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Microsoft 365 Archive: what it is, limitations and alternative solutions

Microsoft 365 Archive extends the storage space in Microsoft 365, enabling the archiving of SharePoint sites. But while the functionality is promising, it is still necessary to consider the best time to adopt this new product, given its usage costs.

Before buying new space in SharePoint and incurring the costs of using Microsoft 365 Archive, there is an alternative to free up space at no additional cost and with more autonomous management of archives in the Microsoft 365 cloud. It is Microsoft 365 Archive Manager.

Find all the details about Microsoft 365 Archive and Microsoft 365 Archive Manager in this article.

Microsoft 365 Archive: a brief introduction

Microsoft 365 Archive is the solution designed by Microsoft to expand the storage space occupied by personal and corporate SharePoint sites.

Now in public preview, this new product actually allows you to archive the data contained in a SharePoint site to prevent available storage from being taken up by underutilized content. It is then possible to archive one or more SharePoint sites in the additional space that is offered by Microsoft 365 Archive, at an affordable price. This migration involves:

  • Document libraries
  • File collections and lists

Once archived, the contents of a site remain available to global SharePoint administrators, who can decide to reactivate or delete them altogether at any time.

Important note: Even when archived, data retains the same standards of search (currently only for admins, but soon for all enabled users), security and compliance that characterize shared resources in SharePoint and the remaining Microsoft 365 applications.

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intranet.ai is the ready-to-use corporate intranet, designed to reduce costs and implementation times, thus creating a collaborative and modern digital work environment:

  • Initial price of 3,650 €/year for a complete intranet
  • 50+ applications, including advanced search, document management system, push notifications via Teams, personal profile, and FAQ pages
  • 100% integrated with SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365

 

How Microsoft storage space works

Microsoft storage space is divided into two main categories:

  • Mailbox storage space, which includes
    • Mail associated with your Microsoft account, including Outlook.com, Hotmail, Live, and MSN.
    • Outlook.com attachments, mail messages, contacts, and calendar items.

  • Cloud storage space
    • Files and media content saved or synchronized with OneDrive.
    • Attachments and online mail messages from Outlook.com.
    • Files and documents saved in SharePoint and Teams (which actually has under SharePoint for file storage).

For users who have purchased a Microsoft 365 license, the fee is divided as follows:

  • Space on SharePoint Online provides 1TB for each company to which 10GB must be added for each user with a license that includes SharePoint. For example, a company that has 100 users with a license that includes SharePoint will have 1TB + (10GB * 100) = 2TB of collaboration space.

  • Microsoft 365 Business plans
    • 50GB for mail and 1TB for OneDrive, per user.

  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise (E3/E5) plans
    • 100GB for mail and unlimited space for OneDrive.
    • Once you exceed the available quota in your SharePoint Online, you are prevented from accessing almost all features for storing and sharing documents and information.

For example, the user will no longer be able to:

  • Upload, edit or synchronize new files in OneDrive, while existing content will be available in Read Only mode.
  • Store or edit documents in SharePoint or Teams.
  • Send or receive messages in Microsoft Teams.

After the 12 months have passed since the quota was exceeded, Microsoft can disable the user's OneDrive account and irretrievably delete all content present.

Finally, it should be noted that the functionality for mail in Outlook is suspended even if only the quota for cloud storage is exceeded. OneDrive storage is thus the core of Microsoft 365's digital workplace and the point to which users and companies must pay most attention.

Hence, this explains the importance of Microsoft 365 Archive, the only solution currently offered by Microsoft to avoid exceeding the available storage quota in one's subscription by acting on SharePoint sites and their archives directly linked to the personal and corporate OneDrive account.

Microsoft 365 Archive: what are the main advantages?

Although it is still a preview product, Microsoft 365 Archive has already proven to offer several advantages for managing storage in its Microsoft 365 tenants and especially SharePoint Online.

We have seen how it is now possible to reduce the space taken up by SharePoint sites by moving the weight of archived content from Microsoft 365 storage to Microsoft 365 Archive storage. The moved data also maintains security and search standards (although the latter is still limited).

But there are other benefits offered by Microsoft 365 Archive to point out, including the following.

 

1. Speed of archiving

Microsoft 365 Archive manages to handle the storage of sites in SharePoint in a rather nimble manner, without affecting performance in number or size. Storage speed is measured in minutes and thus differs from the speed offered by solutions such as Azure's BLOB.

