Oct 30, 2021 | Insight, IT

Office 365 Backups

Dave Pagett

Dave Pagett

Why should you backup Office 365?

As most of us know Microsoft’s Office 365 platform has taken over most of the world, or at least it feels like it has.  We have spent many years moving organizations including data and email into the cloud.

There is no surprise that many are quick to adopt the platform, rather than having to run their own servers for Exchange, SharePoint and file storage.

The problem is many organizations don’t stop to ask themselves: “How is my data protected?” and take it for granted that backup and data protection are part of the package.

You will be surprised to find out that Microsoft provides no clearly defined backup strategy for Office 365, even though Office 365 is actually a communications solution rather than a data protection service.

There are a few tools and features throughout the Office 365 suite that together create what you might call a baseline toolkit for retaining your Office 365 data.

However, if your organization depends on having a weekly, monthly, yearly backup and recovery strategy in place, these tools are hardly likely to be enough to cover your needs.

In this article I cover the key reasons why you need a proper backup strategy for Office 365. We’ll also demonstrate why and how Microsoft’s built-in data governance and retention features can fall short in some cases.

Microsoft is not responsible for your data

While Microsoft is responsible for keeping the cloud infrastructure services available (which makes sense), you are accountable for protecting your data which is hosted by those services.

This is commonly known as the Office 365 Shared Responsibility Model, which reminds us that maintaining service and data availability is a joint effort. The wording below from the current Microsoft Services Agreement page explains their position on data protection for their cloud services:

Service Availability: We strive to keep the Services up and running; however, all online services suffer occasional disruptions and outages, and Microsoft is not liable for any disruption or loss you may suffer as a result. In the event of an outage, you may not be able to retrieve Your Content or Data that you’ve stored. We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.

No point-in-time recovery for Exchange Online preventing easy ransomware recovery

O365 does not provide a way for Exchange Online customers to take backups. This means that if an employee accidently provides a malicious user with access to their account, ransomware can infect their O365 email. Only a recent backup would be able to restore the content to safe state.

This is a major challenge for organizations. While Office 365 makes it possible to recover individual messages that have been deleted from a mailbox for a length of time or restore an accidently deleted mailbox back at the time of deletion, offering recovery via a backup to a given point in time is not possible. Here is Microsoft’s official position:

Point in time restoration of mailbox items is out of scope for the Exchange Online service. However, Exchange Online offers great retention and recovery support for your organization’s email infrastructure, and your mailbox data is available when you need it, no matter what happens.

Manage O365 Backups for Multiple organisations from a single tool

Many O365 customers have to manage staff under different O365 organizations. In the past, admins would have to log into each organization separately to configure any type of retention services. Whether your company is merging new business units or you have outsourced O365 management, you can now centrally manage backups across multiple organizations using Altaro Office 365 Backup.

Spire Technology Group have an online solution that will backup Office 365 Mail, SharePoint and OnDrive.  This includes backing up all mailboxes, emails, attachments, calendars, contacts, Teams chats, and files stored in OneDrive and SharePoint across all tenants. MSPs can also use the same multitenant console to manage and monitor their customers’ endpoint backups.

Point in Time Recovery for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint online

Did you know with OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online you are able to do point-in-time recoveries, but only within the last 30 days.

If you need point-in-time restoration capabilities beyond 30 days, you’ll need a 3rd party backup application for Office 365. 

Many organizations store critical data inside of OneDrive and SharePoint, so point-in-time capabilities being limited to just 30 days is often a deal-breaker.

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