As a managed service provider, we often encounter clients who question the need for a backup solution in the Microsoft 365 environment. They are under the assumption that because Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based platform, their data is automatically backed up and secure. However, this is not the whole truth.
In this article, we will explain why a Microsoft 365 backup solution is crucial to you as a company or individual utilizing the Microsoft environment.
Overview of the Microsoft 365 Environment
Microsoft 365 is a comprehensive suite of productivity and collaboration tools that include several familiar Microsoft applications such as Office, Exchange, SharePoint and Teams, among others. The environment is designed to help organizations and individuals be more productive and collaborate more effectively.
The Microsoft 365 environment offers several features that enhance productivity, including:
- Office applications – Microsoft 365 includes the latest versions of popular Office apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are just some of the numerous examples. These applications are designed to be easy to use, with a familiar interface, and they allow users to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes.
- Email and calendar – Integrated with other Microsoft 365 applications, Microsoft Exchange offers email and calendar functionality. With Exchange, users can manage their email, calendar and contacts from any device and share calendars with others.
- Fire storage and collaboration – SharePoint provides a secure and centralized location for storing and sharing files. With SharePoint, teams can collaborate on documents and projects in real time and access files from anywhere.
- Video conferencing – Microsoft Teams offers video conferencing features that let users connect with other people from any location. Users of Teams can collaborate in real-time with coworkers, clients and partners while taking part in online meetings, webinars and other events.
- Mobile access – Microsoft 365 provides access to all of its features and services from mobile devices, so users can stay productive and collaborate with others while on the go.
- Security and compliance with Microsoft Purview – Microsoft has set up several measures to help secure data and guarantee regulatory compliance because it takes security and compliance very seriously. This comprises security upgrades regularly, multi-factor authentication and data encryption.
The Microsoft 365 environment provides businesses with a range of tools and services for productivity, security and compliance. Speaking about security, it is important to note that Microsoft 365 already includes some built-in security and deletion recovery features, such as version history for files and eDiscovery, but these are not a substitute for a comprehensive backup strategy. It is essential to have a Microsoft 365 strategy that includes regular backups to combat security threats.
Are Backups Necessary for Microsoft 365?
Backups are an essential component of any deletion recovery plan, and this is especially true in the context of Microsoft 365. We mentioned earlier that Microsoft 365 includes built-in security and deletion recovery features in their package, but is that enough? We don’t think so.
There are several reasons why we believe backups are essential in Microsoft 365, and here are some of them:
One of the primary reasons for a backup plan is to protect against accidental deletion. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including hardware failures, ransomware attacks and human error. Regular backups ensure that critical data can be restored in the event of any kind of data loss.
Regular backups ensure that data expected to be available for a specific period — for business purposes — are indeed available. This is to ensure the establishment complies with the regulatory requirements.
In the event of a disaster, such as a natural disaster or a system failure, having a recent backup can be crucial in ensuring the continuity of business operations.
Understanding Microsoft 365 Backup Requirements
In this section, we will explain all you need to know about backing up your data in the Microsoft 365 Environment.
Types of Data Stored in Microsoft 365
Microsoft 365 stores a variety of data, including emails, contacts, calendars, documents and more. Here is an overview of the types of data stored in Microsoft 365:
- Exchange Online data – Exchange Online is a cloud-based email and calendar service that is part of Microsoft 365. Exchange Online utilizes cloud storage for a variety of data, examples being emails, contacts and calendar information (for instance, appointments, meetings and events).
- SharePoint Online data – SharePoint Online is a cloud-based collaboration and document management service that stores data like Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, tasks and websites.
- OneDrive for Business data – OneDrive for Business is a cloud-based file storage and sharing device. It helps in storing files and folders of important information useful for businesses.
- Microsoft Teams data – Teams is a cloud-based communication and collaboration service. The type of data MS Teams stores includes chat history between users, cross-team collaboration details, calendar information and call recordings that can be used for training and reference purposes.
- Azure Active Directory – As the primary repository of user data, access levels and security, Active Directory data needs to be actively synched across all user platforms.
The above data and their storage sites are critical to the functioning of an organization and, therefore, must be safeguarded.
What Is Microsoft 365 Backup?
Backups with a cloud-based solution like Microsoft 365 are simplicity itself. When you work with a trusted cloud services provider, you can be confident that all components of your Microsoft cloud-based applications are fully backed up with regional redundancies. This provides an added layer of peace of mind, knowing that your cloud applications as well as your sensitive business data are protected from accidental deletion as well as from criminal actors.
How is Microsoft 365 Data Backed Up?
Microsoft Office 365 is backed up by creating copies of the data and storing it in a separate location. There are a good number of options available for backing up Microsoft 365 data, including:
- Third-party backup solutions: You can also use several third-party backup solutions to back up Microsoft Office 365 data. These solutions provide additional features, such as data retention and recovery options.
- Manual Backup: A manual backup of Microsoft 365 data can be done by exporting data from the service and storing it on-premise. This method is, however, time-consuming and may not be suitable for large amounts of data.
Microsoft 365 Backup Solution Options
There are several backup options available for Microsoft Office 365, including:
- Exchange Online backup – Allows you to backup Exchange Online data, including emails, contacts and calendars.
- SharePoint Online backup – Allows you to backup SharePoint Online data, including documents, lists and sites.
