Office 365 Backup Recommendations
Ignorance is not bliss. If you want to strike fear into the heart of any system administrator, tell them they must do disaster recovery of the Exchange or SharePoint servers. Better yet, just tell them you need a folder or two from both systems for a couple of users from 6 months ago. Most administrators don’t have the first hand knowledge of the steps required or real-life experience of recovering from a disaster. Then there are all the unknowns: power, Internet, facilities, available hardware, software media, recorded settings, free disk space, and valid backup.
Horribly broken model. Whether you recognize it or not, the two scenarios above are vastly different for data protection and restoration. The whole reason you’re considering Office 365 is availability, security, and productivity. Your backup is always broken or assumed to be functioning. Data is perpetually growing and systems are aging, but it’s nearly impossible to get budget for upgrades. A single individual or tiny group of overworked and highly stressed IT professionals are then supposed to keep up with the latest technology, regulations, and system issues – day or night, as well as weekends and holidays.
Moving the monkey. The old monolithic model is costly and fraught with risk. Microsoft offers over 19 regions of data centers for data replication with the world’s leading security and privacy. So, the first scenario of disaster recovery is covered. Anywhere you can reach the Internet, you have your documents and e-mail on a smartphone to a traditional PC. Without the Internet, you have a copy of your mailbox the last time you connected and whatever documents you have downloaded or synched with your OneDrive.
What most people think of as backup is not provided by Office 365, because compliance features offer faster recovery.
Manage business exceptions. If the statement above scares you, it shouldn’t because there are multiple levels of data protection with Office 365. What everyone has to consider is how often do you have to restore past 30 days and what is your true data policy? Unfortunately, few customers understand or take advantage data protection settings:
- Exchange: Local mailbox copy on every synched device, recover deleted items, online archive, retention policy, journaling, legal hold, encryption, and data loss prevention rules.
- SharePoint: Synchronized documents on OneDrive and any SharePoint sites, previous versions, and user/admin/site recycle bin.
Avoid common mistakes. After an e-mail or data migration to Office 365, customers are happy not to be shackled by previous system limitations and appreciate ready access to data from virtually anywhere. However, many data protection settings are not enabled by default:
- Recover deleted items should be increased from 14 to 30 days using a Powershell recovery cmdlet.
- Online archives must also be enabled using a Powershell archive cmdlet for all users.
- A separate user mailbox must be purchased of Exchange Plan 2 or higher with a journaling mail flow rule to blind carbon copy every message sent and received, along with a custom journal retention policy to move messages to the associated online archive monthly to quarterly.
- A defined records retention policy is strongly recommended to manage the quantity of mail and more importantly limit legal risk to the organization.
- Litigation hold may be enabled on or before litigation for both e-mail and documents.
- Previous versions of files are enabled by default for OneDrive, but must be enabled for all other SharePoint sites.
Take practical precautions. Once you have verified or corrected any of the common mistakes, you can focus on higher business continuity concepts. E-mail journaling, retention archiving (consult an attorney), and litigation hold negate numerous versions of backup. You are well protected with Office 365 for e-mail and document availability, security, disaster recovery, and archiving. However, those features must be monitored on a regular basis and Office 365 has no external backup options. To not have all your eggs in one basket, some customers are choosing third-party online backup services for both Office 365 Exchange and SharePoint.
What do we do? Matrixforce is a Top 50 Microsoft Cloud Champion in the nation. We utilize a retention and journaling policy for Office 365 e-mail and backup our SharePoint Online documents on a regular basis.