential data requires easy accessibility, so it qualifies for OneDrive transfer. 
The data's volatility
Frequently changed or rapidly growing data requires more frequent syncing and backup to ensure up-to-date consistency. Such data can include user activity, sales, and inventory information. Data generated from outside sources also deserves consideration (web analytics, IoT devices, social media, etc.) 
The data's dependency
Data dependent on other data or systems requires more synchronization and coordination. When such data is sent to reliable backup, it also demands thorough verification and validation. Such data can include indexes, views, foreign keys, etc.Moreover, you must consider what data is integrated (or exchanged) with other systems - ETL processes, APIs, cloud services, etc.
The data's size
Data files such as videos, images, or audio are larger and thus require more storage space, time, and resources for recovery. Moreover, you must consider whether the data is structured or unstructured (e.g., relational/non-relational databases) to ease resource usage during syncing and optimize storage space.
The data's value
You must also consider the data's contribution to your organization's strategies and goals.Data that can be exploited or damaged by competitors requires top-tier encryption and limited access (hence, it may not be suitable to sync it to OneDrive without proper encryption and user-access controls in place). Such data can include trade secrets, intellectual property (IP), or confidential information.Another sensitive data group includes employee and customer data or health data, which also requires the highest level of protection. 

How to set up Windows PC folder backup via OneDrive?

Now that we've discussed determining what data gets synced to OneDrive, let's quickly review the simple instructions to customize OneDrive syncing.

  1. Open "OneDrive settings" (to do so, click the blue cloud icon for OneDrive in the Windows notification area -> click the "OneDrive Help and Settings" icon -> select "Settings").
  2. Open the "Sync and back up" tab.
  3. Select "Manage Back up".
  4. To start backup of a folder, toggle any of the folders that say "Not backed up" -> select "Save changes". On the other hand, if you want to exclude a folder from the OneDrive sync client, select the toggle to the corresponding folder to turn it off. You will see a confirmation dialog appear with several options available:"Continue backing up this folder" will keep the folder included in the sync cycle. (suitable for important folders)"OneDrive only" will keep the files in the OneDrive folder without keeping them in your computer's folder."This computer only" will transfer the files from your OneDrive folder to your computer folder.If the folder you want to stop backing up contains cloud-only files, you won't be presented with the above options.
  5. "Continue backing up this folder" will keep the folder included in the sync cycle. (suitable for important folders)
  6. "OneDrive only" will keep the files in the OneDrive folder without keeping them in your computer's folder.
  7. "This computer only" will transfer the files from your OneDrive folder to your computer folder. If the folder you want to stop backing up contains cloud-only files, you won't be presented with the above options.

When the chosen folders (and files) finish syncing, you can access them anywhere in Desktop or Documents. When syncing (backing up) your Desktop folder, items on your primary desktop roam with you to other devices' desktops with an active OneDrive.

Moreover, if you sign in to the OneDrive sync client, you can access your OneDrive via File Explorer. Lastly, you can access folders on other devices via the OneDrive mobile app.

What are the different ways to back up OneDrive?

Backing up OneDrive files and folders to secure storage (local or dedicated cloud) can be done in several ways.

You can backup OneDrive data to your PC or hard drive via a web interface, save OneDrive files to an external hard drive via the OneDrive sync client, or use a professional backup solution to customize OneDrive backups and ensure continuous data protection.

How to manually back up files and folders in OneDrive?

If you don't want to use a third-party backup solution, you can manually create OneDrive backups to your computer's hard drive. This is a sensible approach if you only store OneDrive files online and want an offline, local copy of the data.

This way, you can access and restore files (manually) without an internet connection.

Before implementing this approach, you must ensure that the free space on your HDD (or SSD) is larger than the OneDrive data volume you want to transfer. Otherwise, the hard disk won't be able to store all OneDrive files, leading to a failed backup.