- OneDrive for Business backup – Allows you to back up OneDrive for Business data, which includes documents, files and folders.
- Microsoft Teams backup – Allows you to backup Teams data, which includes chat history and call recordings.
Best Practices for Your Microsoft 365 Backup Solution
It is important to adhere to recommended backup procedures to make sure Microsoft 365 data is secure. We advise the following as some of the best practices for Microsoft 365 backup:
- Regular backups – To guarantee that data is safe and can be restored in the event of data deletion or corruption, regular backups should be carried out.
- Offsite storage – To guard against data loss or corruption brought on by natural disasters or cyber assaults, backups should be kept in a separate place.
- Data retention – To ensure that data can be restored in the event of data deletion or corruption, it is crucial to preserve several copies of backups for a specified retention period.
- Testing backups – Regularly testing backups to ensure they can be restored in the event of data loss or corruption is paramount.
- Air gapped backups – Simple in concept; more difficult in execution. Air-gapped backups are held completely offline, with an "air gap" between a network and your sensitive backup and recovery data.
- Immutable backups – Want the ultimate in protection? Immutable backups cannot be changed, period. They offer a single point in time restore point for your business data and applications.
Assessing Backup Needs in a Microsoft 365 Environment
When determining your backup needs in a Microsoft 365 environment, take into account the following:
Identifying Critical Data and Systems
Finding the critical systems and data that need to be protected is the first step in evaluating backup requirements. This could involve information like emails, documents and customer data, as well as systems such as Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint. You can decide which data and systems need backup protection by knowing which ones are essential to your business.
Determining the Frequency of Backups
The importance of the data and systems determines how frequently backups are performed. For instance, daily backups may be necessary for data that changes often, such as email, whereas weekly backups may be sufficient for data that changes less regularly. The organization’s Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) should be used to decide how frequently backups should be performed.
Evaluating Backup Storage and Retrieval Options
Assessing backup storage and retrieval choices comes next once you’ve established the frequency of backups. Exchange Online backup and SharePoint Backup are two built-in backup options provided by Microsoft 365, although businesses may also want to utilize third-party backup products. When analyzing backup storage and retrieval alternatives, consider factors like cost, scalability and the capacity to quickly retrieve data from the relevant user account.
When you have determined your backup needs, it’s important to follow up with proper implementation.
Implementing Microsoft 365 Backup Solutions
While Microsoft Office 365 is known for its reliability, it’s still essential to implement a backup solution to protect your data in case of an unexpected outage or data loss. This is because Microsoft is not responsible for all data in the environment based on its shared responsibility model. Here are two important steps to take when implementing Microsoft 365 backup solutions:
Setting Up Native Microsoft Office 365 Backup Options
Fortunately, Microsoft 365 itself provides built-in data retention policies that help users and organizations protect their data. For Exchange Online, you need to set up a retention policy to keep the email messages and attachments for a specific period. You can access the retention policy by navigating to the Exchange Admin Center and selecting “Retention Policies.”
As for OneDrive for Business, it provides limited access to previous versions of saved data. This allows users a short window of less than 30 days to retrieve sensitive information that might have been inadvertently sent to the Recycle Bin. To enable file versioning, navigate to the OneDrive settings and turn on the “Keep Previous Versions” option.
Ensuring Data Protection and Privacy
Data protection and privacy are critical concerns when implementing Microsoft 365 Backup Solutions. We have provided some steps to ensure your data is protected and private below:
- Ensure that all data backups are encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.
- Implement access control measures to restrict access to sensitive data.
- Ensure that all backup solutions comply with data privacy and security regulations, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Maintaining and Testing Office 365 Backup Solutions
Maintaining and testing backup solutions is critical to ensure that your data is protected and secure. Let’s briefly explore three ways you can maintain and test Microsoft backup solutions.
Regular Backup Monitoring and Testing
This is important to ensure your data is backed up correctly and is recoverable. Here are some steps to regularly monitor and test your backup solutions:
- Schedule regular tests to ensure that the backups are working correctly.
- Review backup logs regularly to ensure that all backups are being completed successfully.
- Monitor the storage capacity of your backup solution to ensure that it’s not running out of space.
Updating Backup Solutions as Needed
As the updates for the backup solutions are being released, ensure you update yours accordingly to ensure they are compatible with the latest version of Microsoft 365. This will help you eliminate any bugs or vulnerabilities that might have been discovered in the backup solution.
Responding to Backup Failures
Sometimes, backup failures can still occur. In cases like these, the first step is to identify the cause of the failure. After identification, a plan to resolve the failure should be in place, and then, a new backup can replace the failed one. In case the backup data cannot be recovered, it is essential to have a disaster recovery plan in place to minimize the impact of data loss and ensure business continuity.
Let ne Digital Create a Tailored Microsoft Office 365 Backup Solution for Your Business
A backup solution is crucial in a Microsoft 365 environment. Despite the measures Microsoft has in place to prevent data loss, the company’s shared responsibility model means they are not responsible for all data that is in transit or at rest in the environment. When you trust ne Digital to create a custom backup solution, we can ensure that your data is fully protected and accessible at all times. As an IT powerhouse and experienced M365 managed services provider, the team at ne Digital offers Microsoft Office 365 backup services to our clients.