Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) has taken the world by storm, especially since the Covid lockdown, and rightly so. It has brought unprecedented levels of productivity and collaboration to businesses with staff working remotely from home. But, when it comes to data backup, there are misconceptions between what people think Microsoft provides and what they actually provide.
Put simply, Microsoft is responsible for the availability of the platform and you are responsible for the data you store in it.
The Microsoft 365 platform is highly resilient, meaning it’s generally more reliable, with better uptime than most internal IT platforms can provide. Part of the way they do this is by building in replication, at every level, spanning not only hardware components but also entire data centres and countries.
This shared responsibility model also applies to your data security and as data backup is the last line of defence against the worst data security attack, ransomware, it is paramount that you backup your data.
Replication is not data backup. Replication will duplicate problems such as accidental deletion, misconfiguration or malware. Backup will allow you to restore data to a previous point in time.
At this point I can already hear the flames coming from naysayers, and so for them, I will point out that it is not so simple as to say, “Microsoft don’t do backups”. They do backup SharePoint (if your retention and deletion policies are properly configured). They also have backup tools bult into other services at the application level, e.g. Exchange Online mailbox retention. We will discuss Microsoft’s retention capabilities at a later date.
But these tools can be difficult to use, requiring more advanced skills, meaning there is a greater chance of configuration mistakes being made. They can also be slow, especially at scale. And they certainly don’t cover all scenarios.
There are plenty of scenarios where having a 3rd party tool that’s designed for the job will improve recovery times and retention too.
Here’s the thing: the price of backing up Microsoft 365 ‘cloud to cloud’, is way cheaper than the cost of backing up data from on-premise infrastructure, making it a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. If it saves you even once in even a minor way, it will have paid for itself a thousand-fold.
If you are in a hybrid environment, you do need to backup both. Which, some may say, is doubling up. But are you missing an opportunity here? If you have some data on site and some in Microsoft 365, why not move infrequently accessed data, such as archive data to SharePoint and backup it up using a cloud backup service, thus reducing the cost and scale of your primary storage systems?
We are in the business of providing strategic technical leadership to our customers, which means applying the same levels of diligence to our customers’ data as if it were our own. I know what I would want in place if it were my data: I would want both the inbuilt tools and the 3rd party tools.
A lifetime of best-practice teaches us that you should have both replication and backup in place using at least two independent systems and in at least two different locations. I see no reason to drop that advice just because you moved some of your data from an on-premise infrastructure to Microsoft 365.