Microsoft Office 365 is one of the premiere Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud solution on the market today. It has gained tremendous momentum among organizations looking to migrate business-critical services from on-premises to cloud environments.
An area of cloud migrations that often gets missed is ensuring proper backups of your cloud data in Office 365. Many may assume that backups of cloud SaaS environments are simply not needed. Others may struggle with their questions in mind “Should you backup Office 365 or not?” and “how to properly backup Office 365?”
So let’s cover the first quest first;
Should you backup Office 365?
This is often a question asked by business stakeholders and management. Are backups of cloud environments really needed? Cloud environments ran by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft make data loss impossible, right?
This is certainly an idea that many hold when it comes to their data stored in ultra-resilient data centers ran by the world’s largest cloud service providers. And before talking about backup, let’s talk about
Can data be lost in the environments of the big cloud service providers?
Last year around Labor Day, an Amazon data center in the US-East-1 region suffered a major power outage and subsequent backup generators failed. When it was all said and done, around 1 TB of customer data was unrecoverable. Only those with backups of their data were able to recover.
So, data loss is possible even in the state-of-the-art data centers of major cloud service providers.
Frankly, the burden of protecting your data falls on the shoulders of your organization. Most cloud service providers today operate under a shared responsibility model.
Under the shared responsibility model, the cloud service provider is responsible for the availability of the systems housing your data (physical infrastructure, network, etc). However, you are ultimately responsible for protecting your data.
Let’s look at two of the most dangerous threats to your data.
2-Dangerous Threats to Data:
Today’s advanced ransomware is very cloud-aware and is targeting businesses in particular. Not only does it lock your data, many ransomware variants today are threatening to upload and leak your data if ransom demands are not paid. Attackers understand that your data is the very heart of your business.
If they can hold it for ransom, steal it, or otherwise threaten you with losing it, they have achieved their goal. Attackers are also very aware of the fact that businesses are migrating to cloud environments in droves. Most businesses if they are not already in the cloud are formulating plans to get there.
If possible, cybercriminals hope to capitalize on businesses who have not properly protected their data in cloud SaaS environments such as Office 365. Dangerous ransomware variants such as “Ransomcloud” infections are able to natively encrypt cloud data.
Ransomcloud uses a combination of a phishing attack and the stealing of OAuth delegation permissions to lock up your Exchange online email in real-time.
In addition, aside from malicious cyberattacks using ransomware and other variants, your own end users can accidentally or intentionally delete business-critical data from your Office 365 cloud environment.
Note: No amount of high-availability of cloud services or resiliency of critical systems protects your data from accidental or intentional deletion.
All things considered, backing up your Office 365 environment is the only way to keep your data safe from the dangers of cybercriminals and end users. How do you backup Office 365? Are there built-in, native backup mechanisms in Office 365?
Does Office 365 provide native backups?
Microsoft Office 365 includes several features that may allow you to retrieve some data sets, under the right circumstances. These built-in features include legal holds, file versioning, and even some native internal backups of your data such as how Microsoft backs up SharePoint Online every 12 hours.
Can you actually get some of your data back from the native mechanisms that are built into Microsoft Office 365 services?
Yes, there may be a way to get some of your data back using built-in capabilities. However, relying on these native capabilities is like “rolling the dice”. Built-in, basic backup features in Office 365 may leave you struggling to regain access to your data, or worse, suffering permanent data loss.
First of all, it is important to note in Microsoft’s service level agreement (SLA) for services including Office 365, Microsoft clearly states, if you suffer data loss, they are not liable. In fact, they recommend that you use a third-party app or service to protect your data. Under the section, Service Availability, we read:
“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.”
The truth of the matter is, the native features in Microsoft Office for regaining access to your data are very limited, especially in cases of catastrophic data loss or cases where you need to restore massive amounts of data.
Native Features like file versioning and restoring items from the deleted items can be helpful for quick one-off file restores. This can provide quick recovery for an employee who may have overwritten an important file, or inadvertently made changes to a file and performed a Save operation rather than a Save As.
However, for true enterprise-ready backup capabilities, you want to have a third-party backup solution that is capable of performing backups of all your critical Office 365 services and protecting your data. What are key features that you want to look for in a third-party backup solution for Office 365?
Key Office 365 backup features
You certainly want to use a third-party backup solution when it comes to ensuring your Microsoft Office 365 data is protected from data loss. You also want to make sure the solution you use has the right features for protecting your data. What are those?
