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Backing up your Office 365 email database to your local computer
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to partner up with Mike Daniels, senior solutions architect at Dell, to give a really interesting webcast on data protection.
One of the questions we were asked by an audience member was how to back up the Office 365 email database locally. I roughly outlined the approach in the webcast, but ever since the day of the event, I've been meaning to sit down and write out the steps.
It actually turns out to be pretty simple, as long as you're running a copy of Outlook 2010 or 2013 on your Windows 7 or Windows 8 machine. I'll also show you how you can do a similar backup process using Outlook 2011 on a Mac, but it's not a perfect solution. The Windows process works much better.
By the way, since Office 365 is basically just a hosted Exchange service, this same set of steps will work if you're using an Exchange server somewhere else.
The .OST file on Windows
Many of you who have been around the Outlook world undoubtedly know about .PST files. These are the main email database files that the Outlook client stores on local computer hard drives.
It turns out that Exchange (which is what you're talking to when talking to Office 365) can be configured to create a similar data file, the .OST file, which also stores a local copy of your email data.
So that brings us to four specific steps: Make sure you configure Outlook to download your entire email database; locate your .OST file; back up the .OST file; and know how to get information out of it if you need to.
Let's look at each of these steps in turn. I'm using Outlook 2013 in my examples, but Outlook 2010 and even Outlook 2007 work similarly.