Once you've ensured enough free space, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Open a browser of your choosing and go to the OneDrive website. Log into your OneDrive account.
  2. Choose which files and folders you wish to back up -> right-click to select them and choose the "Download" option.
  3. Go to the "Downloads" folder via your browser to copy and paste the downloaded content to any preferred location on your device. You can also change your browser's default "Downloads" folder to automatically send OneDrive files directly to the folder you wish to use as backup storage.

How to back up OneDrive folder to an external drive?

You can also create a OneDrive backup to an external drive via the OneDrive client. To do so, you first need to back up files and folders to OneDrive, access your OneDrive instance on a computer, and save files from your OneDrive to the external drive.

To prepare the process, connect your external hard drive to the computer running OneDrive and follow the steps below.

  1. Open OneDrive from the taskbar and click "Help & Settings" -> select "Settings".
  2. From the Account tab, select "Unlink this PC" and click "Unlink account" to confirm the choice.
  3. Locate your OneDrive folder from File Explorer -> click the "Move" button -> select a folder on your external hard drive as the destination.
  4. Sign in to the OneDrive sync client. While setting up OneDrive, click the "Change location" button to set the external hard drive as the new OneDrive folder location. Finish the setup.
  5. Once setup is complete, OneDrive files will be synced to your external hard drive.

Best practices for manual backup of OneDrive files and folders

Manual backup doesn't require technological prowess but can be cumbersome. In addition, it relies entirely on the user, meaning human error can cause some data protection issues. However, if you want to back up OneDrive files manually, you can follow several best practices to keep data safe as optimally as possible without a dedicated backup solution.

Optimize storage space
Using your primary computer or an external hard drive as a storage device can quickly lead to storage space issues. While some external hard drives let you back up a maximum of 20TB, those can be more expensive.Moreover, having an enormous storage device may lead to data browsing issues. Suppose your 20TBexternal hard drive is almost full of similarly named backup files. In such a case, finding a specific file or folder can take much time, negating quick data access - a primary benefit of sensible backups.To enable efficient backup browsing and specific file and folder recovery, it's best to regularly inspect your backups, delete unnecessary (or duplicate) backups on the same storage device, and devise a naming system to catalog your backups adequately. 
Ensure reliable storage devices
Manual backups depend on the user's sensibility when storing copies of essential folders (or individual files). Suppose you have an old external hard drive lying around and decide to use it as a storage device. Transferring backups to the drive is easy and quick, but that's not the only element of reliable backups.If the hard drive suffers physical damage or is stored poorly, a hardware failure can render it inaccessible. Such an event will block access to your backup data, leaving you without an efficient way to restore essential files and folders.Durable, up-to-date storage devices are critical to safeguard your backups. Additionally, it's best to store backups in several locations to satisfy the 3-2-1 Rule of Backup. 
Schedule your backups
While an automated backup solution can be configured to create regular, continuous backups of OneDrive data, manual backups depend on the user regularly initiating the backup process. To ensure the backups of newly-created data, it's best to use a reminder.Be it a post-it note, an alarm, or a calendar event, having something to remind you it's time to initiate a backup can help keep important data protected.
Encrypt backups
Data encryption can protect your backups regardless of the data breach scenario. Be it physical theft or a malicious software infection, encrypted backups can only be read by perpetrators if they have the decryption key. You can manually encrypt external drive backups via BitLocker (Windows), FileVault (Mac), or dedicated encryption software.

Third-party backup solutions - Acronis Cyber Protect

You can explore all of Acronis' features for system and OneDrive backup and its cybersecurity capabilities here. Now, let's explore how to back up OneDrive files via Acronis below.

