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Mind the gap

Mind the Gap: On Premises vs Cloud Backup & Restore

What happens if your business’ data gets accidentally or maliciously corrupted or deleted? Chances are, if you’re in an on premises environment, you have a pretty comprehensive backup and restore protocol set up. If you’ve migrated to the cloud, however, you might want to take a closer look at what you’re getting. Office 365 may be miles ahead of its on premises counterparts in many ways, but when it comes to backup and restore, there are some gaps you need to be aware of. 

Redundancy and retention are no substitutes for backups 

Microsoft’s cloud services provide excellent data resiliency and availability by storing multiple, synchronous copies of your primary data across several data centres. That’s great news if your hard drive crashes, or a data centre goes down, but it’s less useful if your primary data gets accidentally or maliciously corrupted or deleted. 

While Office 365 offers some protection in the case of ad hoc deleted data, for example, with the ability for users or admins to recover deleted items from recycle bins, its native retention policies vary from app to app and require careful setup to prevent deleted data from falling through the cracks. In the case of data corruption, however, retention and redundancy simply preserve access to the corrupted content. The only way to restore a corrupted system (or data that has passed out of its retention period) is to have a separate, external, backup copy. 

Office 365’s Native Backup 

Microsoft hasn’t left its customers stranded when it comes to cloud backup. Office 365 does have native backup processes that offer basic protection on all primary apps like SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Outlook.  

The issue isn’t that these backup processes don’t exist, but rather that they’re a lot less flexible and customisable than businesses may be used to, particularly if they’re coming from a mature, on premises environment.  

Let’s take a look at the differences between what you may be used to and what you’re getting in the cloud: 

On premises: Old, on premises backups could be scheduled to run as often as you liked. Full backups were often set for once a week, and supplemented with smaller, faster, incremental backups. The combination of the two reduced the maximum amount of data that could be lost to days, hours or minutes (depending on your settings), minimised backup and recovery times, and gave granular control for point-in-time restoration and user-specific data recovery. 

Office 365: Microsoft’s native cloud backup is a lot less customisable. Office 365 automatically runs a “full farm” backup every 12 hours and keeps those files for a maximum of 14 days. There are no native options to add more regular, incremental backups in the traditional sense, and there is no option to restore data on an individual user level from the official backup files. 

Because of this, recovering data from a standard Office 365 backup is time-consuming process – 2 days for restoration and 2 days for content verification after logging the call with Microsoft. 

There are workarounds that give a greater level of granular control, but these use eDiscovery and retention folders rather than Office 365’s backups. They are typically complex, time-consuming, and impractical on any kind of large scale. They also have the potential to create privacy issues that traditional backup recovery avoids. 

As a result, it’s generally more viable to restore a full site collection backup, for example, than to search and recover individual workloads from retention folders. By rolling back a full site collection to the backup version, however, healthy data may be overwritten by outdated versions and the entire site collection will be out of commission for the duration of the restoration process (up to 4 days). 

 On-PremisesSharePoint OnlineOneDrive for BusinessExchange Online
Backup SchedulingCustomEvery 12 hoursEvery 12 hours
Incremental backup
Point in time recovery
Granular restore
Recovery timeVariesUp to 4 daysUp to 4 days
Retention PoliciesCustom2-stage recycle bin for files/folders/pages/libraries. Permanently deleted in 93 days. 1 stage recycle bin for Site Collections. Permanently deleted in 30 days.2-stage recycle bin for files/folders/pages/libraries. Permanently deleted in 93 days. Feature in the pipeline to offer full restore for deleted accounts - currently unavailable. Data from deleted accounts can be retained up to 10 years.Customisable for deleted emails.

Closing the gap with 3rd party solutions 

Office 365 has done a lot to protect its customers from data loss, but when you get right down to it, it’s not a specialist data backup and recovery solution. We can’t expect its native backup functionality to match specialist solutions for on premises environments. If you want that kind of control and responsiveness, you need to invest in a third-party solution. 

The good news is that there are third-party options that integrate seamlessly with the Office 365 environment to provide all the backup functionality and control you’re used to, plus a whole lot more. Watch this space – we’ll go into detail on these solutions soon! 

In the meantime, get in touch to find out more about transforming Office 365 disaster recovery, or visit our booth at Microsoft’s Cape Town Tech Summit on 13 – 14 Feb 2018 for more information.