Why Third-Party Microsoft Office 365 Backup is Critical

Consumers and professionals alike are largely familiar with Office 365 considering there are 135 million commercial users of Microsoft Office 365 today, and the number of business mailboxes worldwide is expected to grow to over 1.4 billion by year-end 2022. But is all of that data protected?

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In this article, we will be covering:

  1. Microsoft Office 365 – the basics
  2. How secure your Office 365 data is against threats
  3. Why you should consider third-party backup
  4. Criteria to evaluate data protection solutions for your organization or customers

Today’s Office 365 Landscape

The suite of apps and services that comprise Office 365 today includes popular tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as the messaging app Exchange Online, the cloud-based file storage app OneDrive for Business, and the cloud-based collaboration tool SharePoint Online, and beyond.

With such widespread use of these solutions, it’s important to know whether or not Microsoft’s native tools support backup and recovery at all, and if so, to what extent.

Let’s take a closer look at what Microsoft offers and explore why third-party backup tools are being considered by small-to-medium sized businesses and enterprises alike.

Data is Everywhere … Is Yours Secure?

For many who leverage the power of cloud solutions, having access to your data anytime, anywhere is part of the appeal. If you load a document to Microsoft SharePoint for example, your colleagues can provide feedback or edit it remotely. 

Of course, while ease-of-access is a benefit to teams, the security of this data is something that can keep IT pros and business managers up at night. Although Microsoft has a strong reputation for high availability of Office 365 infrastructure and applications, it rejects responsibility for protecting customer data (e.g. hard-deletion, subscription deprovisioning, and site-level recovery errors) or compliance requirements.

This means that data loss is likely -- whether that is one email deleted by human error, a folder emptied by the malicious actions of a rogue employee (e.g. during a merger or acquisition), or a system-wide ransomware attack that stops your day-to-day operations. 

Without a third-party backup solution in place, systems are left unprotected and are begging for trouble. It’s only a matter of time before disaster strikes and critical documents or emails are gone for good.

Data is Essential for Doing Business … Is Yours Backed Up?

To keep data safe and be able to recover important files and documents quickly, backup is the key to avert disaster.

One might think a vendor is the first line of defense for protecting data on their own system or app. But when it comes to Microsoft O365 specifically, there is no actual backup in place for users and no self-service option for recovery. This means there is a concerning lack of IT control available to reliably back up Office 365 data completely.

Consider these drawbacks:

  1. Saved files are only linked to version histories, so if one file is deleted there is no way to go back and retrieve an earlier version – everything is gone. (This approach is different than backup, which offers multiple recovery points.) This limitation is particularly challenging for OneDrive and SharePoint users who generate multiple drafts or iterations. It’s also impossible to recover a file to a different user.
  2. The recycle bin is controlled by the user, leaving the door open for users to delete what they wish. This means that sacred files may be permanently purged before an employee leaves an organization.
  3. Data retention policies are limited and limiting. For example, particular settings must be in place to retrieve files beyond a certain number of days; this number varies and is not well documented. Retaining data for too long also can be a compliance risk, as well as costly. (Long-term retention via Microsoft’s “In Place Archives” serve as a second storage bin that increases storage usage.) Meanwhile, being able to retrieve older data is often necessary.
  4. Deprovisioning, or deleting accounts after they are closed, is controlled by Microsoft so data access is only permitted for a limited time. This puts you at risk of violating regulatory retention policies due to the potential of data loss via deactivated subscriptions.

Make Sure All Systems are Go

As the number of third-party backup adopters grows, it’s clear that Microsoft’s business and consumer customers increasingly understand the dangers of incomplete backup and the value of near- and long-term recovery. What Microsoft Office 365 delivers by way of stopgaps simply isn’t enough to maintain business continuity, let alone avert compliance issues or the expensive PR nightmare that would follow.

Get Third-Party Office 365 Backup

You can regain control of your Office 365 data, manage unnecessary expenses, and keep your business running with a secure, third-party cloud-to-cloud backup solution in place. With the right solution, you can stay complaint while gaining fast access to your data that avoids any hiccups caused by a rogue employee, a malicious attack, or everyday human error.

Safeguard Popular Office 365 Apps and the Data They Hold

Three of the most popular apps are Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online.

  • Exchange Online. Microsoft Outlook users retrieve their email on their desktop via the Exchange software, which operates on the server. These means that Exchange hosts data in the form of emails, attachments, contacts, task lists, user groups, organizational file folders, and calendars – all essential elements for any individual employee let alone running a business effectively.
  • OneDrive for Business. This app makes storing files remotely in the cloud easy, so your work can come with you wherever you are. Meanwhile, file sharing and collaboration is made easy, and you can still work off-line.
  • SharePoint Online. If your business is like many others, SharePoint proves a useful tool for organization-wide document and file collaboration. It also can become the back-end “face” of your organization. To name a few use-cases, users can host and share internal Human Resources/Accounting and other policies and documentation, digital campaigns for cross-team collaboration, and even host websites and social media.

When it comes to evaluating which third-party solution is right for your organization, you’ll want to ensure that it protects the apps you rely on.

Criteria to Evaluate O365 Data Protection Solutions

Whether you outsource data protection to a trusted service provider, or you are a service provider evaluating a solution you can manage for customers, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:   

  1. Is the solution easy to install and use? In an ideal circumstance, your Office 365 backup solution should be part of a complete solution that protects all workloads. Even if that’s not the case, you don’t want user-error to impact how well the solution works. Simplified configuration and solution maintenance is essential – and possible with a solution that delivers complete, cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery.
  2. Does it defend all data – from new Office 365 users, groups and sites, and beyond? Today with so many different solutions available on myriad platforms, it can be incredibly difficult to ensure all systems are completely and reliably protected. Using just one solution to protect all of the apps and systems you rely on saves time and money. Choose a third-party Office 365 backup solution that is thorough and flexible, delivering comprehensive recovery for your O365 data no matter if you need to recover just one file or an entire website.
  3. How does it ensure data safety, in-transit and once stored in the cloud? You’ll want to verify that everything is secure – from the solution itself to the protocol followed to ensure your cloud storage is safe. For example, encryption protects backups in transit and while stored in the cloud, so no one has access. Similarly, artificial intelligence-based anti-ransomware technology should be integrated to your solution, so that your data and backups never become compromised.
  4. Can you easily restore data? Backups are critical, but if they can’t be accessed quickly you’re losing money. Solutions that offer a user-friendly web-console to manage backup tasks and find and restore items remotely and with ease should go higher on your list.
  5. Is individual file-search and granular restore possible? If just one item has been deleted, you should be able to recover that item alone – better still if you can download the missing file directly from the backup, or recover an email and send it directly from the backup.

Close Office 365 Data Protection Gaps for Your Organization or Customers with Ease

For so many people and businesses, Office 365 is a functional lifeline. Without those applications, business would practically stop. Without third-party backup in place, that’s exactly what can happen. 

Save yourself the headaches and work worry-free with a cloud backup solution that makes it easy to keep running, restore just what’s lost, and maintain clean records so compliance is never at stake. With Acronis solutions for both managed service providers and businesses, you can. 

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