You get a call from a panicked user who tells you they’ve accidentally deleted an important file from SharePoint. And they’re not sure exactly when it happened. It could have been several days ago or even a few weeks ago.
I received a call like this from a client recently. An end user had deleted a couple files inadvertently. Luckily, we found the files in pretty short order, as they were still in the recycle bin. A simple restore and the user had their files back. However, what would we have done if the files were NOT in the recycle bin?
Following are various levels of restoring content in SharePoint and things you should know about each type:
End user recycle bin
We’ve talked a little about the recycle bin already. This is available to contributors of the site from the Site Contents page in SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online. By default, items remain in the recycle bin for 30 days. This setting can be configured in Central Administration to be whatever value you wish, or even turned off completely. Although you want to be careful if you do this, as your content database can get pretty large if you never purge the recycle bin.
Second stage recycle bin
While most users are aware of the regular recycle bin, not everyone knows about the second stage recycle bin. This acts as a second layer of protection for files and content before they get permanently deleted. Only site collection administrators have access to this feature. One thing to note is that if an entire site is deleted, it bypasses the regular recycle bin and goes straight to the second stage recycle bin. This means that only a site collection administrator can restore a deleted site.
We have found the SharePoint backup functionality in Central Administration to not always be the most reliable. Therefore when we talk with clients about their SharePoint backup strategy, we always recommend either a 3rd party tool, SQL backups, or both.
There are a couple different types of data loss and restore scenarios: the one I mentioned above (a user has lost a file or other content), or a catastrophic event that wipes out an entire site, server, or farm. In the latter case, you’ll have to rebuild your SharePoint instance from scratch, and then restore your databases from backups to the new server by doing a database attach.
3rd party backup tools
There are several 3rd party tools on the market that support extremely granular backup and restoring of content in SharePoint. They can also be very pricey. While it is certainly possible to retrieve lost documents that have been deleted from the second stage recycle bin using SQL backups, it can be extremely time consuming.
Which method is right for your business? Well, it depends. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each scenario, along with the criticality of your content. Is it business critical data that you can’t be without for more than a few minutes? It might be worth the cost of a 3rd party tool. If you can live without that particular content for a few hours or even a day or two, then the cost of a granular backup tool probably wouldn’t be cost effective.