Using Custom Site Templates to provision new site Collections from SharePoint Admin Portal in SharePoint Online

One of the short-comings of SharePoint Online is its inability to provide an option for SharePoint Administrators to perform/avail a site backup.  Too often when we are done with a site and if we wish to have a backup of the site (just in case of restoring it or to create a new site based off on it.. ), its simply not possible in SharePoint Online.

The one other option available is to leverage the “Save as Site Template” option and create a copy of the site template (with/without data), which can then be re-used for provisioning new sub-sites within an existing top level site collection.  However, what if we need to provision a new site from the “SharePoint Admin Center” and use that custom site template?  (as you would have noticed that the “Provision new Site collection” menu doesn’t offer any option to list/pick any custom Site Template in its UI.)

Note:  The following steps assume that you already have a site template stored in your local drive (by using the “Save as Site Template” option from an existing site).

  1. Navigate to the “SharePoint Admin Center” and select on the New -> Private Site collection and select the Custom tab.  (The intention is not to pre-select a template during the site creation, but rather to provision the site now and worry about associating an existing site template later).CS7
  2.  Once after the site is created and appears in the “Site Collections” page in the SharePoint Admin Center, click on the link and open the site
  3. Once loaded, the site will prompt to select the template (and would display the /_layouts/15/templatepick.aspx page)CS1
  4. As you can see in the above image, it doesn’t provide an option to select our custom template and that’s because, the custom site template is not yet uploaded to the new site, yet.  Click on the “Solutions Gallery” link as highlighted above
  5. Now select the “Upload Solution” link and use the file picker to select the “.wsp” (site template) file from the local file system.CS3
  6. Once the file is selected, click on “Ok” button.CS4
  7. After the file is uploaded, click on the “Activate” button to let know SharePoint that you plan to use it in the current site.CS5
  8. Once its done activating the solution, go back to the site using the below URL: http://<YourTenantName><Your Site Name>/_layouts/15/templatepick.aspx
  9. Once you are in the “Template Selection” page, go to “Custom” tab and now you should see your “site template” listed on it.  Select the template and click on OkCS6

Once the site is provisioned, you should see that all settings in your site template have been applied to the current site.


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