Best MS Office 365 Backup Solutions Comparison

At a Glance

  • We believe that Veeam on-premise software provides the most complete Office 365 backup solution, compared to all other vendors (except Afi). AvePoint ranked as the second-best option.
  • The backup accuracy and number of supported data types differs greatly among the vendors on the market (~35 vendors in total). We compare features & performance of the top 10 tools and highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

To make this comparison we used feedback from our partners and customers. They reviewed the O365 backup options, by installing each of them and using them for two weeks to see how reliable and usable the solutions are.

Afi itself is not an impartial judge to the quality of Office 365 backup solutions, since we ourselves develop one. However, having researched the web very thoroughly, we could not find any decent O365 backup comparison. There is no Office 365 Gartner Magic Quadrant or similar research availalbe from IDC or Forrester. Therefore, we created this summary based on partner and customer input, as well as additional data sources such as interviews with vendors' former employees.

 1 

How O365 Backup Works

Office 365 consists of multiple interconnected applications with distinct data types. Backup vendors pull the application data and restore it back to Office 365 using O365 APIs. Because Microsoft does not provide a single unified API to access all applications & data, developers have to use a combination of multiple new and legacy APIs to backup and restore Office 365 data.

It is very labor-intensive and expensive to support every API and data type, and therefore no single vendor backs up all Office 365 data. Instead, backup providers focus on a subset of Microsoft 365 data and applications that they consider to be the most relevant.

No vendor backs up all O365 data due to API limitations; backup accuracy & restore fidelity differ greatly across vendors

The quality and completeness of O365 backup varies greatly among 35+ vendors that develop it, because of the very different amount of efforts they invest in their Office 365 support. We assign the Backup Fidelity score for each vendor in this review to assess how accurately their tool backs up O365 data, and how many O365 data types it supports.

In addition to O365 Backup Fidelity we include other metrics (see the next section, ten metrics in total) that together assess the most relevant capabilities of MS Office backup & recovery.

Please see our other blog post for a more detailed discussion of the different O365 data sources and applications, including the ones that make up the MS Teams.

 2 

Critical O365 Backup Features

Most tools provide the same basic O365 backup features that include support of Exchange, OneDrive & SharePoint data types, automated (scheduled) backup runs, and the ability to export/restore data back to O365 user accounts.

Where the tools differ greatly is their accuracy of the O365 data backup & retention, the granularity of their restore options and their reliability. We used identified ten critical backup capabilities summarized below in order to review each vendor.

Our Office 365 backup vendor checklist includes 10 critical capabilities that measure cost, usability and feature set

O365 Backup Fidelity

Extent of Office applications support and their data types. Ability to recover data accurately.

  • backup of Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive
  • full Teams support (Chats, Files, Wiki & OneNote)
Backup Management

Ability to mass-manage backups and the granularity of auto-protection settings.

  • 3x or higher daily backup frequency
  • protection assignment based on user Groups membership
Search & Preview Options

Ability to navigate and preview backup data before restore, backup search speed & scope.

  • point-in-time backup navigation
  • online data preview (for email, other key data types)
Restore & Data Export

Accuracy of recovered data & its attributes, granularity of recovery options.

  • offline data export in PST, EML and ZIP (for full accounts)
  • non-destructive restore to the same / another user
Access Control & Audit

Ability to configure & audit backup access permissions for administrators and end-users.

  • audit log capturing all backup events (browse, export, etc)
  • customizable admin roles, user backup self-service
Reporting & API

Transparency of protection status and error reporting, availability & flexibility of API.

  • email notifications for critical events
  • web dashboard with domain-wide protection summary
Performance & Reliability

System stability and extent it can function with little admin supervision and maintenance.

  • >90% backup success rate, >2MB/sec backup speed
  • no errors / failures during initial set up
Deployment & Maintenance

Solution scalability to 10s of thousands of users, flexibility and simplicity of installation options.

  • simple 1-30 min onboarding
  • no need to have FTE to maintain backup infrastructure
Licensing & Cost

Licensing model and total cost of the backup infrastructure and storage ownership.

  • clear licensing model based on number of active users
  • no additional charges for SharePoint, Groups or storage
Support Service

Quick support resolution & response time, ticketing system and online knowledge base.

  • <12h support response time, <1h for critical issues
  • support provides relevant and helpful resolution options
 3 

Best O365 Backup Solutions

We believe that Veeam and AvePoint provide the best Office 365 backup solutions (not counting Afi) as of 2020. Other products we reviewed offer significantly less in terms of the backup scope, accuracy, reliability and backup management features.