Acronis backup features for OneDrive
1. To guarantee backup integrity, the software can verify and validate backups upon creation and apply enterprise-grade AES-256 encryption to protect local backups, data in transit, and cloud data copies.
2. Moreover, you can implement dual protection to create numerous backup copies and store them both locally and in the cloud, satisfying the 3-2-1 Rule of Backup to ensure you always have at least one readily available recovery backup.
3. Backups and recovery are quick, whether you want to store data copies locally or create a cloud-to-cloud backup for OneDrive contents.
4. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office enables direct cloud-to-cloud backup for MS 365 accounts to safeguard emails, attachments, and OneDrive files and folders. Once stored in the Acronis Cloud, backups can be accessed from anywhere.
5. Whether you need to restore a single file, several folders, or your entire system to another machine, you can do so with a few clicks.
6. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is a top-tier backup software presenting users with an intuitive interface to enable backups of files, folders, applications, operating systems, and your entire device environment.
Acronis Cyber Protect
The best backup & recovery software for M365 environments built for business and managed service providers

How to backup OneDrive files with Acronis?

  1. Open the Online Dashboard. You can do so in two ways:Follow this link: https://cloud.acronis.comOn the Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, select "Backup", click the "Backup source" area -> select "Cloud service".
  2. Sign in to your Acronis account.
  3. Click "Resources" on the sidebar -> select "Add" -> select "Microsoft 365 for Home". (if prompted, log in to your Microsoft account)
  4. Select which items to back up from the "Backup source" area. ("Entire account", "Outlook", "OneDrive")
  5. Click "Done".
  6. Click "Run now" to start the backup process.

Backup automation with Acronis

With Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, you can configure and schedule regular OneDrive backups to ensure all newly created data is continuously transferred to secure storage.

Automating backups means you can't "forget" to create a backup as the software creates it for you. Moreover, it can follow an event-based schedule to initiate backups at the optimal time, which eases the load on network performance and bandwidth usage.

Cloud vs. local backup for OneDrive files and folders

Cloud and local backups both have advantages and disadvantages regarding different backup strategies.

Let's explore the pros and cons of both approaches so you can make an informed decision to implement one or the other (or both) to your backup plan.

Cloud backup
·Anywhere data access
·Virtually unlimited scalability
·Typically offers more storage space for less money
·Protection from local disasters and physical damage
·Slower data recovery than local backups
·May provide less flexibility depending on your SLAs
Local backup
·Enables complete backup control
·Supports multiple storage device options
·Faster data recovery
·Prone to physical damage, hardware failure, and natural disasters
·Liable to cyber threats
·Scalability can be more expensive

Cloud backups are something of a necessity for modern data protection. They are quick and efficient and can enable anywhere-data-recovery for both individuals and businesses.

However, while cloud backup can be labeled as "superior" to local backups, that doesn't render local backups obsolete. The latter, for example, can be kept offline in a secure location to enable rapid recovery.

Both approaches can benefit your backup strategy if implemented adequately. To satisfy the 3-2-1 Rule of Backup, keeping local and cloud copies of your OneDrive data is best.

This way, you can ensure flexible backups and optimal recovery while keeping data protected behind several defensive layers.

Version history in OneDrive: Keeping historical data

Version history is a OneDrive feature that enables easy accessibility and recovery of older file versions stored in OneDrive or SharePoint. Version history supports all file types, including MS 365 files, CAD, PDFs, photos, videos, etc. If needed, you may be able to restore deleted OneDrive files and folders from the Recycle Bin.

To use version history in OneDrive, follow the steps below:

  1. Sign in to OneDrive via a personal, work, or school Microsoft account.
  2. Select the specific file you wish to restore to an earlier version, right-click it, and select "Version history". (keep in mind that you can only restore a single file at a time)

For Classic View, you need to select the document and then select "More" -> "Version History".

  1. From the "Version History" pane, you can do one of the following options:In Classic view or previous SharePoint Server versions, select the arrow next to the document version you wish to restore and click "Restore".If you're using a OneDrive (or SharePoint) work or school account, select the three dots (...) next to the document version you wish to restore and click "Restore".
  2. In Classic view or previous SharePoint Server versions, select the arrow next to the document version you wish to restore and click "Restore".
  3. If you're using a OneDrive (or SharePoint) work or school account, select the three dots (...) next to the document version you wish to restore and click "Restore".