 

2. Low cost

Microsoft 365 Archive allows users to free up space in their Microsoft 365 environment, reducing the share occupied by SharePoint sites and related content stored via OneDrive. All this, offering users and businesses significant savings compared to buying new storage directly. Users with enterprise Microsoft 365 plans must, for example, purchase a higher plan to get more storage space.

 

3. Metadata retention

To keep the privacy and organization of the data in an archived SharePoint site intact, Microsoft 365 Archive does not act on the metadata assigned to each resource or even the permissions distributed by the company to access the information. Once a site is reactivated, users can access content and collaborate with colleagues as they did before archiving.

 

4. Decluttering

Microsoft 365 Archive automatically separates active sites in the SharePoint tenant from inactive, i.e., newly archived sites. In fact, archived sites are listed under the appropriate heading "Archived Sites," which global or SharePoint admins can reach directly from the administration interface. This prevents users' navigation from being burdened with resources in SharePoint that are little used and therefore of little use to their daily activities. Of course, this separation also makes it easier for administrators to manage the sites in the tenant.

What is the difference between Microsoft 365 Archive and SharePoint Advanced Management

SharePoint Advanced Management is an add-on that provides useful features for managing SharePoint and OneDrive content while enhancing the collaboration experience.

Key features include the following:

  • Restrict access to a SharePoint site via Microsoft 365 or Entra ID groups
  • Get governance reports for data access in SharePoint sites
  • Restrict access to the OneDrive service via security groups
  • Restrict access to a file stored in OneDrive
  • Manage the lifecycle of SharePoint sites

This last feature is why SharePoint Advanced Management is often confused with Microsoft 365 Archive, but there is a major difference between the two products.

SharePoint site management with SharePoint Advanced Management is in fact limited to automatically identifying inactive sites and sending a notification to the owners to see if the detected site is actually being little used by users.

SharePoint Advanced Management therefore does not allow you to act on the memory occupied by inactive sites, unlike Microsoft 365 Archive.

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Microsoft 365 Archive: how much does it cost?

Microsoft 365 Archive follows a pay-as-you-go model, which is divided into two components:

  1. At this preview stage, additional space is accounted for as 0.05 GB/month. In the charge, only the storage space that exceeds the tenant's quota is considered.
  2. The activation price for each of the archived sites is 0.60 €/GB. However, there is a trial period that includes free reactivation for 7 days.

Billing is handled specifically through SharePoint Premium's Pay-As-You-Go model, which links to the Microsoft Azure subscription. Microsoft 365 Archive costs can then be tracked with Azure's Cost Management feature.

Clearly, the advantage of using Microsoft 365 Archive is really in the price. You pay 0.05€/GB/month instead of 0.2€/GB/month for additional SharePoint Online space.

But there is an alternative before you get to pay these costs: the Microsoft 365 Archive Manager, which allows you to clear unused SharePoint Online space.

Microsoft 365 Archive: how to use it?

Using Microsoft 365 Archive is quite intuitive.

The features for archiving and reactivating SharePoint sites are accessible to global or SharePoint admins directly from their administration interface.

From the administration interface, one must then:

  • Access the "Active Sites" item
  • Select the sites that you intend to archive
  • Click on the "Archive" command

The selected sites will appear in the "Archived Sites" item, again accessible from the administration interface. By accessing the list of archived sites, admins can use the "Reactivate" command at any time to make the sites and their content available again.

The space occupied by archived SharePoint sites stops being counted in the quota available for their plan to Microsoft 365, to be calculated and accounted for in the quota offered by Microsoft 365 Archive according to the criteria seen together in the section on pricing.

Even if archived, sites moved to Microsoft 365 Archive maintain standards in terms of data durability, security through global and SharePoint permissions, compliance for the number of data allowed by the EU, and for the geographic residency of one's data.

Below, you can find a summary table of all the Microsoft 365 Archive features we have seen together so far.