Veeam (27% market share) and AvePoint (6% share) achieved 7+ overall scores based on our checklist
Rank Vendor
Name
Overall
Score
Backup
Speed
Success Rate Revenue Market Share
#1 Veeam 7.3 2.4 MB/sec 98% ~$30M 27%
#2 AvePoint 7.1 2.1 MB/sec 91% ~$7M 6%
#3 Spanning 6.8 3.2 MB/sec 90% ~$9M 8%
#4 SkyKick 6.8 1.4 MB/sec 98% ~$10M 9%
#5 Cloudally 6.5 2.1 MB/sec 97% ~$6M 5%
#6 Druva 6.3 2.1 MB/sec 98% ~$2M 2%
#7 Datto 5.9 4.6 MB/sec 92% ~$12M 11%
#8 CodeTwo 5.8 2.3 MB/sec 91% ~$1M 1%
#9 Synology 3.5 2.1 MB/sec 91% *~$3M 3%
#10 SysTools 2.0 0.2 MB/sec 87% <$1M <1%
Veeam Office 365 Backup

Veeam has intuitive UI and wide range of supported O365 data sources, including Teams data sources (Chats, Channels and Teams Sites). It is also one of the two Office 365 backup tools that provide full-text search capabilities for Exchange Online.

Veeam has the most complete O365 support, but the traditional software approach has limitations and inhibits its adoption

Veeam solution is sold as traditional on-premise software. It needs to be installed on a Windows machine and connected to a storage repository. Such deployment model enables greater control but is often less desirable for cloud-first organizations aiming to minimize the costs & complexity associated with the need to maintain, monitor and manage server and storage infrastructure.

Because of the traditional software deployment model Veeam performance gets very slow when the number of O365 users exceeds 4,000 (though it's not a concern for most other SMB customers).

To use all Veaam features you will also need to have additional applications and libraries, including Veeam Explorer for SharePoint, Veeam Explorer for Exchange and Veeam Explorer for Microsoft OneDrive for Business that are required for backup data preview. In order to use indexed search for Exchange you will also need the Extensible Storage Engine library installed on your backup server.

AvePoint

In our view AvePoint is the second-best option. It is a fully managed cloud-to-cloud Office 365 backup with the storage and management panel hosted by AvePoint. It also features full support for Microsoft Teams backup,

AvePoint is the most complete solution among cloud vendors, but lacks management features & less reliable than some

AvePoint provides as many as 8 default storage location options and advanced storage deployments ranging from FTP server to Dropbox. It also supports customer-managed encryption key (via AWS key management) and enables backup of Office 365 applications that few other vendors support, such as Dynamics 365, MS Project Online and Yammer.

AvePoint solution has evolved from their migration software tool and there are some product limitations arising from that. It features a search-based recovery interface with limited data browsing capabilities (no Exchange Online email preview, slow Site/OneDrive directory browsing with every refresh taking 5+ seconds). There are essentially two separate components in AvePoint solution with different UI – the first is the account management portal where you need to connect your O365 account, configure licensing and discover O365 resources which are then passed as “containers” to the second component of AvePoint solution, AvePoint O365 backup, where you need to log in separately to manage backups and recovery.

 4 

Veeam Software Details

O365 Backup Fidelity

Veeam backs up all key O365 applications, including Exchange Online, SharePoint and OneDrive. It accurately retains data from all Exchange mailbox data types, including Notes, Tasks, shared email folders and Skype conversation history. Veaam solution also backs up Shared mailboxes which are shown as separate resources in the domain list of users & Sites, as well as the Classic (legacy) SharePoint Sites that are still used by many organizations.

Veeam provides full support of Teams backup, including Teams Sites, Channels and Chats backup. Due to O365 API limitations however, Teams Channels and Chats backups can only be downloaded, with no option to restore to Office 365 backup data.

The system limitations include the lack of support for OneDrive shared files (the files shared between O365 users are ignored when the recipient users are backed up), and incomplete support of Teams Lists – they are included in backups, but they are restored as binary files that cannot be interpreted by O365).

Backup Management

Veeam has intuitive UI and wide support of O365 data sources, including Teams data sources (Chats, Channels and Teams Sites). It is the only Office 365 backup solution we reviewed, that provides full-text search capabilities for Exchange emails (aside from Afi).

