Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Backup: 6 Things You Need to Know

In this blog, you’ll get a deep dive into Microsoft Office 365 backups and why you and your enterprise-sized ...

In this blog, you’ll get a deep dive into Microsoft Office 365 backups and why you and your enterprise-sized organization need to ensure that they are performed. It’s simply not enough just to put your email, data files, and collaborative documents into the cloud; you’ve still got to ensure that you have adequate backups in case a disaster happens. Read on to find out more.

What are the Benefits of the Cloud Services Provided by Office 365?

Business man pointing to transparent board with text Turn Knowledge Into Action!Are you thinking of moving your organization to Microsoft Office 365? Or maybe you are already using it but aren’t aware of all the benefits and features available to you. Office 365 is a SaaS offering from Microsoft that has different features and services to make it productive and cost-effective to operate your business.

You can use Office 365 to benefit from enterprise-level tools for:

  • Communication
  • Storage
  • Collaboration

Your employees can take advantage of all the features, regardless of location, for a flexible monthly fee.

Below are several other benefits that your organization can expect to gain from using Office 365.

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Increased Productivity and Efficiency

By saving your documents such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel in the cloud, everyone can view and edit them in real-time. This makes it easier to collaborate across teams, locations and time zones. You can share documents directly with people or share a link with them to the document so others can open it, then add comments or edit etc. This helps to improve overall efficiency and productivity.  Compare this real-time capability with the alternative; sending documents via email and getting mixed up with various updates happening and not all to the same document.

Improved Access to Shared Work

Mobile and tablet devices are used more and more in the workplace, so work mobility has dramatically increased. This mobility is even more evident during and after Covid 19. Anyone in the organization can check emails, open and edit documents, and access any data shared in the cloud from virtually anywhere in the world from their mobile or tablet. Office 365 supports sharing your files across all Windows, Android, and Apple devices. This also helps to make the organization more productive and efficient as people can continue to work even when they are away from their office or desk.

Synchronized Data Across All Devices and Locations

By adopting Office 365, it will allow you to communicate better with clients, regardless of location. If your organization is global, information stored in the cloud can be accessed by employees at any time. This means that if you need a specific document and the colleague who owns the document is in a different time zone and therefore not working at that time, you can still find the relevant document you need.

As well as easier file sharing, you can also take advantage of knowing the data is backed up and that you can see version history for the documents if you need to restore an older version. Office 365 also has generous cloud storage capabilities with a high level of security and access controls, so you ensure that only the right people have access to the documents. Any updates made to documents are automatically synchronized to the cloud, so you always see the latest version of the document. If multiple colleagues are working on the same document, you will see the changes in real time for even better collaboration.

Efficiently Use Resources

You can also use Office 365 to manage resources and ensure they are allocated in the best possible way. If communication starts to break down across teams and locations, it can have a significant impact on projects and even cause delays which could be costly. By using all the communication options within Office 365, you can check the project status, see what still needs to be done, ask the team for any other updates and when it will be completed and then report back to the relevant people. By effectively communicating and using all possible tools, you can reduce the chance of confusion, duplicated work and anyone’s time being wasted unnecessarily.

Reduce Costs

By adopting the cloud, you can eliminate locally hosted servers, reduce licensing issues and stop the constant upgrade fees. By adopting Office 365, you will have manageable fees that are flexible as your business changes. Users can be added or removed to fit your business needs. There are also no lump-sum payments or upfront costs that need to be paid.

Those are just some of the general advantages and benefits explaining why it makes sense to use the cloud services provided by Office 365. But it is also essential to know how all this data you have on Office 365 will be protected. One of the most important ways to protect your data is to make sure it is securely backed up and that you can restore any data that is deleted.

Is Office 365 Backup Essential?

There are many reasons to explain why it is essential that you back up your Office 365 environment:

·       Mistakes can happen due to user error

·       Data may become compromised

·       There might be a service outage

You need to be prepared for all and any of these things to happen and ensure that your data is always protected and backed up.

Here are a few of the main reasons you should back up Office 365.

Accidental deletion

In Office 365, there are two ways that data can be deleted – soft deletion and hard deletion. If data is soft deleted, it can still be recovered. However, if data is hard deleted, then it cannot be recovered and is lost forever.

