As each day passes, more and more organizational data is making its way to Office 365 as a repository.  Whether you’re just beginning your journey to O365 or are already there, you inevitably have asked:

“Do I need to backup my data in Office 365?”

Our experience is that most organizations have chosen NOT to backup the data to date.  These organizations often choose to leverage retention policies and accept operational risks of the Office 365 infrastructure.

While Office 365 services have built-in redundancy, service level agreements, and capability to preserve data, there are several reasons you should backup Office 365. 

 Reasons you should back up your Office 365

Outside of Office 365 service protections, reasons to utilize 3rd party backup of Office 365 are:

  • Accidental deletion protection of SharePoint, OneDrive or mailbox data by users or administrators
  • Malicious deletion or tampering, internal or external
  • Malware and viruses
  • Compliance requirements
  • Required by corporate auditors
  • Retention of backups can be on a different schedule than the mailbox retention policy

Let’s suggest you’ve made the decision to backup Office 365 data.  Good news! For starters, 3rd party backup services accessing Office 365 (as well as Azure) have no associated egress costs.  More good news!  There are several mature industry solutions available that offer the ability to back up mailboxes, public folders, mail archives, SharePoint sites, as well as OneDrive folders.

Considerations for Office 365 backups

There are several things to think about as you embark:

  1. Destination – The backup destination can be targeted for another cloud provider, an on-premises storage solution or to a separate instance in Microsoft’s Azure cloud. We’ll provide a few details and pros/cons in the list below:
    • Back up the data to another cloud provider.  There are turnkey solutions (SaaS) as well as platform-based solutions to choose from. Pros of this approach include data storage being in a separate vendor’s data center.  Additionally, depending on choices above the solution may not require the purchase of equipment.  One of the cons will be ongoing and possibly growing costs for data storage as well as possibly compute costs.
    • Back up the data to on-site to storage that you have available.  Pros: If you have a current backup solution that has the capacity or can be easily expanded, this is a solution to take advantage of possibly without additional monthly cloud costs.  Cons: Presumably, the Internet pipe is now being used for both accessing production data AND backup / restoration of data.
    • Back up the data to storage in Azure in a different region. Pros: The backups will be in different data centers than where the Office 365 production data is stored and currently replicated.  Caution – watch out for data regulations such as GDPR, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which may stipulate data storage provisions in regions or countries outside of origination.  Cons: Obviously, you’re still in Microsoft’s cloud and data centers.  If Microsoft has a bad day (like the storage outage in 2014) but this time the issue results in actual data loss, you could be a victim of production and backups impacted.
  2. Requirements – You will need to consider capacity first and foremost.  How much data do you have, how long do you want to retain it, how often will you do restorations, do you require test systems as a landing spot for restores, etc.  Depending on solution selection, the backup server may require compute and storage that need to be considered to estimate and design an optimal solution.
  3. Security – Whatever your target or product choice, make sure you are taking security into account.  Some things to consider will be at-rest encryption, role-based security, auditing and operational maintenance. Make sure you are managing your backups by verifying they are completing properly, performing restoration tests periodically, and have a means to inventory systems coverage.

If you would like assistance in estimating, designing and configuring a backup solution for your Office 365 environment, please email info@peters.com. We are happy to help.