Veeam uses traditional backup schedules approach, where admin needs to configure the time and frequency of each backup schedule and specify which resources should be included in the regular backup. While this approach provides greater control over the backup process, it is no longer used in modern cloud Office 365 backups as it creates management complexity and overhead. A newer SLA-based approach to backup management (used in Afi and some other modern Office 365 backup options) enables to specify the target protection settings like the type of resources and minimal acceptable backup frequency, without the need to manage backup schedules manually.

The backup schedules can differentiate between the types of resources (Exchange mailboxes, OneDrive or Sites), but they cannot be assigned for user groups that many O365 administrators use to implement the organizational structure.

The system lets you configure auto-protection for the entire domain. However, it will only work if you have enough spare licenses inventory purchased in advance.

Access Control & Audit

Veeam has more limited access control setting compared to any cloud Office 365 solution because of the limitations imposed by its deployment model as a Windows software application.

The system has no web-based management interface. In order to manage backup & recovery the administrators should remotely connect to the server where Veeam O365 backup software is installed.

Veeam does not have configurable admin roles or permission settings, and access to the backup management can only be limited at the level of Windows sever (all who have access to the machine will have equal access to backups).

Similarly to admin roles, Veeam has no user self-service capabilities because access management is not implemented at the level of the backup software.

Only a limited set of Veeam system events are logged, with no audit trail recorded for data preview & browsing operations as well as application access. The events that the system does log only identify the account used to sign in Windows, with no authentication implemented at Veeam application level.

Search & Backup Preview

Veeam enables backup data preview for Exchange mailboxes as well as OneDrive and SharePoint sites backups. However, you will need to install and use three additional local software tools (Veeam Explorer for SharePoint, Veeam Explorer for Exchange and Veeam Explorer for Microsoft OneDrive for Business).

The system also provides the option to compare backed up version with the current state of the mailbox (for example, to find deleted or moved items), which accelerates the recovery in many cases.

Unlike virtually all systems (except for Afi), Veeam enables full-text email search in backup data using the Extensible Storage Engine library that needs to be installed locally.

Restore & Data Export

Veeam restore works reliably (93 of 94 mailbox and OneDrive recovery attempts completed without errors). However, when large amounts of data need to be restored back to O365, it may slow down your corporate network and the Internet connection.

Every restore operation requires a password (either O365 admin account or Azure application password depending on the authentication mode, see deployment details), which slows down the restore process.

Because the software is installed locally, it can only export data to the local Windows machine where Veeam is installed. Mailbox export in PST format requires MS Outlook installed on the server.

Reporting & API

There are no web-based protection status dashboards or reports since Veeam only provides local UI, but you can generate detailed protection status and backup job reports in PDF format.

You can also connect Veeam O365 Backup to Veeam Backup and Replication (their flagman product) to get high level summary for backup and protection status, reported along with metrics for the rest of your on-premise infrastructure.

The system has REST API, as well as PowerShell command line interface, which enables scripting & automation (available locally; you need to set up PowerShell Remoting to enable execution of scripts remotely).

Veeam Office 365 backup solution has no email notification capabilities since it cannot connect to an SMTP server. Given that it is an on-premise system that requires monitoring and maintenance we believe that the email notifications are a must. One way to implement the email notifications with Veeam O365 is to install Veeam Backup and Replication (VBR) server separately (licensing cost is approx. $400 per year for Starter edition). You will then be able to connect Veeam O365 agent software with VBR, which in turn can be connected to an SMTP server.

Performance & Reliability

Veeam backup speed and success rates are slightly above the averages. The backups are completed at 2.3 MB / sec, and the backup success rate averaged at 98% (the few errors that happened were due to network connectivity).

Veeam network connectivity error message

Upon the initial set up the discovery of SharePoint Sites took approx. 3 hours, which is an unusually long time for a domain with only 13 users and 5 Sites.

Without the Extensible Storage Engine library the search functionality works very slow even for small accounts (taking 5+ minutes to complete for a 3 GB mailbox).

Deployment & Maintenance

Veeam does not provide a fully managed and the software must be downloaded and installed manually. The typical installation requires a physical machine or a VM with a Windows OS, in addition to a local storage or a connected Cloud Storage. Veeam supports AWS S3, Azure Blob (only Premium, Hot and Cool options, Archive is not supported), IBM Cloud and other S3-compatible storage.

The system can be configured to store backups in multiple backup storage destinations. You will need to create multiple backup schedules and specify different backup storage locations (one backup schedule can only store data in a single storage location).

