One of the really great things about SharePoint is that you can template a lot of the content and re-use it elsewhere. You can also create templates that include the contents of a site if you want.
Once you have a site template you can use it within an existing site collection to create a subsite based on this template, but what about if you want to create a completely new site collection (i.e. URL) in Office 365 SharePoint Online based on this template?
You create the site template as you normally would be going into Site Settings for that site and then selecting Save site as a template.
When complete the new site template will end up in the Solutions Gallery for that Site Collection. You’ll need to click on the hyperlink for the name of the site template you just created to download the template file to your workstation.
You then simply proceed as you would normally to create a new Site Collection, however when it comes time to select a template to base the new site collection select the Custom tab (on the extreme right), which should only have one option – < Select template later … >.
Select this option and continue with the new site collection creation process.
In a few moments a new site collection will be created in Office 365. Now navigate to the new site collection URL.
Since the site doesn’t have a template yet you will be prompted to choose one. At the top you’ll see the standard SharePoint templates but below this you’ll see option to upload something to the Solution Gallery of the new site collection. You should select this.
You should see that the Solution Gallery is empty. You now need to upload the template you downloaded from the previous site that was saved on your workstation. To do this simply select the Upload Solution button in the top left and proceed to upload the template from your workstation.
Just before you close the dialog displayed after uploading the file completes you should select the Activate button on the right of the Ribbon Menu to make that template available. Failing to do this will mean that it can’t used.
You should now see a single activated solution in the gallery as shown above.
You’ll need to browse to the URL of your new site collection again but now if you select the Custom tab in the Template Selection area you should see the name of your custom site template as shown above. Select this and press the OK button to proceed with the creation process.
The time it takes to create the new root site in the new site collection depends on how large your custom template is but in a short period of time the new site collection based on your custom template will be created. All you need to do is set the security groups and you are good to go.
That’s how you create a completely new site collection from an existing site template.