 

The main features of Microsoft 365 Archive

 

Features of Microsoft 365 Archive

Feature Description

Expanding storage space in Microsoft 365 via SharePoint sites Microsoft 365 Archive allows you to archive data contained in SharePoint sites, preventing available storage from being taken up by underutilized content.
Data retention Even after being archived, the content of a SharePoint site remains accessible to SharePoint global and tenant administrators, who can decide to reactivate or delete an archived site at any time.
Search standards (under development), security and compliance Data in archived sites maintain the same search, security, and compliance standards that characterize shared resources in SharePoint and the remaining Microsoft 365 applications.
Speed of archiving Microsoft 365 Archive manages the archiving of SharePoint sites in minutes, regardless of the number and size of sites to be archived.
Metadata maintenance Metadata assigned to each resource and data access permissions are kept intact even after a site is archived.
Separation of active sites from archived sites Microsoft 365 Archive automatically separates active sites from archived sites, simplifying management and preventing users' navigation from being burdened by underutilized resources.
Low costs Microsoft 365 Archive is based on a pay-as-you-go model, influenced by the number of sites to be archived and reactivated. Although the costs are not insignificant, they save on the direct purchase of storage.

The limitations of Microsoft 365 Archive

The Microsoft 365 Archive preview has some major limitations, some or all of which will be resolved by 2024. In addition to searching for archived content (now available only to admins), here are the major limitations to Archive functionality:

  • Archiving and reactivation are only possible for complete SharePoint sites; therefore, they are not available at a granular level to manage the space occupied by individual files or libraries.
  • A hub site cannot be archived. It must first be unregistered as such.
  • It is not possible to view the date and author of a site's archiving.
  • Archiving a registered site in Microsoft 365 backup is not allowed.
  • Tenant renaming is not supported in archived sites. It is therefore necessary to reactivate them.
  • It is not possible to delegate the archiving of this data to users who do not have a SharePoint administrator or global administrator role.

In addition, tenants with more than 50,000 sites may have problems trying to enumerate the sites in the "Archived Sites" item in the administration interface. In contrast, multi-geo tenants do not have the ability to move archived sites.

Regarding SharePoint sites connected to Microsoft Teams, a distinction must be made.

Sites connected to a private channel cannot be migrated to Microsoft 365 Archive, while archiving is possible for SharePoint sites connected to a standard Teams channel.

When a site connected to a Teams channel is archived, however, resources such as:

  • The Teams channel connected to the archived site
  • The mailbox in Exchange
  • The contents in the Planner tab

But beware: archiving a SharePoint site automatically blocks access to shared files in the associated Teams channel for all users.

For this reason, Microsoft itself recommends archiving the Teams channel along with the associated SharePoint site so that the user experience within the digital workplace is not compromised.

A final consideration concerns synchronization.

If a SharePoint site is archived while synchronization with a device (such as a computer or mobile device) is active, the client software used for synchronization will report errors once the archiving process is complete.

The synchronization client notifies the user that synchronization is blocked and therefore there may be discrepancies between the data on the device and the data on the SharePoint site.

Microsoft 365 Archive: is there an alternative?

Microsoft 365 Archive offers important advantages, but also major limitations. The costs of keeping SharePoint sites archived are significant, though small compared to buying new storage directly (which often combines with the purchase of a higher Microsoft 365 plan). And let's not forget that important file collaboration and content management features of a site are lost in the migration to Microsoft 365 Archive.

Finally, archiving is currently limited to SharePoint sites only and thus does not allow for the space taken up by Microsoft 365's main cloud platform, namely OneDrive.

Although Microsoft does not offer alternatives, there is a cheaper and more comprehensive solution. It is Microsoft 365 Archive Manager.

Microsoft 365 Archive Manager: the best solution for managing space in the Microsoft cloud

Microsoft 365 Archive Manager is the solution we have developed to enable companies to reduce the space taken up by SharePoint and OneDrive, saving on the purchase of new storage and the cost of using tools such as Microsoft's new Archive.

It is used to keep archives in the enterprise cloud clean by acting on their management rather than their location (so it is not a simple migration from one archive to another).

It thus makes it possible to:

  • Improve storage space management in Microsoft 365, on your own.
  • Retain collaboration features, which are lost with Microsoft 365 Archive.

The mechanism is simple.

Microsoft 365 Archive Manager starts with a quick scan of all archives in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive, analyzing the versions of files present.

It calculates the memory occupied by individual file versions to tell the company how much space it could free up by deleting content, depending on the utility.

To accurately identify versions that are less useful to the company and user activities, Archive Manager allows the use of rules that focus on specific SharePoint sites, files with versions older than a specific date, or files of certain types. But there is also the ability to access premium features to create custom analysis rules.

Other benefits of our platform include the following:

  1. Audit flow scheduling, to determine how often to analyze the archives in your Microsoft 365 environment and thus ensure constant monitoring of the available quota.
  2. Insight for storage management and advice on how to properly store files in the cloud.
  3. Easy installation and our support to adapt the solution to your digital workplace.