If you are running OneDrive on a computer with the sync app installed, you can right-click on a file you wish to restore to an earlier version in File Explorer.

  • Select "Version history" -> select the ellipses (...) next to the file version you wish to restore -> click "Restore".

The document version you chose will now become the current version. The previous current version will become the newest available version on the Version History list.

Best practices for OneDrive backup

We've discussed the best practices for manual backup earlier in the article.

However, OneDrive backup via dedicated solutions locally or in the cloud can benefit from several more sensible guidelines.

Let's explore them below.

Maximizing your OneDrive backup efficiency
A great practice to maximize backup efficiency is optimizing the backup storage space.To do so, it's sensible to implement retention policies for OneDrive backups. This way, backup storage will be rid of old, outdated backups (either automatically or manually) to free up space for new ones, thus reducing storage costs and easing data access.Here, it's important to note that various data types will have different retention requirements. Businesses must take the time to align their backup retention policies with compliance and industry regulations to ensure they keep all necessary data for as long as required. 
Security considerations for OneDrive backups
As mentioned, Microsoft's Shared Responsibility Model more or less leaves data protection as the users' responsibility.While individuals can implement manual backup strategies to copy and securely store OneDrive data offline (or in a separate cloud), third-party backup solutions offer superior data security features.Leveraging a reliable OneDrive backup solution, such as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, ensures that OneDrive data is secured by multiple layers of protection. The software offers advanced cybersecurity features to protect backups and ensure no malicious attempt can penetrate company systems during day-to-day processes.Moreover, even if you accidentally delete OneDrive content, you can rest assured the newly created data is already automatically backed up and readily available for recovery from the Acronis cloud (or your preferred local storage location). 
Regular monitoring and testing 
Backup monitoring and management are crucial for any reliable data backup strategy. Regular testing can help ensure your backups are functioning and up-to-date as required per your backup plan.Periodic testing includes restoring a OneDrive backup to inspect data integrity and verify that the entire data backup set can be successfully recovered in a disaster scenario. 
Encrypting your OneDrive backups
Keeping backup data safe is critical for both individuals and organizations. Data security must be a fundamental element of your chosen backup solution to ensure that data, both at rest and in transit, is secured by top-tier encryption. This will counter any unauthorized access attempts during transfers and in storage. 
Backup schedules: Timing your backups
While individuals can rely on a more laid-back...up schedule, organizations must take the time to outline a strict backup schedule based on their data creation and usage metrics. Regular, reliable backups ensure that all data changes to OneDrive content are copied and transferred to secure local or cloud storage, thus reducing the risk of data corruption and loss.An adequately defined backup schedule allows companies (and individuals) to back up OneDrive files at a specific time during the day (or night) and throughout the week. This way, you can ensure the minimal impact of the backup process on business systems and bandwidth usage.
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Keeping your OneDrive safe!

While many users may consider OneDrive a stand-alone backup solution, the sync-and-share platform isn't enough to safeguard critical data.

To ensure the integrity and availability of backed-up data, individuals and organizations must create regular, reliable backups of OneDrive files and folders. Such backups can be created manually or via a dedicated backup solution, such as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office.

While the manual approach can be less expensive, users must invest more time and effort in backup creation, monitoring, testing, and data protection.

On the other hand, Acronis' robust backup software offers highly customizable backup settings, automation features, and top-tier cybersecurity tools to ensure your data's integrity and availability across all OneDrive devices and storage systems.

Andy Kerr
Senior Product Marketing Manager - Backup & Recovery
Andy Kerr is an accomplished marketing professional with over a dozen years of experience in the cyber resilience industry, with particular focus on Backup and Disaster Recovery. As Senior Product Marketing Manager at Acronis, he gains valuable insight into business data protection challenges and the best solutions to overcome them. Andy's exceptional ability to convert complex IT solutions into easily understandable concepts enables organizations to thrive amidst increasing data security challenges.

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

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