In order to connect Veeam to O365 you will need to manually configure authentication and access permissions, which requires some technical expertise. In short, you should create a custom Azure application with an access certificate and then assign to the application O365 administrator access roles. Veaam O365 backup will use this Azure application to securely connect to your O365 account. Alternatively, there is a less secure legacy connection option using O365 admin credentials authentication, which is easier to implement.

Licensing & Cost

Veeam licenses can be purchased in bundles of 10 . The price per one license is $18 annually (so the minimal purchase is $180). If you pay for 5 years, the license price is discounted by 15%. The software is free for less than 10 protected users.

One Veaam license is required for every O365 user and Shared mailbox. All users who have access to SharePoint Sites must be licensed to backup the Sites. This effectively means that you need to license all users in the domain in order to backup SharePoint Sites.

At $18 annual cost Veeam is 40% cheaper than most Office 365 cloud backup services (around average $30 annual license cost). However the total cost of the Office 365 backup solution based on Veeam software will also include infrastructure costs and approx. 30% of a full-time employee (FTE) to monitor & maintain.

The total Veeam-based solution cost for a domain with 200 users would include:

  • $4.2 annual server cost per user (Azure instance General Purpose-Dv3, 8GB RAM with 2 CPU costs 9.6 cents / hour)
  • $2.16 annual backup storage cost per user (cheapest Azure blob Cool storage costs 1 cent per GB monthly, plus 0.8 cents per GB of storage in additional monthly network and retrieval operations costs)
  • $90 annual cost of 30% of FTE required to maintain the solution ($60,000 annual salary x 30%)

The total Veeam cost would therefore be approx. $25 per user annually before the headcount costs, or $115 full per user annual cost including the cost of time to manage the infrastructure.

With this economics, Veeam solution makes sense if you already have in-house IT team that is underutilized and the Veeam backup monitoring and management efforts will utilize spare capacity.

 5 

AvePoint Service Details

O365 Backup Fidelity

AvePoint backs up all core applications and their data types, including Exchange, (Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes), OneDrive and SharePoint. It provides Teams backup capabilities, including Teams Sites, Channels and Chats (which can be restored in PST format that may require additional conversion to use the data).

It also protects SharePoint Sites included in Groups, Shared mailboxes and MS Projects data. Dynamics 365 as well as Yammer can also be protected using separate AvePoint backup services (not part of the main O365 backup).

AvePoint Office 365 backup tool does not support Classic SharePoint Sites (they don’t appear in domain scans and are missing from backup jobs). It also does not backup Teams Wiki data and Teams OneNote.

Backup Management

AvePoint provides 1-4x daily backups, with the option to specify exact time when backups should start. Data retention can be configured from 1 year to 99 years.

Backups can be configured for all resources at once, or individual users and/or SharePoint Sites. However, AvePoint does not let you use Office 365 Groups structure to assign backup policies or navigate across users. This makes it difficult to use in domains with more than 50-100 users.

AvePoint enables admins to manually delete data from backups. While this may help to address the GDPR and other data protection requirements, it introduces the risk of accidental backup data deletion (in Afi all backup deletions need to be confirmed via our support ticketing system).

The system’s most significant drawbacks include:

  • no on-demand backups (only pre-scheduled automated Office 365 backups),
  • the absence of protection status reporting at the aggregated level (no way to see the protection status summary by user or user group),
  • no backup and restore progress reporting.
Access Control & Audit

Administrator access can be differentiated by type of application (e.g. disabling access to Exchange mailbox backups or SharePoint Sites). However, there is no backup operator/IT help desk role that would enable granular access settings, such as enabling access to backup management & restore operations without the ability to export & view backup data. There is also no self-service portal available for non-administrator users.

The system has no audit trail log, but provides Backup Job analytics and System Events reports. Only aggregated events are recorded there, e.g. backup job records don’t specify what user or resource was backed up, or what data and from what use account what exported. (screen)

Backup Search & Preview

AvePoint Office 365 backup has evolved from a data migration & archiving, and its primary data navigation interface is based on search. Administrators can search lost data items using search criteria and restore the search results back to O365. This requires you to know the file name or email meta data attributes and may take a few offline export attempts to make sure that the items you find are the ones you want to recover.

In addition to the search-based navigation (standard for archiving & migration tools) AvePoint recently released the point-in-time backup preview interface (de-facto market standard for Office 365 backup services). As of this writhing the data preview works slow (5s+ for each refresh), and some capabilities are still missing. Most importantly, you cannot select a user or SharePoint and navigate across all recovery points available for it; the recovery points are instead available per backup job (you can select a backup job executed for a set of users/resources and navigate across resources that were included in it ).

