Microsoft Office 365 is the most common business productivity suite nowadays, and millions of organizations have migrated their on-premises Exchange email infrastructure to Office 365 Exchange Online. There circulates an opinion that once the email data is in the cloud there is no need to worry about backing it up. After all, Microsoft guarantees 99.9% uptime and the fidelity of customers’ Office 365 data within their data centers. But does it mean that Microsoft provides adequate data backup and restorability that meet the business needs or internal service level agreements? As MSPs, take a closer look and it is not difficult to find good reasons to offer Office 365 Exchange Online backup solution to your customers.
Microsoft only protects customers’ data from disasters that happen at its data centers
Database Availability Group (DAG) is Microsoft’s core technology for protecting Office 365 Exchange Online data. With multiple data centers located all over the world, the redundant network architecture hosted by Microsoft ensures that if an outage occurs at one data center, another can function as backup. While customers’ Exchange Online data is protected from catastrophic disasters that may happen at Microsoft’s data centers, it is not safe from unpredictable incidents such as:
- users deleted an Exchange Online email mistakenly;
- resigned employees deleted some critical business data on-purpose;
- hackers intruded on a company’s Exchange Online mailboxes and kidnapped the data with ransomware
Deleted item recovery is restricted to retention policy
When user deletes a message, it goes to the Deleted Items folder. If the message is removed from the Deleted Items folder, it moves to the Recoverable Items folder where it is stored for 14 days by default, and the retention period is a policy that can only be extended at administrator level. This is the first line of defense as users can still retrieve a deleted item as long as its retention period has not elapsed. But after that period, the message disappears permanently because emails purged from the Recoverable Items folder cannot be recovered. Users would need to contact Microsoft support and wait for a solution with no timeline guaranteed.
Item-level recovery is far from adequate
Item-level recovery alone is far from adequate. If a folder has been deleted from Deleted Items, one can recover only single items that the folder included, not the folder itself. It means that emails will be recovered to Inbox, not to the original folder. As pointed out by a Microsoft MVP, item-level recovery only protects an organization against deleting items such as email messages, but it does not allow recovery of a corrupt mailbox. Microsoft has designed Office 365 in a way that organizations do not need to worry about the core infrastructure, but has also limited the administration and end user backup and restore capabilities. Microsoft admitted that point-in-time restore functionality is also absent in Office 365 Exchange Online. In case the state of mailbox data is damaged due to unexpected third party activities such as hacker intrusion or on-purpose deletion, administrators would not be able to recover the mailbox data to an earlier point in time.
In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold is not without limitation
Microsoft does offer a functionality to put a mailbox on In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold for keeping all data in the Recoverable Items folder indefinitely. This option is solely for legal actions in a company and is available only in the most expensive Office 365 Enterprise Plans E3 and E4. It is important to note that the size of the Recoverable Items folder of the mailbox may increase quickly depending on number and size of items deleted or modified. Once the 100GB quota is exceeded, Office 365 will start to delete data from this folder and the data may become non-recoverable.
Recovery using an exported PST file is time-consuming and cumbersome
As a last resort, administrators can search for deleted emails using eDiscovery and export the deleted data to a PST format file. The major downside is that only one mailbox can be exported at a time and there are no PowerShell cmdlets for that purpose, which means it would take a great deal of time for administrators to handle a large number of user mailboxes. Besides, deleted emails found by eDiscovery are not recovered directly to an original location; administrators need to export them to a PST file first, then import to the user’s mailbox, and move the emails manually to original folders. Moreover, a desktop version of Outlook is required to restore deleted emails using a PST file because the Outlook Web version cannot open PST files. This whole process of recovery consumes a lot of time and resources from IT admins and could consequently impact the business.
It is a golden opportunity to offer Office 365 Exchange Online cloud and local backup solution
The native Office 365 Exchange Online backup and restore methods are in no way a comprehensive backup and restore solution and are insufficient to avoid critical data loss. No companies can risk all of their critical mailbox data being in the hands of one provider. As more and more customers are looking for a way to back up their Office 365 email data to another location, it is a golden opportunity for MSPs to tap into the ever-growing Exchange Online data backup market.
Ahsay’ Office 365 Exchange Online Backup
We have a complete Office 365 Exchange mailbox backup solution that empowers you to give your customers absolute peace of mind. It is a fully automatic backup system that backs up Office 365 Exchange data to a local server or another cloud, and enables quick recovery of full mailboxes or individual items with just a few clicks. Click here if you would like to find out more.