Miscommunication of Company Retention Policy

We discuss retention policies in this blog, but to recap, a retention policy is where you state which data you need to keep within your organization, how long it will be stored, and what will happen to the data once you no longer need to store it.  Retention policies can get complicated and hard to manage, especially in large enterprise organizations. The policy might be created by Legal, but the data is maintained by IT/Marketing Operations, so there might be a disconnect between what data should be deleted and when. If data is deleted before it should be, but you have a backup in place, you can recover the deleted data.

Security Threats

You never know when you might be at risk from a possible security threat, and so you need to ensure that the organization’s data is protected. These security threats are not just external such as malware or ransomware; some threats might come from within the organization.  These might be accidental, such as an employee unknowingly downloading a corrupt file. But some threats can also be intentional, such as an unhappy employee deleting important documents or emails. If the data is not backed up and everything is permanently lost, that could have severe consequences for the company.

Data Migration Projects

If your organization is going through or is planning to go through a migration, such as moving from Exchange on-premises to the cloud, you should feel comfortable that your existing on-premise backup solution will provide you with adequate backups before the migration project begins. You should also take the time to consider what you’re going to do for your backups once your data has been migrated to the cloud.

Outage of Microsoft Services

It might not be a regular occurrence, but occasionally there might be an outage of Microsoft services which may cause you to be unable to access your data or even lose data. This might mean a lot of downtime for companies which could prove costly. Microsoft says in their Service Agreement that they are not responsible for any loss or disruption and even recommends that you regularly back up your content and data.

Deleting Office 365 Accounts

If you delete someone’s Office 365 account, for example, if they leave the company, all their account data will be deleted forever. However, if you have all your Office 365 data backed up, you will still be able to access this data after the account has been deleted.

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Does Office 365 Automatically Backup End-User Data Files?

To some extent, the answer to this question is ‘yes’. However, as you’ll see from the description below, there are many limitations to the capabilities provided.

Outlook Backup

All end-user emails will initially be stored in Exchange Online, but sometimes that’s not always enough for all users.

If you also want to locally backup your emails, then Microsoft shares how you can do that. You can use the AutoArchive feature, which automatically sends older items to an archive. You can set how often it runs, where the archived items are stored and how long Outlook should keep the items.

There are two settings within the AutoArchive function, and either one or both will be actioned depending on the settings you have enabled. The first is that items will be moved from their original location to an archive folder. The second is that the items will be permanently deleted if they have passed the aging period.

All Outlook items have an aging period, and once they exceed that time, they will be deleted in the next AutoArchive run unless you have specifically marked that item not to be deleted. The default aging periods range from 2 months to 6 months.

It is important to note that if you select to have the items permanently deleted, then they will not be archived as well.  Also, if you choose to have the items archived, then they cannot later be deleted by AutoArchive; this will be a manual process.

The data you have in Outlook can also be exported manually and added to a PST file. Then if you need to restore the data later, you just import the files.

Note: Your organization may have disabled the creation of PST files as the usage of PST files is considered a high business risk for many organizations.

For emails stored in Office 365, your IT team may have implemented a more robust mailbox records management policy. There is more information about these here. These can automatically move aged data into a user’s personal archive (once it has been created)

OneDrive Backup

Microsoft offers a OneDrive PC folder backup option. This allows you to automatically sync the folders on your Windows PC to your OneDrive cloud storage. These folders that you have backed up on your PC can be viewed online and also in the OneDrive mobile app so you can view and edit your files offline. You can also view the version history for your documents so you can view and restore any older versions of your files within 30 days. If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, OneDrive will automatically detect when there is a ransomware attack and help you to restore your files for up to 30 days after the attack occurred.  To some extent, your data is backed up and protected should anything happen, such as a breach or cyber-attack.  

How do I Backup my Office 365 Data?

The primary focus for Microsoft is to manage the Office 365 infrastructure and maintain uptime for users. Their focus is not on providing backup of the data people keep on Office 365. There are some security services provided within Office 365, but there are several issues that are related to data loss and data recovery. So, if you don’t have a third-party backup tool, your data could be impacted by one or more of these risks.

Native tools from Microsoft are not enough to ensure your organization is sufficiently secure and backed up. The best way to back up your Office 365 data is to use a third-party tool, which will provide you with a full backup and ensure your data is protected and truly secure should anything happen.