The system enables search across all users at once (only limited by data source type) – the capability not offered in most O365 backups. At the same time, there is no full-text search available and it is limited to the metadata attributes such as dates, item names and email subject lines.

Restore & Data Export

Restore operations are executed fast and work reliably (22 of 22 attempted restores worked). Offline data export operations require multiple steps (no direct download option is available, instead you need to request export and wait for the download link that will be sent to your email when the export is ready). The export progress reporting is inaccurate (no indication of the remaining time or number of items exported).

Importantly, AvePoint Office 365 backup solution can only restore data in the overwrite mode, with no option to recover to a separate folder (as there is in Afi).

The only available offline export format for emails and Teams Chats is PST. OneDrive and SharePoint Document Sites folders can be downloaded as zip archives.

Reporting & API

The system provides clear and transparent protection status summary that includes the number of backup jobs and their success rate by data source types (Exchange Online separately from OneDrive, SharePoint, Groups and Teams). However no summary view is available on the user account level, which is often required to monitor the protection of key employees in the organization.

AvePoint provides limited details for individual backup runs and restore operations (no backup data size or the name of the specific object backed up/restored). When the system skips items from backup runs it nevertheless reports them as successfully completed and provides no warning or details showing which items were not backed up and why.

Licensing & Cost

A license is required for every O365 user and every Shared mailbox. Unlike most other Office 365 backup tools that provide a single pricing plan, AvePoint has two editions:

  • For $3 per license monthly price you can only backup Office 365 Exchange Online and OneDrive data.
  • In order to backup SharePoint sites, Teams and Projects you need to purchase the more expensive $6 per license plan.

You cannot mix the licenses, so if you need to backup SharePoint and Teams you will have to buy the expensive edition for all users.

Deployment & Maintenance

AvePoint provides a SaaS Office 365 backup solution with backup storage included in the price. There are eight datacenter locations available upon the initial sign up (the selection does not impact the price).

Instead of using the AvePoint storage, users can also connect their own cloud storage and use it to store backups. AvePoint supports S3 AWS storage, Dropbox, FTP, SFTP and Azure Blob Storage. You will need to pay for the custom storage in addition to the AvePoint service (the price is the same whether you’re using their storage or not).

The system also enables the use of customer-managed encryption key via AWS key management. This option lets end-customers control the backup data encryption key (which is usually managed by the backup vendor).

Performance & Reliability

AvePoint showed 2.1 MB/sec backup speed (above average). But while its 91% backup success rate is still above of 90% threshold, it is lower than the success rate for most other cloud Office 365 backups.

The application occasionally flashes 500 error messages upon data restore attempts.

 6 

Other Solutions & Final Thoughts

In addition to AvePoint and Veeam, all other eight O365 backup solutions (not counting Afi) that we reviewed provide more limited feature sets and incomplete Office 365 data types support.

Spanning (#3 in the review) develops an Office 365 cloud backup service advanced features such as customer-managed encryption key, detailed audit log and out-of-the-box integration with Kaseya RMM. At the same time it provides only partial SharePoint backup (modern Sites pages can't be resotred correctly, Document Library data can't be exported) and partial Teams backup (Teams Sites without Chats or Channels conversations backup).

SkyKick (#4 in the review) solution is focused on Office 365 backup resellers, featuring modern and fast UI. However it has the same O365 data types support limitations as Spanning, the system has no offline export capabilities and uses legacy authentication (adds security risks, and requires 5 additional O365 accounts). SkyKick restore operations are single-threaded (making them very slow) and it provides no customer access to backup management (only MSPs can use it on behalf of their clients).

Cloudally (#5) enables backup of key O365 apps and partial support of MS Teams backup (Teams Sites and Channels are backed up, but no Teams Chats support). It provides configurable admin data access roles and flexible export options (PST for emails, full OneDrive export in ZIP, etc), however it has no point-in-time restore capabilities (only search-based view) and the backup frequency is limited to 1x per day.

Other vendors (#6-10) provide O365 backup support as part of their traditional badkup software platforms, and their Office 365 backup feature sets are narrower. Many of them don't fully support Teams, Groups and SharePoint backup. At the same time these products are still useful if you need Exchange Online or OneDrive backup solution. Please check our other blog post if you'd like to view the Office 365 backup solutions comparison details for all the ten vendors mentioned in this review.


All product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders; use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.


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