You may or may not have noticed but there are a raft of Office 365 backup services popping up right, left and centre. This might seem odd but actually it is just the market reacting to a void in the overall services structure that Microsoft has crafted with Office 365. Let me explain …
Microsoft is not liable to lose your precious data as they replicate the daylights out of anything that you have inside Office 365. But as i have stated many times in past blog posts, replication is NOT the same as backup! Replication ensures that your data is always available but it is a continuous update process which cannot protect you from accidental data deletion or other actions that may change, corrupt or delete data. In other words, anything that happens to your data in the primary storage will be copied to (replicated) to the secondary, tertiary and any other levels of storage that Microsoft provides in the backend of Office 365. Make no mistake, Microsoft does everything they possibly can to ensure your data is available to you but they make no representations whatsoever about being able to reach back in time to pull back email or objects within a SharePoint site collection or data from a OneDrive for Business. Yes, there are safety mechanisms that admins have available to them to help correct a reasonably current “oopsie” but there is no mechanism available to reach back weeks, months or even years. In other words, there is no mechanism to reach back to a given point in time.
And that, in a nutshell, is the definition of backup vs replication, a backup lets you reach back in time so that you can recover data from that specific point in time. It also happens to be the “void” I mentioned in the opening of this post as Microsoft hasn’t really provided any tools for this purpose. When you think about it it does make perfect sense because if the data you have in Office 365 was on-prem you’d have it backed up 17 ways from Sunday. And that is the new market that many vendors are now entering.
I guess it begs the question, should you look at backing up Office 365 data? From my point of view, the reasons for backing up your data are pretty immutable and are not really affected by where the data resides. Users can mess things up just as easily when the data is in the Cloud as they can on-prem, admins can mess up, you know what happens. And as soon as any of this happens it is replicated. So you need to ensure you have backups of your data to guard against error, stupidity and just plain rotten luck.
There are many different offerings that back up many different ways. Some backup to Azure or other Cloud services while others backup to on-prem devices. I lean towards the Azure/Cloud service backup myself but there can be valid reasons to backup to on-prem. The point is you should be thinking about backup of your Office 365 data with the same terms of reference that you apply to any of your other backups. And you should be looking at how you implement the process.
I think many organizations have been lulled into a false sense of security because of the solidity of Office 365 and of the availability guarantees that Microsoft provides. And while Office 365 is solid, stable and available it is not a time machine; you need to back it up if you want to be able to reach back in time for data. It’s as simple as that.
So talk to your Office 365 Partner or investigate the various offerings yourself but do get serious about protecting your ability to perform that reach back in time data recovery.