backing up Office 365

Cloud computing has brought a host of opportunities for businesses. Offering many productivity and security benefits; the technology has transformed how modern businesses store, access and share data. But if you think the cloud means there’s no longer a need to back up company data, you could be making a costly mistake.

In this article, we’ll look at why creating separate backups is still vital in the age of cloud computing. In particular, we’ll discuss why you should be backing up Office 365 and other SaaS (software as a service) platforms. We’ll also explain how to create an effective backup strategy if you don’t already have one.

What is a backup?

Before we look at the importance of backing up Office 365, let’s go back to basics and explain what we mean by ‘taking a backup’.

‘Backup and recovery’ is the process used to create and store copies of data so that files and information can be rescued in the event of data loss. IT backup should therefore form a major part of your operational recovery and disaster planning strategies. With backup procedures in place, you can restore data to its original location, or a new location, even if the original file is lost or damaged.

A decade or two ago, most medium and large companies were diligent about taking backups, making multiple copies of data in separate locations. Because data was stored locally, business owners needed to prepare in case of a physical disaster in the office. If a fire, flood or theft meant the loss of hardware, companies needed to be able to access copies of the data that was stored on computers.

As most files were stored on local machines, the risk of losing data due to a PC or laptop being damaged or stolen was obvious. But with the advent of cloud computing, many of us may have become more complacent. We know that even if a PC or laptop is out of action, the information can still be accessed from another device. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that the data in the cloud is backed up. So, if you only have one version of a file, in one location; it can still be lost or corrupted.

Even if a file isn’t lost, backup copies can be useful as they allow data to be restored from an earlier point in time. This is helpful if for example, a new member of staff makes an error in an important document; or you suffer a malicious attack on your data.

How data is compromised

Data can be lost in several ways, but human error is the most common.

We’ve all deleted a document by mistake or struggled with version control when sharing information with colleagues. But data failures can result in other ways such as hardware or software failures. And of course, viruses, malware and ransomware can all compromise the security of your data too.

The chances are that any loss of data, no matter how small, would have a negative impact on your business. It could be as simple as time wasted while a member of staff searches for missing information or tries to recreate a lost document. At the other end of the scale, loss of data could result in cancelled contracts, lost customers or hefty fines from regulatory bodies.

So, it’s obvious that data needs to be backed up so that you can easily restore it if issues arise. But a lot of people believe that if data is stored on the cloud, it can be rescued. The truth is this may not be the case. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because it’s in the Cloud, it’s automatically recoverable.

The best way to back up data

Backup best practice recommends that copies of data should be held in a separate location to the original. So, for example, if you’re backing up to the cloud, you should ensure your backups sit on separate servers to the original files. This way, even if the main server is compromised, you will still be able to access your backup copies on the other server.

You may decide to store backup files using another medium such as an external hard drive or USB stick but it’s wise to speak to your IT support company before doing this. Storing data in this way could compromise both security and data protection rules.

How often should data be backed up?

It makes sense to create backup copies on a consistent and regular basis. This minimises the chance of losing data between backups. The nature of your business will determine how often backups should be taken and your IT support provider will be able to tell you the right frequency of backups for your company.

Why backing up data is still important in the age of the cloud

If you’re not creating regular backups of company files and emails you could be putting your business at risk. Because in modern businesses, almost every task completed, each conversation with a customer and every transaction you complete, results in data being stored on a computer.

What would happen if you suddenly lost a chunk of that data? Would you be able to fulfil customer orders? Would you be able to continue operating as normal? Would you be able to fulfil your legal and regulatory obligations?

If you think of the cloud as a safety net, you’re not alone. It’s a common mistake. Many businesses are surprised to learn that files in Office 365, including email, are not automatically backed up and often companies don’t find out until something goes wrong. In fact, according to a recent Enterprise Strategy Group report, one in four businesses didn’t know they needed to back up Office 365.

Why you need to backup Office 365

Millions of businesses around the world use the Office 365 platform with many relying on the system for their email, calendars, document storage, business-critical apps and more. As such, it’s become the engine at the heart of many businesses.

If you use Office 365, it’s likely that you need the platform for much of your online activity from checking your calendar to emailing and sharing files with colleagues. So, what would happen if the data you hold in Office 365 was compromised or lost completely? Could you cope if you couldn’t find the emails you’d received, or lost data from your calendar, or key documents suddenly disappeared from your folders?

Like all SaaS (software as a service) applications, Office 365 is as vulnerable to data loss as any on-site system, with the number one cause of data loss being human error. This is why you must regularly back up emails, documents, contacts, calendars and any other data that is held in the cloud.

The ‘shared responsibility’ model and Office 365 backups

You might think that responsibility for backing up files in Office 365 sits with Microsoft. You perhaps believe that if you lost key data, you could simply get in touch with Microsoft support and they would be able to restore it for you. But, like many providers, Microsoft operates a ‘shared responsibility’ model. This means they only take responsibility for areas they have complete control over. As such, they don’t offer any guarantees around restoring lost or corrupted data – with limited protection against accidental data loss. There’s even less protection from data loss caused by ransomware attacks or malicious user activity.

Microsoft, and other providers therefore advise customers to implement their own backup strategy using native or third-party tools.

The benefits of backing up Office 365

Backing up Office 365 offers several business benefits. With an effective backup strategy, you will:

  • Protect your company from the accidental deletion of data
  • Be able to easily restore previous versions of documents if errors creep in later
  • Gain the confidence that your business is protected even if Microsoft changes their policies
  • Protect your business against internal threats
  • Protect your business against malware and viruses
  • Save employees’ time by removing the need to recreate lost documents (or data)
  • Gain the peace of mind that you’re following best practice to keep your business safe and productive

How to back up Office 365 and other SaaS platforms

The easiest way to protect your data is to use a reliable SaaS backup service. Your IT team or IT support provider will be able to give you options. The key is to keep the process as simple, yet reliable, as possible. Once set up, you shouldn’t need to do anything as the backup process will run automatically, as scheduled, without your input.

At Netstar, we offer SaaS backup. This reliable, simple and secure backup platform covers a range of SaaS platforms, including Office 365 and G Suite, Gmail, Google Drive, Team Drives, Exchange Online, and more. With this service, you’ll enjoy:

  • Set up and integration of the backup with your SaaS platforms
  • 3 daily backups of all data
  • Data storage outside your SaaS provider’s servers, in geo-redundant data centres
  • A backup retention period of 1 year
  • The ability to recover deleted items granularly
  • Reporting for backup success

Whether you’re using an IT support provider in London, or elsewhere in the UK; backup protection should be a core part of their service offering. If you’re not sure what backup provisions you currently have in place, ask for a review meeting to check your backup procedures are right for your business.

What next?

  1. If you’re thinking about switching from your current IT support provider get in touch here, or give us a call on 020 7101 0544.
  2. Discover more about our London-based IT support services
  3. Want to learn more about what the right IT support looks like? Check out this article on how to choose the best IT Support provider for your business.