Do you really need Microsoft 365 backups?

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Of all the myriad productivity apps available to businesses, Microsoft 365 may be the most widely used, and the most familiar. The cloud version of Microsoft Office is a central part of a majority of businesses across all industries, and is relied on for everything from writing employee handbooks and contracts to complex financial spreadsheets. Without Microsoft 365, the business landscape would look very different indeed.

Despite its undeniable importance, though, relatively few businesses think to invest in a Microsoft 365 backup solution. While the cloud is often thought to be impervious to hacking or data loss in a way local servers aren’t, this isn’t necessarily the case. Microsoft 365 backups are something businesses should consider, both for archival and organisational reasons, and to protect some of their most valuable and vulnerable assets.

What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is the name for Microsoft’s suite of cloud-based productivity apps. It includes online services such as Outlook and OneDrive, the programs previously marketed as Microsoft Office, and related enterprise products like Exchange Server and SharePoint. Microsoft 365 was designed to unify all of these related business applications under a single brand, with a subscription service offering access to some or all of the applications.

The move away from Office branding relates to the shift from offline to cloud-based software. Where older versions of Office existed in isolation on local machines, Microsoft 365 serves these applications to users from the Cloud. This means that the Office apps and other software in Microsoft 365 are always kept up-to-date, benefit from the latest feature upgrades, and can be accessed from any location or device.

In recognition of its broad appeal and feature set, Microsoft 365 includes a range of subscription packages, from consumer to enterprise plans. Its Business plans cover the whole gamut of small and medium sized businesses, while its Enterprise plans cater to multinational and transnational corporations. Both the Business and Enterprise plans can also include Windows operating system licences, making it a one-stop shop for Microsoft software.

Do you need to backup Microsoft 365?

It’s often assumed that by using cloud software, you forgo the need to backup data. After all, one of the reasons businesses opt to use the Cloud is to prevent data loss from hardware failure or accidental deletion. This is far less likely to afflict cloud servers, where data is stored in and served from multiple locations to provide redundancy. Yet this isn’t true – and Microsoft will tell you as much. 

Microsoft’s Shared Responsibility Model states that while the company is responsible for maintaining its own servers and equipment, the end user is ultimately responsible for protecting their own data. Moreover, hardware failure is not the only way that data on a server can be compromised. If someone gains access to one of your Microsoft 365 logins, they could easily steal or delete your data, something that likely wouldn’t be Microsoft’s fault. And as with any software, you could also lose files by accidentally deleting them.

OneDrive provides a form of file backup, saving a copy of local files to the Cloud. However, OneDrive is a file mirroring service rather than an archiving service. When you make a change to a file on your local machine, this is replicated on the server – meaning that if you delete a file, it will also be deleted in OneDrive. These mistakes may be retrievable, but they highlight the shortcomings of Microsoft 365 for data preservation.

In short, it is absolutely critical that you backup your Microsoft 365 data. Keeping a backup of all the files stored in Microsoft 365 – be they documents or user data – will protect you against the potential for unauthorised access to your accounts, allowing you to limit the amount of progress you lose on projects, and the possibility of reputational damage. But what’s the best way to go about this, and who should carry this work out?

How to backup Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 features some native backup and restoration tools, but they are extremely limited. These include features such as up to 30 day retention for deleted files (the default is 14), a version history option for Outlook (which can be disabled), and the eDiscovery feature for legal document retention (only available on certain plans). 

None of this is the same as backing up data, and does not protect against situations such as an account deletion, where all corresponding data will be permanently lost. However, Microsoft does provide either direct file access or data export utilities for OneDrive, Exchange Server, SharePoint, Teams, and all other relevant aps inside Microsoft 365, allowing you to backup the data from each application individually.

Certain software utilities offer ‘automatic’ Microsoft 365 backups by granting them access to your Microsoft 365 installation, and allowing them to periodically download the data. This will then usually be stored on another remote server, which you can access and restore from at any time. However, this does come with the obvious caveat that you are opening another door for an external service provider, potentially creating a new security vulnerability.

The other method to backup Microsoft 365 is to work with an IT services provider who has experience in data backups and retrieval. This allows you to delegate backups to a third party who is more local to you, and with whom you have a trusted working relationship, as opposed to an online software provider. They will also be able to provide services such as restoring your data from backups if anything does go wrong.

Sota offers a range of data backup services through SotaProtect, including managed backup and recovery, point-in-time restoration, and an emergency workplace recovery suite for business continuity. Visit our Case Studies page to read about some of the projects we’ve worked on, or get in touch with us today to find out how we can help protect your business.

Sota is one of the UK’s leading independent IT companies, providing professional IT support in Kent, cloud computing, cyber resilience, connectivity, and unified communications. Having worked with countless businesses over the years, they are experts in their field, ready to advise and offer tailored solutions for each and every company.