Should You Backup Office 365?

Should You Backup Office 365?

To backup or not to backup, that is the question. Wait, no it really isn’t. We’re going to open with a simple answer to this question – yes, you should backup Office 365 just as you backup every other form of data your business uses. The answer to “should backups be made” will never be no, or at least that’s how it should be.

However, don’t stop reading and be happy with that short, to-the-point answer, because there may be those in your IT who will continue to argue against it, and may even manage to change your mind, and that’s no good.

Today, we’d like to arm you with an understanding of 365 and other cloud-based infrastructure, not so you can convince your IT staff (you’re the boss after all) but so that those in the anti-backup camp (there’s always one) can’t give you some really bad advice. Office 365 and other services like this are less susceptible to various cataclysms than old onsite systems may have been, but this does not mean they are perfect nor invincible.

Let’s start by understanding the nature of services like this, because even the more tech-savvy user might have a slight misunderstanding of the limitations faced by such concepts. First, let’s demystify “cloud” a bit.

Understanding the Cloud

Yes, 365 is a cloud-based system in a sense. It’s an SaaS office tool suite in the same vein as Google Docs, and it pairs with OneDrive the same way Google’s solutions pair with their Drive service.

It’s important to point this out, because people tend to think of “cloud” purely as either distributed computing, or offsite, distributed hosting.

In reality, cloud services and SaaS all share the same DNA. They’re remote services rendered either via browser or a dedicated client. This allows for a host of advantages – there’s a reason why this technology has seen such heavy investments and wide adoption.

In the case of something like 365 paired with OneDrive, you can readily log into other devices and resume work. Any web-capable device works for this, even something like a smartphone (though good luck getting any productive work done on a touch keyboard). It also does provide an extra layer of security against disasters and criminal activity.

With your projects and data being hosted offsite, a fire, natural disaster or burglary is far less of a train wreck than it may have once been. You may be out some equipment, but equipment and structures can be replaced – data often cannot. Losing records and other critical data can actually destroy a company irreparably.

There’s also an added layer of security against things like information thieves, malware and other dangers, though in the case of malware, you’re not 100% safe sadly.

The Flaws with Cloud

There’s a huge Achilles heel with cloud and SaaS platforms like this, that being that you actually need a persistent connection. Granted the caching system does save local open data and some recently-opened files for faster access, but when the internet goes down – and it always will at some point – you’re kind of cut off of this information.

Now, time is money, and even a few hours can be costly, but what happens when something like a tornado or a hurricane knocks the infrastructure down for weeks? This happens a lot in coastal areas, especially the eastern sea board. If you have backups, you can continue working from them in local mode, and either through the barebones 365 tools, or a 3rd party backup/restore application, you can just update the offsite data to reflect localized work once order is restored.

Another big problem is that while 365 offers data protection, there’s still the option to delete files from your workstation, if you have author level access. There exist a host of malware and ransomware applications that can piggyback on this, deleting your files slowly, sneakily. They may encrypt and hijack your files as well, and Microsoft’s own protection and data warranties are limited at best – ultimately, it’s up to users to protect their data above the bare minimum.

Versioning Problems

Finally, we come to versioning. This is an automatic thing with backup applications and with 365 (if you configure it right). You can version by dates or specific criteria, and this does help you with milder cases like error recovery and other accidents. However, it’s not perfect, and it can leave you shuffling through version after version of things, especially if the labeling and criteria are automated, to find the right one.

This is a massive pain in the butt, especially if you compare it to frequent backups which are just snapshots of the current state of things on a given date. This isn’t to say that versioning systems aren’t good to have around – like I said, smaller issues can be quickly resolved with this, but when a big problem comes around, the last thing you need is yet more downtime as you try to track down the proper versions and get back to status quo.

Legal Hold

So, when you delete a file in Office 365 or via OneDrive, it doesn’t instantly vanish. It will sit for a period of time in a recycle bin, just as it does on a PC. Unlike a PC, though, these files will be deleted over enough time, and this is how malware can be super sneaky in deleting files you don’t access often, so you can’t intervene and recover them before time’s up.

Microsoft has some legal hold policies which among other things, do help to combat this to an extent, but they’re limited as well. Accidental deletions, sneaky deletions by malware, any number of combinations of these make 365 not perfectly fool proof nor secure. Flawless security would mean locking the data up in an inalterable form which does of course defeat the purpose.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are too many things that can go wrong, such as unscheduled downtime, failure of infrastructure or cyberattacks to name a few. You should always back up your 365 data, and there are plenty of tools to make this easier.

To learn more about backup services, which we proudly offer with excellence, fill out our contact form today. Don’t be taught by pain how important this is!