Is Office 365 backup good enough for your business?

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    An Office 356 migration is the first step into the cloud for many businesses. The increase in deployments makes perfect sense — Office 365 delivers flexible access, collaboration capabilities and cloud-based backup built in.

    But, is Office 365 backup a solution businesses can depend on? Is backup all you need to be confident in your ability to access your data?

    The simple answer to both of these questions is no.

    Of course, things are more complex, and that does not mean Office 365 cannot form an important part of a functional backup, disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

    Here, we are going to explore the myths around Office 365 backup, provide advice on how you can truly safeguard your data and deliver insight that will keep you safe when disaster strikes.

    Office 365 backup explained

    Let’s start by looking at what Office 365 can deliver for your business. Office 365 does provide restore capabilities and a simple click and drag operation will recover files. While 14 days is the default, you can change this to thirty days. If you want to make sure that an item is permanently deleted, you simply need to remove it from your ‘deleted items folder’ and your inbox. While 365 does provide Litigation Hold and In-place hold to provide an additional level of recovery, the latter is being phased out.

    Litigation hold is limited and does not support public folders. For this, you will need a third party. This will include auditing and role-based access control, providing you with a deep level of management. Furthermore, many users want a fully recoverable offline copy of Office 365 data, which you can’t get without a third party.

    Office 365 does provide an uptime guarantee. This delivers security against software or power outages, but not against other issues like a cyber attack. So, while it may be a useful backup feature, it’s not a full disaster recovery plan. One of the key differences here is that a backup will not restore corrupted folders, a DRP (disaster recovery plan) will.

    Office 365 is useful, but it will not provide the full backup solution that you need. You are not protected against files becoming corrupted, you have limited recovery periods, and there is data within your organisation that is likely to never run through the Office 365 hosting system.

    Uptime is not the same as recovery, and archived does not mean accessible

    It’s worth exploring uptime in more detail. While it is useful as one precautionary feature, you can still end up with corrupted files. Remember, with backup, you are simply storing data in one place.

    If files are corrupted in Office 365, the issue will simply be duplicated throughout any backup you may have. A simple backup solution will not allow you to recover files if damaged copies are the ones that end up being ‘backed up’. This is why a disaster recovery solution is essential. It provides roll-back to a number of restore points that will benefit you when faced with corruption.

    Unlimited archiving

    You may have heard that Office 365 delivers ‘unlimited archiving.’ While true, it is important that you do not overestimate this feature. If you rely on this too much, you will run into long term problems.

    With archiving, you do get to store your data long term. You cannot, however, assume that accessing or utilising that data will be fast or easy. Instead, it will be a manual process that takes a lot of time and effort. You will need to carefully sift through the data to find exactly what you need.

    Technically, archived data is there for you to access, but that is not the same as being available. This means that you can not rely on archives for disaster recovery. If disaster strikes, the amount of time it will take to retrieve archived files will cause unacceptable delays in business processes and customer service. The real purpose of archiving is to store files that you do not want to delete but also have no desire or need to access at any speed.

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    What true disaster recovery delivers

    Now that we have established the limitations of Office 365 and the basic ‘backup’ system that it provides, let’s explore what you do need. Disaster recovery (DR) will allow you to recover corrupted files, access all the data you need and deliver a rapid solution to any fault. You can build this solution in house, using purpose-built hardware and software solutions, or access best-of-breed solutions delivered management free with a disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) providers.

    A DR plan has four main elements:

    Restore time objectives (RTO): The amount of time it will take to restore your system in the face of a fault — this needs to reflect your business needs and customer expectations.
    Restore point objective (RPO): The period of time between updates and the number of restore points retained, the RPO effectively dictates how much data might be lost in the event of a failure, and the number of restore points that will remain available at any one time.
    Failover: Is the process of transferring business operations and access to business-critical applications to your disaster recovery solution.
    Failback: Is the criteria surrounding the restore of all data (including data created during failover) back to your main system once it is restored.

    Without disaster recovery software, it is possible that you will have access to some or all of the data for your business. But it won’t matter because of the time it takes to deliver access in the event of a failure will be too long. You need to be up and running immediately after a disaster.

    How disaster recovery planning compares to Office 365 backup

    With the right recovery plan in place, you won’t just have a strategy for completing a restoration. Instead, you will know how to continue operations during a failure. You can avoid downtime and ensure that you have all the elements in place to deal with the disaster.

    The difference in access time between a real disaster recovery service and Microsoft Office 365 backup is staggering. If items held on Office 365 are purged from the deleted files within the 14 – 30 day time period, it can take between 15 and 30 minutes to recover them. The process is arduous and requires multiple steps that the administrator will need to complete themselves.

    In contrast, using a full disaster recovery solution, the files can be recovered in 1 – 2 minutes. Furthermore, you can define when items are no longer recoverable, rather than being restricted by software settings.

    Using a disaster recovery service, you get a simple and efficient system that provides fantastic value for money. Furthermore, deployment options can be flexibly altered to match your business model and comply with the latest data regulations. If you have limited IT experience, managed IT service partners can provide this kind of disaster recovery solution as a service.

    Real data access depends on planning and hardware working together

    When exploring backup solutions and disaster recovery services it is important to go beyond the minimum standards. Make sure that your business is prepared for everything from a flood to a hack or a technical failure. Remember, only 10% of businesses with no plan will survive a failure and 60% of small businesses that lose data close after just six months!

    Success is not just about finding the right recovery plan. You must make sure that you have the right systems, hardware, software and a fully trained team of IT staff. Partnering with a professional managed IT service company will allow you to procure everything you require and gain full support for training. This is highly advisable when setting up your system. It can also benefit the ongoing management of your DR needs to best-practice standards without having to higher new specialists.

    Hybrid-cloud solutions

    For full-service disaster recovery solutions, a lot of businesses find success in hybrid-cloud, managed DR solutions. These bring the benefits of disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS), ensuring quality outcomes and allowing you to remain focused on your own business. However, hybrid solutions go further, improving access speeds and quality assurance compared to standard, public cloud offerings.

    The public cloud allows for dynamic scaling and cheap access. However, your use of shared infrastructure makes it hard to guarantee access speeds and can create bottlenecks for business-critical applications during failover and failback. On the other hand, private clouds are expensive and maintenance intensive.

    Solutions like NexProtect, a hybrid-cloud DRaaS product, allow businesses to access the best of both worlds — siloing their most critical applications and data to high-speed private clouds, but keeping costs low with public cloud use. The entire system is accessible from a single interface, and automation reduced management to a minimum.

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    Going beyond Office 365 for disaster recovery

    Office 365 is a good starting point, and an additional level of support. It is also a helpful business tool for sharing files and improving workflows. Limitations in the disaster recovery capabilities of Office 365 are no reflection on the utility of the system. However, it provides the bare minimum for backup and data recovery. This limited scope of support will leave your business in danger if you rely on it too heavily.

    To be prepared for disaster, you need real disaster recovery planning. Aligning the right software and hardware solutions with planning will ensure that any threat is prevented from damaging your business, your reputation or bottom line. Disaster recovery is a must in modern business. Your IT system and your business deserve the best. For most, that ideal solution is a managed hybrid-cloud. Find out more about cloud disaster recovery software as part of an effective all-round solution in our ultimate guide.

    Troy Platts

    Troy has spent over 20 years helping organisations solve their data, storage and compute conundrums. He is a regular speaker at vendor events and spends any free time he has keeping abreast of advances in data platform technologies. He also makes a mean curry.

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