Microsoft Office 365 is arguably a leader in the realm of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions today. Many organizations are migrating their business-critical services and data resources to Office 365. It provides enterprise-level services and features that allow businesses to host some of their most mission critical infrastructure from a service perspective, in the public cloud. This is all done on top of Microsoft’s world-class infrastructure that is protected by high availability mechanisms which are simply unattainable for most organizations. Additionally, Microsoft provides a familiar face to the public cloud. Microsoft has been the premier vendor for most infrastructure software and business applications in on-premises enterprise environments for decades now.
The mass migration to the public cloud leaves businesses with important decisions to make in regards to how they protect their data. Moving to the cloud is a paradigm shift in methodologies and tooling needed to effectively protect the data stored in the public cloud. Despite the tremendous high-availability mechanisms offered by the Office 365 public cloud environment, disaster recovery should still be a concern for businesses moving their data and services there. In this “Ultimate Office 365 Backup Guide”, we will take a close look at why backups are still vitally important for data and services migrated to the Office 365 public cloud and how businesses can effectively protect Office 365 applications residing there.
Office 365 Provides a powerful Software-as-a-Service platform for businesses
Why Office 365 Backups are Critical
Assumptions can be made, incorrectly, that public cloud vendors such as Microsoft, Google, and others, are taking care of backing up your data automatically as an “included” benefit of housing your services and data there. However, this is simply not the case. Organizations must take into account that Software-as-a-Service solutions such as Office 365 do not have backups included as part of the service. Microsoft takes care of the high-availability, or the uptime, to access your services, but there is no true disaster recovery mechanism built in to recover data that may need to be restored across the various Office 365 service offerings.
What are some of the threats to data that exists in the Office 365 environment? Even if your data is sitting within world-class datacenters with numerous high-availability mechanisms such as in Office 365, there are various data threats that can still lead to disaster in Office 365. The following are crucial reasons for having backups of Office 365 environments:
- Data that is accidentally deleted
- Data that is intentionally deleted
- Security threats such as Malware and Ransomware
- User Data Migration
- Configurable Retention
- Data archival
Data that is accidentally deleted
This is perhaps the most common, age-old scenario for needing disaster recovery. Someone deletes a file or document accidentally. This can often happen out of sheer negligence or even confusion over data or the names of specific data. It may be the file itself is not deleted but data is accidentally deleted from within the file, such as a document. A common example is a user accidentally performs a “save” operation instead of a “save as” operation. When thinking about the above scenarios, the resiliency or high-availability from an infrastructure standpoint does nothing to recover data that that is deleted accidentally.
Data that is intentionally deleted
A malicious attacker or perhaps a disgruntled employee may intentionally delete data that is housed in the Office 365 environment. This can certainly lead to a disruption in business continuity if the data is of a critical nature. The high-availability of the Office 365 environment and infrastructure does not protect against the outage that may be caused by this intentional deletion of business-critical data.
Intentional data deletion can happen on two fronts. End users or Administrators can assume they are deleting data they either want or need to delete and instead, may mistakenly delete the wrong data, files, etc. The other side of accidental data deletion is intentional deletion that can happen at the hands of either an unscrupulous or disgruntled employee, or a malicious attacker that has penetrated inside the Office 365 environment. This can be with stolen or hacked user credentials, successful phishing attacks, or some other means to gain credentials for access.
Office 365 Security threats such as Malware and Ransomware
Perhaps one of the most worrisome and dangerous threats to business data as it exists in Office 365, is malware variants such as ransomware that can silently and viciously corrupt and take data hostage. Ransomware attacks are becoming all the more common as attackers successfully utilize it to extort money from unsuspecting businesses who have their business-critical data taken hostage.
Ransomware has historically been thought of in the context of on-premises environments with news reports filled with stories of on-premises file servers and data being locked down with ransomware. However, contrary to the thought that cloud data is immune to ransomware, ransomware can affect data that exists in public cloud environments such as Microsoft’s Office 365. This includes the likes of OneDrive as well as Office 365 email.
