OneDrive for business logo

How to use OneDrive for Business to backup your drive?

Don’t!   😉
This is what some people will tell you.

I have started using “One Drive for Business” to backup my work file and I understood why some people may get a bit upset with the mechanism.

Let’s start with the basic:

What’s common between “OneDrive” and “OneDrive for business”?      8 letters…

“OneDrive” is based on an obscure technology which involves:

  • a pretty well functioning website and solid backend system where you can upload tonnes of TB of data (

OneDrive web site

  • a local folder under “OneDrive” on the end-user machine where documents are synchronised to and from

OneDrive local sync folder

  • a client software installed on the end-user devices (PC, tablette…Etc).

OneDrive client4

OneDrive for business” also uses a client software but the website and backend is totally different: it’s a just SharePoint document library in the personal site (the old MySite) of the Office 365 tenant of your organisation.

  • Here is what the “OneDrive for business” library looks like on an Office 365 personal site.
    The URL here should be something like “https://[YOUR-COMPANY][YOUR-USERNAME-AND-DOMAIN]/Documents/Forms/All.aspx”
    Note that it is accessible by clicking on “OneDrive” in the top menu: a bit confusing when we try to distinghish the 2 products!

OneDrive for Business Library on the O365 website

  • the default local folder on the end-user machine is seated under “OneDrive Enterprise

OneDrive for Business local sync folder

  • Of course, other libraries from any SharePoint site (on premise farm or other O365 site) can be synchronised. In this case, the local sync folder is under “SharePoint

OneDrive for Business local SharePoint sync folder


So what’s the issue?

The fact that it is using SharePoint Online at the backend means that it is not behaving like the “OneDrive” internet service (

First, we have much more limitations.
I am not talking about the 2 GB limit for file upload (surely your O365 tenant will limit this much further), it’s the old view problem over the 5,000 docs per SharePoint library.
For the default SharePoint library in the personal site used for “OneDrive for Business”, it seems that they have increased the limit to 20,000 items.
For a full list of limitations, cf. this KB article:

I have around 5500 files and folders on my work laptop. That’s around 10 GB of data. It would be great if I could use “OneDrive for Business” synchronisation software client and MySite from my company’s O365 tenant to backup some files.

Then this summer, there was this announcement:
“All Office 365 business customers will also get 1 TB of OneDrive for Business storage per user as part of their Office 365 subscription.”

1 TB of data, that’s great!
Hold on a minute, can we put 1TB of data on a personal SharePoint site (“MySite”)?
I don’t think so!

MySite is a SharePoint site collection. For On Premise farm, best practices advice to put at most 100 GB, maybe you can push your luck to 200 GB per site collection/content DB (for exploitation reason, backup and restore…etc), but I am sure your personal site’s quota of your company’s O365 tenant will stop you before that.

That 1 TB of data per user may be a bit misleading for certain people. This is the total amount of data per user spread across your SharePoint Online web sites.


So, how to go around those limits?

The best way I found was to spread my 10 GB of data over several SharePoint libraries.

Funnily enough, I found this article explaining just why putting everything in your “OneDrive for Business” / SharePoint personal site library may not be the best idea. Basically, it shows that you have to spread your content over several libraries in different site collections to get over the limitations.

We have a saying in French for this kind of explaining, we call it “retro-pedaling”   😉


Step by step:

I did not want to have those libraries at the root of my personal site, so I created a subsite called “Backup”:

  • Click on the “OneDrive” tab in your Office 365 space.
  • Click on the working gear at the top right hand site.
  • Click on “Site content”
  • Scroll down, click on “New sub-site”
  • Choose the “Team site” template

In this site, one after another, I created a document library and press the “Synchronise” button:

  • Click on the working gear at the top right hand site.
  • Click on “Site content”
  • Click on “Add an app”
  • Choose a “Document library”
  • Hit the “Synchronise” button: this creates the folder on your local machine.
  • Copy your data to this folder.

SharePoint library with sync on the O365 website


By experience, I found out that working with documents directly in the sync local folder of “OneDrive for Business” is difficult. Documents (Word, Excel…etc) are very slow to open and save.

The only way I found was to work on a copy of the docs and then copy them over to my “OneDrive for Business” local folder. I know this is not ideal but I am thinking about digging out an old robocopy script to copy automatically the files from the original working source to the sync local folder.

Also, this mechanism will prevent accidental deletion: if one or several files get deleted accidentally via the web interface, then the “OneDrive for Business” client software will sync the change back to your local hard disk and delete the files in your local sync folder. You don’t want this to happen, do you?!



“OneDrive for Business” is basically a SharePoint library on your personal site of the Office 365 tenant of your company. If you wish to get Gigabytes and Gigabytes of data onto the cloud, then spread it across several libraries, either in your personal site or in different team sites, which may be in Office 365 or in your company’s SharePoint farm. In any case, there is no way you’ll go up to 1 TB in your personal site only as there is no such thing as a 1 TB SharePoint site collection.

[Update 28/10/2014]

As of the 27th October 2014, Microsoft offers now unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers.
Business customers with “OneDrive for Business” will eventually have this option with Microsoft updating the First Release customers in 2015.

[Update 07/01/2015]

Microsoft announced in its OneDrive Blog that it will unify its client synchronisation software.
When I wrote the article above, I was using 2 differents kinds of client application on my Windows 8 PC. Personnaly I got amazed by the performance of the “OneDrive” software while at the opposite, I got frustrated by the “OneDrive for Business” client application. The two apps gave really a different end-user experience. So I welcome this change and I hope that the new unified client synchronisation app will be more robust, especially when it comes to use the Office 365/SharePoint OneLine libraries.

[Update 28/01/2015]

I found this great little guide to troubleshoot synchronisation problem with OneDrive for Business. Enjoy!
OneDrive for Business Sync App (formerly SkyDrive Pro) – Sync Issues Guide

Published by

Jean-François Pironneau

Travaillant depuis 2003 sur les versions successives de SharePoint, je me suis spécialisé au fur et à mesure des années dans la partie infrastructure/technique, puis récemment dans la gouvernance de Microsoft 365.

4 thoughts on “How to use OneDrive for Business to backup your drive?”

  1. Thank you so much for your excellent insight into OneDrive. It never would have occurred to me that OneDrive was a SharePoint-based site. That opens a world of possibilities for managing my personal documents.

  2. Hey, I am pretty new to onedrive. I have a question. Is it possible to take backup of my local system drive(D/E Drives) on daily basis to One drive?

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