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)

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