File synchronization from on-premises to public cloud file storage can be a dangerous threat vector for ransomware. Office 365 OneDrive allows synchronization of files from on-premises devices using the OneDrive synchronization built into Windows or other devices. If files are changed in the on-premises environment, the change is recognized, and the new updated version of the file is synchronized to the public cloud side. The danger with file synchronization comes with ransomware infections. When ransomware encrypts a file on-premises, the encryption process is simply perceived as a change in the file. The changed file (encrypted by ransomware) is then synchronized to Office 365 OneDrive storage. The good version of the file in OneDrive is then overwritten with the encrypted version. Now, both locations contain ransomware encrypted versions.
Without backups of some sort, ransomware encrypted files are gone forever, unless businesses pay the ransom in order to get the encryption key to unlock the data. The danger of ransomware encryption to business-critical data well illustrates the need for versioned backups to be able to restore the data to version that is unencrypted.
User Data Migration
User Data migration is often not a consideration when thinking about backups and disaster recovery. However, data migration can be an extremely important reason to have an effective means for backing up Office 365 data. User data migration involves taking data that is associated with one user, such as email, and taking that data and moving it to another user. Often, with public cloud services such as Office 365, certain services or resources can get tied to a specific user account. This can often cause businesses to keep around user accounts of users that have long left the company, simply because of the data that is associated with that user.
By backing up Office 365 data using a tool that is able to move data between user accounts, businesses can effectively prune user accounts that are no longer associated with active users. Since the pricing structure for Software-as-a-Service solutions such as Office 365 are based on the number of users, this can equate to tremendous savings for businesses who are paying for user accounts, simply to access the data.
When it comes to backups, the length of time that backups are kept around is a decision that is often driven by business objectives, legal obligations, and archiving methodologies. The length of time that backups are kept is referred to as the retention period.
Enterprise organizations who want to manage and protect Office 365 environments using best practice methodologies for data protection, need to have the tools and mechanisms to be able to backup Office 365 and keep backups that are properly versioned. Proper versioning allows restoring files from days, weeks, or even months ago. This allows effectively being able to restore data to a state that is desired or needed in the case of disaster recovery.
Configurable retention allows businesses to have control over the amount of versioned restore points that are kept to align with the needs of the business in terms of recovery and archiving.
As discussed above with data retention, most businesses have a need to keep data around for varying periods of time, depending on the industry and particular business use case. In general, once backups of data transition past the point of being “warm” data that is within the past few days, it reaches the period of time where the data contained is referred to as archival data. This is data that is generally kept around, not for restoration in times of disaster recovery, but for historic purposes. Additionally, it could be used for some type of legal discover or audit purposes if historic information is requested for either reason.
To have the capability and means for data archival, you have to have a way to backup your data in the first place. Data backups transition into data archives. Again, this transition period and process will most likely look different for different businesses. For Office 365 environments, this starts with backing up the services and data and having a way for that data to age appropriately and be used for the specific use case – either disaster recovery or data archive.
Office 365 Native Tools – Limited or Non-Existent, not Best Practice
When choosing service offering from a public cloud vendor, one of the major differentiations between service offerings are the features and capabilities offered for the price. Office 365 and its major competitor, Google G Suite, both offer impressive listings of features and capabilities that allow organizations to have cutting-edge services, running on world-class infrastructure that simply would not be possible with on-premises solutions.
Surprisingly, however, one of the features and capabilities of today’s Software-as-a-Service offerings, including Office 365, is built-in disaster recovery tools. In fact, at this time, the only “backup” means you have in Office 365 is the ability to roll back OneDrive files to a previous version, up to 30 days back. This also is a relatively new feature. Prior to this, there was no way to roll back files using native tools.
At this point, this built-in restore feature for OneDrive does not apply to any other service included in Office 365, including email. Is OneDrive the only service contained in the Office 365 ecosystem that could benefit from backups? Is OneDrive the only service in Office 365 for which businesses may need to recover data? No, on both fronts. It is glaringly apparent that businesses need something much more than the default native tools in Office 365 that are not enough to satisfy the demands of businesses today for a true, enterprise-ready backup solution for Office 365.