Here is what you can do with a third-party backup tool:

  • Back up your Exchange Online and OneDrive items, which include Calendars and Contacts.
  • Have better data retention options. The data can be stored for as long as you need for compliance reasons or to be used in the event of a disaster.
  • Have point-in-time data restore options; this means you choose the version you want to recover.
  • Separately keep your source data and backup data. Your backup data can be stored in the cloud of your choice. (We recommend storing your backups in a different cloud environment)
  • Have options to monitor data storage and usage.
  • Have the same folder hierarchy of restored data as in your original files; this means you can restore your items exactly to the folders they were deleted from.

Most third-back party backup tools offer the same protection for your O365 data, such as:

  • Exchange Online: Mailboxes, Shared Mailboxes, Folders, Calendars, Contacts, Tasks, and In-place Archives
  • OneDrive: All files and folders
  • SharePoint: Site Collections, Document Libraries, Lists, Views, Permissions, Content Types, Columns, and Sub-sites Group
  • Teams: Channels (including posts and replies), files, planners, tasks, calendars, Wiki, Team Sites, and more
  • Public Folders: All messages and permissions

Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Backup:  6 Things You Need to Know

  1. Microsoft Shared Responsibility Model

Microsoft does technically backup Office 365, but the protection they offer is part of a shared-responsibility model. This means:

  • They provide physical security at their data centers
  • They provide data storage replication and redundancy
  • Their primary security approach includes a guarantee of uptime and privacy controls
  • They will protect your data from natural disasters that affect their data centers as well as any failures that occur on their hardware or software, any power outages or operating system errors etc.
  1. Inactive Users Can Be Very Expensive

You need an active license to use Office 365 at your organization. Otherwise, you won’t be able to access any data. This is great because it means that when employees are terminated or leave the company, you can deactivate their Office 365 account and restrict access to company data.

However, this benefit does also have a slight problem because you will no longer be able to access files that were created by those employees. So, for example, if your CMO created the marketing budget and then leaves the company if you delete their account, others might lose access to the marketing budget. But if you keep paying for licenses for all employees who have left the company, this will be very costly.

A good workaround is having an office 365 backup solution in place. This means you can back up  the data from the user who leaves the company before you deactivate their account. This means that you would maintain ownership and control of the data.

  1. Backing up Office 365 Daily Is Not Enough

Some Office 365 backup solutions say they provide daily backups. A daily backup is better than no backup at all but think about if you were the victim of a ransomware attack at 7:00 PM today and could only restore to the backup that was performed at 7:01 PM yesterday. You need to think about how much it would cost, including the cost of time and effort, as well as how long it would take for you to redo everything that was done from the previous day.

Instead, you should ensure that your Office 365 data is backed up several times daily. This means that, in the worst-case scenario, only a couple of hours' worth of work will need to be re-done in case of a ransomware attack.

  1. Free Limitless Retention Is Better Than 93 Days

If you don’t have a backup tool to protect your Office 365 data, if a SharePoint Online admin deletes a site collection, all that data will be placed in the Recycle Bin, where it is kept for 93 days. After 93 days, that data is automatically and permanently deleted, and there is no restore option to get the data back.

Most backup solution providers have the option to save your data indefinitely, this seems like the best solution, but when storage costs start to add up, you may want to look at other options that are most cost-effective.

  1. The Restore Feature Can Be Harmful

Using the standard data restore features in Office 365 means that if you restore older SharePoint files from a backup, the restore is targeted at the same URL, and it will therefore overwrite the data that currently exists. There is no option to revert to previous versions; that can be very damaging and costly. When selecting a backup tool, we recommend that you ensure you have the option to restore data without it overwriting the existing files or site collections targeted at the same URL.

  1. Ransomware Can Be Beaten

For many companies, ransomware is a major concern, but it doesn’t have to be. There will always be offenders of ransomware, and an employee within your organization likely falls victim to one of the many email scams. If you have point-in-time backups, it means you can easily restore the individual items or even entire folders to a point in time before the attack occurred. So, you might still fall victim to the attack, but you will be able to restore files without the virus or other restrictions and therefore avoid paying the ransom fee.

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In this blog, we’ve shared a deep dive into data backup requirements for end-user data, which is stored in Office 365. Simply having the data stored in the cloud is often not sufficient to cover you and your organization for things that can happen to that data, including things like ransomware, scams, viruses and malicious or accidental data deletion.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

 If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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