Finally, it should be noted that Microsoft 365 Archive Manager also operates in OneDrive.

This is perhaps the best feature, because there is still no tool that can manage storage space directly in OneDrive. Not even Microsoft 365 Archive can do that.

With our solution, users can manage OneDrive archives on a personal and corporate level. Autonomously, so they are not dependent on the IT department.

 

The benefits of Microsoft 365 Archive Manager

 

Benefits of Microsoft 365 Archive Manager Advantage Description
Costs are based on document libraries and not based on space used Microsoft 365 Archive Manager is licensed with plans based on the number of libraries created, whatever actual space is used or can be saved. Thus giving a significant economic benefit to the customer.
Managing storage space across the entire Microsoft 365 environment Microsoft 365 Archive Manager ensures that you never exceed the storage limits available in your Microsoft 365 plan through proper management of archives in SharePoint and OneDrive.
Managing archives in OneDrive Archive Manager also operates in OneDrive, allowing you to manage personal and business archives without depending on the IT department.
Preservation of collaboration features Users can reduce the space taken up by files in SharePoint and OneDrive, without the need to archive content and disrupt real-time collaboration with colleagues.
Analysis of archives in the Microsoft 365 cloud Archive Manager quickly scans archives in Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive, analyzing the versions of files present to indicate the space that could be freed up by deleting less useful content.
Creating rules for custom analysis Users can create criteria to accurately identify and delete the least useful versions of their files to keep archives clean.
Scheduling the verification flow You can schedule the verification flow to determine how often to analyze archives in your Microsoft 365 environment, ensuring constant monitoring of available space.
Insights for storage management Archive Manager provides insight and advice on how to properly store files in the cloud, helping users manage storage space on their own.
Delegation of space management Archive Manager allows users to delegate specific users to manage the redundant space of the SharePoint sites they are in charge of, without the need to assign SharePoint Online Administrator permissions.

Free up space with Microsoft 365 Archive Manager


Microsoft 365 Archive Manager is the solution for managing storage space in Microsoft 365, saving on the purchase of new storage:

  • Reduces the space taken up by SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive at no additional cost.
  • Retains collaboration features, lost with Microsoft 365 Archive.
  • Helps manage archives in the Microsoft cloud independently.

 

Giuseppe Marchi

 

Microsoft MVP for SharePoint and Microsoft 365 since 2010.

Giuseppe is the founder of intranet.ai and one of the leading experts in Italy in all matters related to Microsoft 365. For years, he has been assisting companies in creating their digital workplace environment on the Microsoft cloud, focusing on people's experience.

FAQs on Microsoft 365 Archive


What is Microsoft 365 Archive?

Microsoft 365 Archive is a solution developed by Microsoft to extend the storage space of SharePoint Online, allowing SharePoint sites to be archived to reduce the space occupied by rarely used content. It is particularly useful for businesses to effectively manage storage capacity without exceeding available quotas, while maintaining high standards of security and compliance.

What are the main benefits of Microsoft 365 Archive?

The main benefits of Microsoft 365 Archive include the reduction of space occupied by SharePoint sites, the speed of archiving, the retention of metadata, the separation of active sites from archived ones, and the low cost of the service. These benefits help organizations better manage their memory resources without compromising access to and use of stored data.

How does Microsoft 365 Archive work?

To use Microsoft 365 Archive, administrators access the SharePoint administration interface, select the sites to be archived, and use the 'Archive' command. The archived sites are then managed through the 'Archived Sites' section, where content can be reactivated at any time, maintaining security and compliance functionalities.

Is there an alternative to Microsoft 365 Archive?

Yes, there is an alternative called Microsoft 365 Archive Manager. This solution allows a more autonomous and aware management of the archives, acting on memory capacity without physically moving data from one archive to another. It offers advantages such as managing storage space throughout the Microsoft 365 environment, preserving collaboration functionalities, and the ability to create custom analysis rules.

What are the limits of the preview features of Microsoft 365 Archive?

The current limitations of Microsoft 365 Archive include the inability to manage occupied space at a granular level, the impossibility of archiving hub sites without first deregistering them, and restrictions on viewing data and renaming tenants in archived sites. Other limitations concern the management of SharePoint sites connected to Microsoft Teams and potential issues in very large or multi-geo tenants.