Another major limitation with the “backup” mechanism that is found only in OneDrive currently with Office 365 is that it relies on and is stored in the same environment as production data. In other words, businesses are relying on Microsoft’s public cloud infrastructure for both production data as well as the “protected” data that exists in the form of being able to roll back to different file versions in OneDrive.
A major flaw in any true disaster recovery plan or data protection solution is to have your backup data stored in the same location as the production data. In fact, a common theme that is woven throughout the 3-2-1 backup best practice methodology is that data is stored in multiple locations and physically separated from the production data and from other backups. You need to have at least (3) copies of your data, stored on (2) kinds of media, with at least (1) stored offsite. The offsite requirement certainly highlights the need to have a copy that is totally separated from the production environment.
This allows for data location diversity since your backup data is stored in separate locations. Organizations looking for a true, enterprise-ready data protection solution for Office 365 need to have options when it comes to where the data stored as backups will exist. Ideally, this means that if you have a cloud-to-cloud backup solution, you will have the option to store the backup data in a separate cloud environment from the Microsoft public cloud.
This allows for a much greater level of resiliency when it comes to having access to the backup data in the event Microsoft’s cloud services were undergoing a service interruption. Even though today’s public cloud vendors have extremely resilient and highly-available infrastructure, outages in their services do happen from time to time.
These Office 365 security concerns among others, highlight the need for a solution outside of the native (very limited) abilities that exist in Office 365 by default. What does the ultimate backup solution for Office 365 look like?
Ultimate Office 365 Backup Solution
The importance of backing up Office 365 SaaS environments is clear. Threats to data, even in the public cloud, are far too great to take data protection for granted. When thinking about what the ultimate Office 365 Backup solution might look like, what are the characteristics of such a solution? The solution needs to be able to backup the business-critical applications that are used by businesses utilizing the Office 365 solution.
- Backup of all Office 365 Services
- Ability to Provide Data Location Diversity
- Migration Abilities
- Configurable Retention
- Easy Management
- Item Searching
- Backup Security
Backup of all Office 365 Services
Unlike the current native ability contained in Office 365 where OneDrive files can be recovered to a previous version up to 30 days, today’s enterprise environments need much more functionality from a data protection standpoint. This includes the ability to backup and recover data of ALL business-critical services that are contained in Office 365. These services include:
The above services are the primary services that are utilized by businesses today when utilizing the Office 365 SaaS solution. An enterprise grade data protection solution for Office 365 needs to have the ability to protect these services.
Ability to Provide Data Location Diversity
As shown, providing data location diversity is an extremely important characteristic of an ultimate backup solution for Office 365. Having all your “eggs in one basket” is never a good idea. If you are backing up the data in the Office 365 public cloud, you need to have the ability to store the data backups outside of the Office 365 public cloud. This provides the ultimate data protection stance for business-critical data.
An effective Office 365 data protection solution is one that allows migrating data. As covered earlier, migrating user data allows keeping the Office 365 subscription user count at an efficient and cost-effective number. Keeping users around simply to access data is not an efficient use of the subscription. Being able to migrate user data from one account to another allows businesses to remove stale users of employees who are no longer employed without negatively impacting data access.
Retention policies will vary from one organization to the next. An ultimate backup solution for Office 365 will allow configuring retention policies that fit the individual needs of the business. This may include pruning data after a few months or keeping data around indefinitely.
No matter how fully-featured or powerful a solution may be, if it is difficult or cumbersome to manage, it will not be an effective solution for protecting or recovering data. An Office 365 backup solution must be easy to manage and intuitive with all the available mechanisms to backup and recover data found in a single pane-of-glass interface.
Monitoring the status of protected data is a key requirement to maintain visibility on potential data protection issues and coverage limitations. Having the ability to generate and consume reports that provide visibility to backups and recovery operations is a key requirement to fully-featured and capable backup solution.
