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Backup of the Microsoft cloud

My customers often ask me about the best way they can protect their data in the cloud. How do I back up my files, mailboxes and databases that are in Office 365, Azure or CRM Online? How much does it cost and is it really necessary?

The cloud demands a totally different approach to backup strategy than in the past, when data was stored on your own servers.

Here are my tips and advice:

Think about the situations in which a ‘restore’ is needed

It is important to analyse what can go wrong, because every situation demands specific ways to resolve the problem:

  • An employee accidentally deletes or overwrites a file. A few minutes, days or weeks later, people realise that the file is no longer there.
    A lot of cloud systems have a 'recycle bin', which allows you to restore deleted files with one click. But be warned, this is only for a limited period.
    "Many businesses believe the recycle bin provides adequate backup, but the bins are purged automatically after 30 days for Office 365 and 90 days for SharePoint Online. Once purged, that data is gone forever,”
  • As a result of a virus, hacker or a programming/script error, the data is (partly) corrupt and no longer usable. The data needs to be restored to the state it was in just prior to the incident.
  • A complete mailbox, user, SharePoint site, Azure database … is deleted. Some time later, people realise they still need it.
  • Due to a technical or human error/disaster in one of Microsoft’s datacenters, your entire environment is no longer available or has been deleted.
    At that moment, you’ve lost everything, and you have to wait until Microsoft is able to restore your environment. If this is not possible, and you have not made a backup with another provider, you have lost everything. But this is a highly unlikely scenario.

Agree with your management team on the degree of certainty that is required.

Before you can decide on how far you want to go – and therefore how much you need to invest for backing up your data, you must first achieve consensus on the impact of losing data, and therefore about the business continuity or liability.

  • How many days/weeks/years must data be stored? (= Back-up retention period)
    =
    the number of days/weeks that the backup is kept, in other words how far back in time you can go if something goes wrong.
  • The maximum number of minutes/hours of data that is allowed to be lost when a problem occurs.
    =  if an employee is booking in invoices the whole time, and something goes wrong with the software at some point, what is the maximum number of minutes of work that has to be done again? (= Recovery Point Objective)
  • What is the maximum amount of time allowed between the request for a recovery/restore and the moment that the file/data is restored? (= Recovery time objective)
  • What risk do I want to take of my data no longer being able to be restored in the case of a disaster?
    There are three options available here:
    • Geographically Redundant: indicates that a copy of your data is maintained in various geographical zones, several hundreds of kilometres apart, for example in Dublin and Amsterdam. This way you are sure that if a disaster occurs in one of the locations, a copy will be available at the other location.
    • Zone redundant: several copies of your data are stored in at least 2 separate datacentres, but within the same geographical zone/province.
    • Locally redundant: several copies of your data are stored within the same datacentre/building

Read the small print, what does Microsoft offer?

The Microsoft Cloud already provides a lot of security that is available to you at no extra cost.

The first step is to see whether the security is adequate for your requirements. In many cases, the standard Microsoft data protection will cover 50-80% of your needs.

In the areas where this is not adequate, you can look for alternatives.

Take extra assurances

When the standard assurances offered by Microsoft do not appear to be adequate, you have 3 options:

  • Upgrade to a higher level of services from Microsoft.
    For example, by upgrading from AzureSQL Standard to Premium, so that your retention period is increased from 14 days to 35 days.
  • Make use of an external cloud back-up service provider.
    This will duplicate the data of your Office 365 or Azure cloud to another environment, for example in the Amazon Cloud. A lot of companies are coming up with solutions in this area. It is advisable to look for a strong partner that is Microsoft-certified and experienced in these matters. Keep an eye on the prices, Office 365 backup quite easily costs EUR 4 to 6 per month per user, which is a lot compared with Office 365 prices. Here are some well-known players in the market:
  • Copying your data at regular intervals to a local hard disc or cloud storage via scripts or manually.
    I would only recommend this approach for one-off backups of data that hardly ever change, because if you forget to do it, or it has failed on one occasion, you will not be protected.

A few examples:

 

Example

I was with a client yesterday that has 250GB of files on a local file server.
The aim is to migrate to Office 365 in SharePoint Online. The client makes it known that it is legally obligated to keep documents for certain periods of time.

After digging a bit deeper, it appears that bookkeeping documents are required to be kept for 6 years, and signed financial contracts for 10 years. These make up just 2% of all the documents.

The standard Microsoft data protection policies will adequately cover the other 98%.

For the other 2%, we will make use of SharePoint record centre, where, via policies, you can define for how long a document must be kept (and therefore cannot be deleted or modified).

Would you like to start making use of Microsoft Cloud?

Orbit One can help you take the right decisions, as well as assisting in the technical migration and advising you on optimal use.

>> starter pack O365 roll-out plan

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Op 09/06/2015 door Olivier

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