- Ability to backup all major Office 365 services
- Flexibility in where backup data is stored
- Automatic unlimited backups
- Searchable backups
- Migrate data between Office 365 accounts
- Encrypted backups
- Accurate reporting
Ability to backup all major Office 365 services
Many third-party backup solutions on the market that backup Office 365 may be limited to only backups of OneDrive for Business and Exchange Online email. While these are generally the two big services that many organizations make use of in cloud SaaS environments like Office 365, your business may eventually use services in Office 365 outside of basic file services and email.
Flexibility in where backup data is stored
There is no question that one of the cardinal rules of backing up your data is to store your backup data in a separate environment from production. In fact, the 3-2-1 backup rule states that you should have
3-2-1 Backup Rule
- at least (3) different copies of your data,
- stored on (2) different forms of media,
- with at least (1) copy stored offsite.
When it comes to your production data as well as backups, you never want to have all your “eggs in one basket” so to speak.
Using separate environments, separate media, and having data stored “offsite” and away from your production environment helps to greatly minimize the risk that you would lose both production copies of data and backup copies of your data.
Many third-party Office 365 backup solutions will store the backups of your Office 365 production data inside Microsoft’s cloud environment. This is very similar to storing your production and backup data in the same environment.
If Microsoft is experiencing a major outage across its cloud services, in this case you will most likely see disruption in both your production and backup data since both are stored in the same cloud. Look for an Office 365 backup solution that provides flexibility in where Office 365 backup data is stored.
Automatic unlimited backups
An enterprise-ready Office 365 backup solution should provide the ability for automatic, unlimited backups of your Office 365 environment. You should never resort to manual backups of your cloud environments any more than you would do this for your on-premises data. Make sure to choose a solution that provides automatic backups of your Office 365 environment and allows you to choose the retention that aligns with your business, even if these are unlimited.
Having the ability to search through your Office 365 backups allows easily finding data for recovery, even if you do not know exactly where the data was located. This can be a tremendous time saver and it helps to greatly minimize the administrative effort needed to recover data.
Migrate data between Office 365 accounts
Migrating data between Office 365 accounts greatly helps your business to facilitate the process of employee offboarding. When employees leave the company, there is often data associated with former user accounts that may be tied to business-critical processes.
Having the ability to migrate data between Office 365 accounts allows your business to migrate the data needed from a stale account, delete the source account, and reclaim the license assigned to the former employee in Office 365. This helps to maintain efficient operations in your Office 365 environment and helps to minimize the spend on user licenses. Look for an Office 365 backup solution that allows easily migrating data between user accounts.
Securing your backup data is extremely important. An Office 365 backup solution that you choose should protect your backup data both in-flight and at-rest using modern encryption. This helps to ensure that if an attacker gains access to backup data, they still would not be able to read the data.
An effective enterprise backup solution for Office 365 should include accurate reporting, visibility, and alerting that allows easily seeing the data protection coverage of the environment. Effective and accurate reporting helps to answer questions such as these: Are there gaps in coverage? Are you backing up the data you think you are backing up?
Never Lose Data in Office 365 with SpinBackup
SpinBackup is an enterprise-grade backup solution for Office 365 by Spin Technology. It provides powerful backup and recovery of your business-critical data. It is an artificial intelligence (AI) driven cloud-to-cloud backup solution that provides many great features that are not found in other Office 365 backup solutions.
How SpinBackup Works?
These include the following:
- Backup the major Office 365 services (Exchange Online, OneDrive, Calendar, People, SharePoint)
- Ability to choose your backup location – SpinBackup provides the flexibility for you to choose between AWS, Google, and Microsoft clouds and regions so backups are not stored in the same cloud as production
- Automatic backups 1-3x daily – Automatically backup all data in your Office 365 environment with configurable backups as well as unlimited retention
- Searchable backups – The backups captured by SpinBackup are fully searchable so that data can easily be located for recovery
- Migrate data between users – For offboarding employees easily and reclaiming resources, SpinBackup allows migrating data between Office 365 user accounts
- Encrypted backups – SpinBackup provides data encryption both in-flight, and at-rest
- Reports and alerting – You can easily see which data is included in backups and which data is not protected
- Integration with Ransomware protection – SpinOne uses SpinBackup to fully automate and protect your environment from ransomware
Protecting your business-critical data in Office 365 is extremely important. While there are very basic tools built into Office 365 that can allow data recovery under certain situations, using a third-party solution is required to fully protect your business against data loss. SpinBackup provides the tools needed to ensure your data in Office 365 is fully protected in accordance with best practices.