Perhaps an organization has hundreds or thousands of users. This can equal a tremendous amount of data. Finding a specific item across the entire data landscape for recovery may be difficult. Having a built-in searchable means to find items contained in backups is critical to being able to efficiently manage restore operations and perform these in a timely manner.
Security in today’s complex infrastructure ecosystems should be a top priority. This includes backup data. To provide an ultimate Office 365 backup solution, security of the Office 365 backup data must be of paramount importance. Protecting data both in transit and at rest are key characteristics of a fully-featured, well-designed Office 365 backup solution.
Let’s take a look and see how Spinbackup’s Office 365 Backup and Recovery solution helps organizations meet the requirements of an ultimate backup solution for Office 365.
Ultimate Office 365 Backups with Spinbackup
Spinbackup helps organizations meet the challenge of having a robust data protection solution for the Office 365 public cloud that is enterprise ready and provides capabilities far beyond the default protection afforded by the limited Office 365 recovery abilities today.
As shown in the characteristics of an ultimate Office 365 backup solution, there are many different features and aspects to a solution that allows properly protecting and recovering data in an Office 365 environment. Features of the Spinbackup Office 365 Backup and Recovery solution include:
- Automated Backup
- Choice of Backup Location/Cloud Provider
- Admin Panel
- Top-Level Encryption
With Spinbackup, there are no manual processes to keep your Office 365 data protected. The backups provided with Spinbackup are fully automated to keep your Office 365 data protected 24×7. This includes automated daily versioning backup to an unlimited secure cloud storage.
Choosing services to protect in the Office 365 environment for specific users
Choice of Backup Location/Cloud Provider
Spinbackup allows fully protecting your Office 365 data outside of the Microsoft public cloud environment. Spinbackup is an official partner of Google Cloud and an advanced technology partner of Amazon Web Services. Customers can choose to store Office 365 backups in either Google Compute Storage or Amazon AWS S3 storage, effectively separating Office 365 production data from backup data.
Spinbackup allows restoring Office 365 backups using the same hierarchy of folders as the original, with 100% accuracy. The intuitive restore process is extremely powerful and allows recovering business-critical data quickly.
Spinbackup provides the ability to migrate user data between accounts. This provides the benefit of keeping the Office 365 subscription user count limited to active employees and eliminates the need to maintain user accounts simply for the data contained.
With Spinbackup you get weekly & monthly reports that allow monitoring the status of your protected data in the Office 365 environment. This helps to easily identify problems areas or data that may not be protected.
Spinbackup’s admin panel is extremely intuitive and allows administrators a centralized location to manage users and seats and backup options.
Spinbackup provides a simple, easy to read, intuitive admin panel for backups and protection
Within the Spinbackup interface, administrators have a fast and easy search for backed up items that allows finding items for recovery very quickly.
Backups of Office 365 SaaS data are encrypted using the highest level of encryption methods for transferring in-transit and storing at-rest data. Spinbackup allows meeting the latest compliance regulations, including SOC2 and GDPR.
Ultimate Data Protection Required
Public cloud SaaS environments offer exciting capabilities to businesses looking to migrate business-critical services and data to the cloud. Microsoft’s Office 365 environment is a premier offering that allows businesses to have a powerful, feature-rich solution for the enterprise. Providing data protection for Office 365 is essential. Even though Office 365 is architected on top of Microsoft’s extremely resilient public cloud infrastructure, high-availability of the underlying infrastructure does not equal disaster recovery. This is especially evident when thinking about scenarios of accidental or intentional deletion of data, ransomware, or long-term archiving.
Spinbackup provides all the characteristics of a fully-featured, enterprise-ready data protection solution that allows meeting the criteria that is demanded by businesses today housing data in the public cloud. By providing automated backups, data diversity, restore capability, migration, reports, intuitive administration, backup items searching capabilities, and top-level encryption, Spinbackup can serve as the cornerstone of any ultimate Office 365 backup solution. For ultimate Office 365 protection – choose Spinbackup.
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