In the age of hybrid and remote work, Microsoft 365 has become a staple for business operations to thousands of companies across North America. Many businesses rely heavily on Microsoft 365 to the extent it has become a primary communication, collaboration, and operations hub--i.e., email, intra-company communications, video conferencing, calendars, file sharing, mission critical productivity apps, etc. Consequently, Microsoft 365 is also increasingly becoming the primary data receptacle for a large swath of businesses through the use of Microsoft Teams, document libraries in SharePoint, and OneDrive Sync to emulate the similar experience of an on premise file server.  

Making the move to the Cloud is not without a certain amount of risk.  Out of the box, Microsoft 365 is not setup for traditional backup or disaster recovery, when compared to how these very important practices are implemented within an on premise infrastructure.  Does Microsoft 365 backup your data?  Well, yes and no.  Microsoft 365 does in fact allow you to recover deleted items.  However, the native Microsoft 365 recovery tools are quite limited.  Restoring emails from the Deleted Items folder can assist with recently deleted emails by mistake, yet what about other scenarios?  Long-deleted or purged files, corrupted mailboxes, items lost due to cyber-attacks or incorrect migrations – these are just a few things Microsoft will not help you to restore.  Here are the limitations of the native recovery:  

  1. Recovery is time-limited within Microsoft 365.  By default, items are kept around for up to 30 days.  Moreover, the purged items will be lost.  There may be a situation where you might need to restore deleted files and emails.  A good example would be for compliance or reporting purposes.  That is where having a proper backup solution will come into play
  2. No point-in-time recovery.  Let’s say an active user’s mailbox has become corrupted and the version history is either turned off or out of date.  The data becomes lost forever as there is no way to choose a “clean” version and restore from.  In this situation, recovering the mailbox would only be possible if the mailbox had been previously backed up.
  3. Recovery can be over complicated.  Unlike with a professional backup solution, Microsoft 365 is not setup for a one-click restoration solution.  For example, Microsoft 365 recovery via In-Place eDiscovery & Hold has many conditions and steps that can be very time-consuming and ultimately not always successful
  4. Microsoft 365 doesn’t follow data backup best practices, per industry standards.  It is widely known that there is a basic rule that should be followed for a safe backup.  In the Tech industry, this is commonly known as the 3-2-1 rule.  According to this practice, three backups should be stored on two forms of media, with at least one off-site copy.  Microsoft stores it’s form of cloud backup data, (versioning), in the same tenancy within the cloud as the source data.  To put it simply, the data copy in the Microsoft cloud is vulnerable to the same threats as the source data it backs up.  Should the Microsoft 365 tenancy fall prey to a malicious attack or become hijacked, all of the data contained within is subject to becoming compromised, lost, or otherwise inaccessible.  As a result, this makes the security of your data incomplete.

Fortunately, there are a multitude of third-party back-up solutions available for Microsoft 365 that provide automatic data backup and recovery to different locations in the event of any of the previously stated scenarios.  Here is a summary of the compelling reasons why companies should deploy a backup solution for Microsoft 365 and what you can typically find with most solutions: 

  • Retention options are much better.  The backup data can be stored indefinitely for compliance reasons, archive, etc
  • Point-in-time data restoration - Most professional backup solutions allow you choose the version to recover
  • Source data and backup data are maintained separately -Your Microsoft 365 backup data will be stored in a separate location within the cloud, and many times can be customized to your preferred service of your choice, i.e. Amazon AWS, Wasabi, Backblaze B2, etc.  Many solutions also allow for backups to be copied to physical on-premise devices for a more Hybrid approach.
  • Advanced options to monitor data storage and usage.  Professional backup solutions provide robust consoles and administrative dashboards to keep track of your backups
  • Folder hierarchy of restored data is maintained as in your original file structure.  Restoration of items can be deposited directly to the folders that they were deleted from
  • Protection from User errors and accidental deletion.  Mistakes happen and sometimes go unnoticed.  Having a backup solution can provide a recovery option for these types of situations
  • Protection from external threats, hijacks, or malicious attacks like Ransomware.  Backup data is safely stored away from your tenancy, so that it can not be compromised in the event of an attack.  Many services allow for real-time access and temporary use while mitigation and repair of the aftermath of an attack takes place
  • Protection from internal threats or sabotage.  With a proper backup solution, data integrity can be maintained free from a purposeful malicious intent internally, that can easily go undetected over time

Three widely used backup solutions for Microsoft 365 are Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365, Microsoft 365 Total Backup from Hornet Security and Microsoft 365 Backup from Cove.  Any of these products will provide ample data backup with encrypted storage and recovery controls for all native 365 applications including Exchange Online, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams.