Question from a student on my training course: When an Office 365 Group is deleted, is data recovery possible?
Office 365 groups are great for collaboration and sharing data within a team, but what happens to that data if the group is deleted? Is that data still available?” This was the question posed by a student on a recent Office 365 administration course I delivered. The student was concerned that an Office 365 group can be deleted by any of its owners, which might include regular users, rather than just members of the IT administration team as is the case with other types of group.
An Office 365 Group is the newest type of group available in the Microsoft Office 365 service. This new type of group acts as a standard email distribution list, and so much more besides. Each group comes with its own calendar, OneNote notebook, and OneDrive for file storage in the cloud. If the group has been actively used for some time, its content could add up to a good amount of data and work stored within the features of the group. All that data might be at risk if one of the group owners deletes the group, mistakenly thinking it is no longer needed.
So to find the answer to the student’s questions I created a new Office 365 Group in my test environment and populated it with data. Next, I deleted the group and then looked to see how much of the data associated with the group was still accessible and thus recoverable after the group was deleted. Here is what I found:
- Data recovery was possible from the group’s files storage area – documents and files could be downloaded to my local PC and opened there to confirm the contents.
- Data recovery was also possible for the OneNote Notebook, which I had previously opened in my local copy of OneNote 2016. It was possible to reopen the notebook in OneNote 2016 and copy sections and pages to another notebook I had stored elsewhere.
- Unfortunately, data recovery was not possible in the Planner, Outlook or OWA associated with the deleted group. So any plans, messages and calendar data associated with the group were unrecoverable. Duplicates of the messages might still exist in the mailboxes of the former members of the group.
In order to get access to the file storage and notebook data, I had to recreate the URL for the group’s SharePoint Online site. I was able to do this by reviewing the URL for another Office 365 group that had not been deleted. For example, if the Office 365 tenant name was ‘MyBusinessName’ and the deleted group was called ‘demo,’ then the URL might be:
As a further test, I confirmed that I could logon as a different user, who had also been a member of the group, and recover data from the group’s file storage and the OneNote notebook.
Some good news is that Microsoft is working on functionality to allow you to preserve and recover data in Office 365 Groups. You can find the latest update on the Office 365 roadmap, located at http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/roadmap#I-31837.