Data loss can cause serious damage, anything from a brief loss of productivity to the compromising of the personal identity of individuals to a serious cyber-attack. By backing up data you can rest assured that you have a secure archive readily accessible to you of your most important files and information.
Office 365 is a widely used platform for teams to store critical business data, including email files, documents, chats via Microsoft Teams, and mange user identities via Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory. While you may not consider Office 365 data particularly at risk of data loss from a cyber threat, accidental loss or device damage, anything can happen, and it is always prudent to be prepared for it when it does.
It is also good practice to understand what your responsibilities are when it comes to your Office 365 data. Office 365 is a cloud-based service, and it’s not to designed provide backup services, but rather to make sure that the services and your data are always readily available.
In this article we’ll go over what the built-in backup options for Office 365 are and look into the benefits of utilizing an additional third-party backup option alongside this to really solidify your defenses against all kinds of data loss.
Should You Backup Office 365?
The short answer is – yes, you should.
To elaborate on that, it is worth exploring why it is so crucial to manage backups for Office 365 data. The reasons for this can be condensed into three main motivators, which are to ensure compliance with necessary laws and regulations, to prevent the loss or corruption of important data, and to avoid costly downtime in the event of a disaster occurring.
Some key reasons for having additional recovery options beyond native Office 365 functionality in place include the following:
- Prevent data loss and downtime. If an issue arises on Microsoft’s side, users will not be able to access their data and continue operations unless they have access to a secondary backup. Having this additional backup in place significantly reduces the financial burden caused by downtime and help you to get back on track if the worst-case scenario were to happen and data was deleted from O365. Microsoft’s service agreement makes it clearly that damages and losses incurred due to outages, including any to critical data, is not something they are liable for.
- Recover accounts if they are deleted, accidentally or intentionally. With employees joining and leaving companies all the time deleting accounts in a standard procedure to save money on license costs. But accounts may also be deleted accidentally, maliciously, as a result of a license series ending without renewal, or in order to migrate data to another account of data management suite. Microsoft are aware of this potential outcome and in their service agreement recommended users employ regular backups to ensure important account data can be accessed even after account deletion.
- Office 365 may not always be able to protect against external threats to security. External security threats are numerous and are constantly evolving, with common threats including data theft, brute-force attacks, ransomware, malicious applications, account hijacking etc. Office 365 does some with tools designed to more effectively secure data against such attacks, with resources and compliance systems that can help you to set up security setting relating to data loss preventions, phishing protection, access and threat management, and more, but these tools can only take you so far and can never be 100% effective in preventing breaches. According to the 2023 Cost of a Data Beach Report by IBM the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 is USD 4.45 million, which is a shocking 15% increase over the last three years. While Microsoft does offer advanced security features the risk of data loss still exists for their users as there are just so many ways data loss can occur, making it very difficult to prevent entirely.
When data is lost there can be all sorts of damaging consequences, so companies should make sure to take every opportunity to bolster security on their vital data to avoid financial and reputational damage.
Does Microsoft Backup Your O365 Data?
Microsoft does create regular backups for your data so they can provide accessibility, in line with the 99.9% uptime promise they make in their service agreement. However, these backups are limited to 14 days and are created every 12 hours. If you need to restore a backup you will have to contact Microsoft Support directly so they can performs a full restore of the mailbox or SharePoint site, which then overwrites any other data generated since that backup was created.
Office 365 operates on a shared responsibility model and while Microsoft tools can help to keep your data safe, the responsibility is ultimately on you as the data owner to use them and configure them correctly. If you choose not to employ retention policies, data loss prevention (DLP) policies, or multi-factor authentication (MFA), for example, then the onus is on you if data ends up lost or compromised.
Office 365 is a cloud-based SaaS application, which comes with several benefits, including speedy deployment, anywhere accessibility to data, Microsoft-managed patched and updates, and also convenient subscription models. But while Microsoft’s native tools for backup and retention can be useful there are gaps in their capabilities that users need to consider.
How To Backup Office 365 Data
With this in mind, what is the best way to backup Office 365 data?
Microsoft does not offer a native backup solution for Office 365. However, it does offer some features that can be used to protect your data, such as:
- Deleted Items folder: This folder stores items that have been deleted from your mailbox for up to 30 days. You can restore items from this folder if you accidentally delete them.
- Retention policies: You can create retention policies to specify how long items should be kept in your mailbox. This can help to protect you from data loss if an item is deleted.
- eDiscovery: eDiscovery allows you to search for and recover deleted items from your mailbox. This can be useful if you need to recover an item that was deleted more than 30 days ago.
These native features can be helpful for protecting your data, but they do not offer the same level of protection as a third-party backup solution. Backup solutions for O365 are designed to provide additional control over backups and ensure users can reliably restore individual items of complete folders with just a few clicks.
Should You Use Third-Party Tools To Backup Office 365 Data?
We highly recommend organizations using Office 365 should implement a comprehensive third-party backup solution to protect O365 data. Third-party Office 365 backups solutions are designed to make it easier to effectively manage backups and ensure users can reliably restore individual items or complete folders with just a few click. These solutions include useful features like real-time backups, rollback and restoration, reporting and role-based access to backups, and also protect remote sites and public cloud workloads.
When choosing a cloud backup and recovery solution, there are a few key features you should look for:
- Frequent backups: You should choose a solution that creates backups multiple times a day or offers continuous data protection. This will help you minimize data loss in the event of a disaster.
- Effective restoration: The solution should make it easy to restore data to its original state. You should also be able to restore data to a different location, if needed.
- Search and discovery: The solution should allow you to search for specific files in your backup database. This should include filters such as file type, mailbox type, user, and time period.
- Access management and activity auditing: The solution should have measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to your backups. This should include an audit log of all user and admin activity, user authentication, and separation of duties.
- Ease of deployment and management: The solution should be easy to deploy and manage, even for small organizations. It should also offer customizable alerts and policies.
- Compliance with data protection standards: The solution should be compliant with any federal and industry data protection and privacy standards that your organization is required to comply with.
You can read our shortlist of the Top 10 Office 365 Backup And Recovery Solutions here