The popularity of Office 365 continues to increase. Organizations large and small are adopting the service for office productivity and communications. Office 365 provides excellent service availability. If a server or storage system within the service fails within the service, Office 365 can continue to provide its functionality with no interruption to the users. Even if a disaster strikes a Microsoft data center, Office 365 can quickly failover to another data center. For an organization using the service, the motivation behind data protection now changes from protecting against large-scale disasters to protecting their data from data corruption and cyber-attack.
Microsoft provides plenty of protection from large disasters, but it does not provide a robust set of point-in-time protection. Recovery from user errors, data corruption, and cyber-attacks requires point-in-time air-gapped points of protection. At the same time, Microsoft’s licensing agreement for Office 365 makes it very clear that the data is the organization’s and the responsibility to protect it is also the organization’s.
These realities have spawned several new data protection vendors explicitly focused on Office 365. Even legacy data protection solutions are adding Office 365 support to their offerings. Most of the solutions provide file backup from OneDrive and also protect Office 365 hosted Exchange and SharePoint.
The Office 365 Backup Problems
Most Office 365 solutions backup the data from one cloud to another cloud. Many will backup Office 365 to a store on Amazon’s AWS or to another storage area within Microsoft Azure. Very few enable the organization to back up locally. Local backups have several advantages. First, organizations own their on-premises storage. They don’t rent it like cloud storage. Given the capacity requirements of most backup stores, owning this capacity is often less expensive over time than storing it in the cloud. More than likely the organization already owns on-premises backup capacity as many Office 365 customers still run many Microsoft Office applications locally.
Local backups are also particularly valuable with Office 365 since the applications are available in an on-premises version. An organization can get, or more than likely already has a local copy of the Microsoft Office suite as well as Exchange and SharePoint.
Another advantage of local backups is the organization knows exactly where their data is for compliance purposes. There is no need to evaluate yet another provider.
A final challenge is most of the Office 365 backup applications store the protected copies of the data in a proprietary format, meaning that the customer must have access to the backup software to recover.
No 3-2-1 Rule?
The 3-2-1 rule states that all data should be copied three times and be on two different types of media with 1 copy being offsite. Protecting all data using Microsoft’s utilities doesn’t meet the 3-2-1 requirement. Other Office 365 backup solutions that require backups to other clouds don’t provide the two different types of media since both copies are cloud-based. Copying data back to the on-premises data center meets both the three copies requirement as well as the two different types of media and places that data in a site under the control of the organization.
BackupAssist has been making backup software since 2002 and has a reputation for simple, affordable and reliable backups. Their newest product, BackupAssist 365 focuses on backing up Office 365, with G-Suite next on the release schedule. The software makes backup copies, on a scheduled basis, to on-premises storage. The customer can use existing backup storage resources to store Office 365 backups. The local copy also provides an air-gapped version of the data to protect against malicious deletion or ransomware encryption.
BackupAssist stores data in its native format, so it is immediately usable. It also provides full automation of the backups, just set up the schedule and BackupAssist takes care of the rest.
A final challenge with Office 365 backup is in understanding the various pricing models. BackupAssist has easy to understand licensing models. The first 24 users are $1.00 per month per year for the first 24 users. Users 25-49 are only 95 cents per month, and beyond 50 users, the cost of the licenses is only 90 cents per month.
Microsoft leaves little doubt that protecting Office 365 data is the customer’s responsibility. Microsoft’s responsibility ends at keeping the service available, which they do well. Organization’s need to find a way to backup Office 365 data to protect themselves from accidental file deletion or a ransomware attack without adding too much complexity. BackupAssist provides a simple, automated way to protect Office 365 data without having to get locked into another cloud provider or a backup vendor’s proprietary backup format.