Where Does Microsoft 365 Store Your Data? In today’s fast-paced digital world, data is the lifeblood of any organization. It is the foundation upon which decisions are made, strategies are formulated, and success is measured. As a user or admin of Microsoft 365, you have access to a powerful suite of tools that enable you to create, store, and manage your data with ease. But with so many applications and features, it can be challenging to know where your data is stored and how to access it.
This blog post will help you understand the various storage locations for Microsoft 365 applications so you can answer the question, Where does Microsoft 365 store your data?
Microsoft 365 Applications
Where does Microsoft 365 store your data? The answer varies depending on the Microsoft 365 application and its features. Some apps store your data in OneDrive or SharePoint, while others use their own specific storage services. Furthermore, access to Microsoft 365 applications depends on your Microsoft license and your administration settings. Go to the Microsoft 365 app launcher and select “Explore all your apps” to see the choices. An example screenshot is below.
If you want to learn what all the Microsoft 365 applications do, then check out the list of all the Microsoft applications on the official website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/products-apps-services.
Where does Microsoft 365 store your data?
Knowing where Microsoft 365 stores your data is important because it tells you the location of your data and the laws and rules that apply to it. This information is essential for customers who operate in regulated industries or the public sector and have specific requirements for safeguarding personal or sensitive information. Knowing where your data is stored also has some advantages:
- It helps users to know which app to use and where to find their stored content.
- It helps IT and legal professionals to include the right locations in Discovery searches to avoid missing important data.
- It motivates managers to make sure their team keeps data in the proper locations to reduce data loss when locations are removed as part of the offboarding process when employees exit the company.
- It helps DPOs and Compliance officers to know where the data is located geographically and what laws and regulations apply to it.
- It helps IT administrators to know retention requirements and offboarding processes.
We have seen how important it is to find data, so let’s look at where Microsoft 365 keeps its data.
Content stored in User’s Exchange Online Mailbox
Let’s examine the types of data that are stored in a user’s Exchange Online mailbox. Besides the usual email-related items such as email messages, calendar entries, contacts, and personal and assigned tasks, the mailbox also stores compliance copies of data in hidden folders of the mailbox for audit or eDiscovery purposes. A user’s Exchange Online mailbox contains compliance copies of the following data:
- Microsoft Teams 1:1 and group chats.
- Microsoft Teams private channel conversations.
- Microsoft Teams meeting chats.
- Microsoft Teams Voicemails.
- Microsoft Teams Call Detail Records (summary of meetings and calls).
- Viva Engage user messages.
- Microsoft 365 Copilot prompts and responses.
- Microsoft Forms form and responses.
- Sway presentations.
To learn more, visit content stored in Exchange Online mailboxes for eDiscovery | Microsoft Learn.
Content stored in Microsoft 365 Group Exchange Online Mailbox
Microsoft 365 Groups forms the foundation for Microsoft Teams, Outlook-based groups, and Viva Engage Communities. Each group has an Exchange Online mailbox that enables email-based communication for Outlook-based groups and a group calendar for planning meetings. The mailbox also stores compliance copies of data in hidden folders of the mailbox for audit or eDiscovery purposes. A Microsoft 365 Group Exchange Online mailbox contains compliance copies of the following data:
- Microsoft Teams standard channel messages
- Microsoft Teams shared channel messages
- Microsoft Teams shared meeting chats
- Call Detail Records for the channel meetings
- Viva Engage community messages
Content stored in Bookings Exchange Online Mailbox
The Bookings app makes a new Exchange Online mailbox for each Bookings schedule.
Content stored in User’s OneDrive for Business
Users have their own OneDrive for Business accounts where they can keep content that only they can access. OneDrive for Business contains the following content:
- Word, PowerPoint and Excel files that can be edited and shared with others.
- Other file types can be uploaded and downloaded as needed.
- Personal OneNote notebooks that can be used for taking notes and organizing information.
- User-generated Stream videos that can be recorded, uploaded and viewed by others.
- Teams meeting recordings and transcripts are automatically saved in OneDrive for Business if the user initiates the recording.
- Personal Lists that can be created and managed in OneDrive for Business or in other Microsoft 365 apps.
- Loop components that are interactive blocks of content that can be added to Teams chats, Teams meetings or Outlook messages.
- User-generated Whiteboard that can be used for brainstorming, sketching and collaborating with others.
- Whiteboards that are added to Teams meetings and can be accessed later in OneDrive for Business.
- Clipchamp video creation projects can be used to create and edit videos with various features and effects.
Content stored in SharePoint Online
There are different kinds of modern SharePoint sites, such as a communication site and team sites (with or without Microsoft 365 group connection). They can store different types of content, such as:
- Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files.
- Other file types, such as PDFs, images, and audio files.
- Group OneNote notebooks.
- Site or group-related Stream videos.
- Teams channel meeting recordings and transcripts.
- Site or group-related Lists, to track tasks, issues, and other items.
- Loop components added by users to Teams channel conversations and meetings.
- Attachments in Site or group Planner tasks.
Content stored in SharePoint Embedded
SharePoint Embedded is a file and document management system in the cloud that offers an API-only option for developers to use files and document storage with Microsoft Graph API. It makes a new SharePoint section inside the tenant, which lets developers create new applications and keep content from the custom applications. Also, SharePoint Embedded keeps content from:
- Loop workspaces.
- Microsoft Designer projects.
Microsoft announced SharePoint embedded at ESPC23 in November 2023 Announcing SharePoint Embedded Public Preview at ESPC23 – Microsoft Community Hub.
Content stored in other Microsoft data locations.
Some Microsoft 365 apps keep data sources in locations other than your Microsoft 365 tenant. For example:
- Microsoft Teams Azure Chat Services, which provides real-time communication and collaboration. Data resides in the same geographic region associated with your Microsoft 365 tenant.
- Viva Engage (Native Mode) data resides in Microsoft data centers in Europe and the United States.
- Microsoft Forms data resides in Microsoft data centers in Europe, Australia and the United States.
- Microsoft Planner data resides in Microsoft data centers in Europe, Australia, Asia Pacific and the United States.
Compliance copies of the data
Compliance copies of data are not accessible to end users. However, when eDiscovery managers execute searches on user or group mailboxes, they will get the compliance copies of the data. The following example illustrates where content from Microsoft Teams is stored for compliance purposes.
Data is the core of any organization in today’s rapidly changing digital world. It is the basis for making decisions, developing strategies, and evaluating success. With Microsoft 365, you have access to a powerful suite of tools that enable you to create, store, and manage your data with ease.
When you understand where Microsoft 365 stores your data, you can minimize compliance issues while taking full advantage of the powerful tools at your disposal.
You can also catch up with @RyanJohnMurphy4 on our All Things M365 Compliance podcast where we discuss ‘Where does Microsoft 365 store your data and why?’ Watch on 🎥YouTube or listen on 🎧 Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast!