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Getting started with backing up data in Microsoft 365, understanding the limitations

 Getting started with backing up data in Microsoft 365, understanding the limitations

Microsoft backup

 So, you decided to jump straight to the deep end and backup your data in Microsoft 365. But first, what does that even mean?

 Are you planning to back up user workstations to OneDrive or embrace the way Microsoft 365 is designed to provide similar or better capabilities than a traditional backup product?  If yes, then make sure you know you do need to configure your tenant and we'll cover more on that in the next series in this series.

 Now, while there's nothing wrong with using a third-party backup product with Microsoft 365, remember that most organizations don't back up the service, yet.  There are arguments to be made for and against backing up your Microsoft 365 databacking up your Microsoft 365 data but this is a decision that you and your organization must make.

 So if you're going to back up your data for an extra layer of protection - here's what you need to consider before diving into the rabbit hole.

 Sponsored Posts Links: Provides a modern Office 365 backup solution including full Teams support, SharePoint, OneDrive profile metadata, sharing permissions, and many other advanced and modern features.

 Stop and think first

If you were in the 90s, you will remember the hit game Rodents.  Based on mythical creatures following each other on cliff edges inside Amiga 500s circuit boards, these pixel-based animals will do whatever the mouse tells them as long as they walk left or right.

 If you have a salesperson who uses horror stories about Microsoft 365 data loss to sell you a backup product - before you sign on the dotted line make sure you're not Lemming, and let me be the mouse that builds the bridge so you can safely avoid falling off the cliff.

 So, if you're set to back up Microsoft 365 using a third-party tool, make sure your eyes are wide open and you know the red flags to watch for, and the limitations that all services have, so at least you know what you like and what you won't get.

 Keep your eyes on the red flags

 Fortunately, most of the Microsoft 365 backup vendors are decent companies that try to provide useful products that fit niche needs.  There is no seller I've come across that gives misinformation about what their tool can or can't do either.

 Red flags are more subtle and obvious.  The biggest red flag to watch with any fallback resource is the one that uses a statement like this:

 Section 6 of the Microsoft Services Agreement states: “We recommend that you regularly back up your content and data . . . using third-party apps and services.”

 If you see this statement on the seller's website, play it and don't look back.  This means that the seller either:

  •  trying to mislead you

  •  Incompetent enough to read the wrong service agreement

 A seller who sells Microsoft 365 backup products for businesses obviously isn't trying to sell you a product to back up your personal Hotmail, OneDrive, or Xbox Live data, right?  So - why are they citing Microsoft's Consumer Services Agreement, rather than offering a Business and Enterprise Services Agreement.  Check it here and scroll down to our list of Covered Services or FAQs that clearly state that “The Microsoft Services Agreement does not apply to products and services for business customers, including Microsoft 365 for business, education, government customers, Azure, Yammer, or Skype for Business  ."

Mistakes like this are often interpreted as incompetence, but if they studied the convention in enough detail to pick out this text, surely Bing, Xbox, and other big titles would have given them pause for thought?  Who knows - I'll let you decide for yourself.

 Next in the list of red flags - look at the services that the backup vendor offers for backup and restore.  If it claims to be an Office 365 backup product, but only covers Online Exchange, you should ask several questions:

  •  What year is this?  Did you accidentally travel back in time to 2011?

  •  Why does this vendor cover only one Microsoft 365 service?  Don't they know it includes other services that can be backed up and restored?

 There is one exception to the rule here, and that is Mail Continuity Services.  They're getting a pass here because they offer what is essentially not a backup product, but a continuity product, but they're trying to capture the market to pass the commerce in search of Office 365 backup products.  And unlike a traditional backup product, you can use the email continuity service almost immediately if you're having problems accessing Exchange online.

 Other traditional backup vendors, though, especially those with a rich local history and customer base, will have at some point in the past, one suspects, have updated their "brick-level" backup product in Exchange On-Premises  To work with Exchange Online and then stamp "Office 365 backup" on the product page and spend more time selling it to customers than actually developing the product.  Products like this will probably join the aforementioned rodents and disappear from a cliff - but they won't until people stop buying them.

 Restrictions that all Microsoft Backup Vendors must adhere to

 Microsoft 365 is primarily a SaaS (Software as a Service) product, and in the last article, I explained how to buy a service using a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that is designed and engineered to save a lot of your data.

 Microsoft now designs the service as a cloud-first and in many cases, like Teams, for example, there is no on-premises equivalent and no full-featured native migration API.  This simply means that you can't completely backup or restore Microsoft 365, like most other true SaaS offerings.

You can backup services including:

  •  Online Exchange

  •  SharePoint Online

  •  OneDrive for Business

  •  Microsoft Teams channel conversations

  •  Planner and data in OneDrive and SharePoint for services like Forms

  •  Configure the tenant that can be applied using PowerShell or Graph API

  •  Audit logs and other data, although it is usually captured by a dedicated product

 A backup product is useless if you can't restore.  Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams is a service that is difficult to restore even though the data can be extracted.  With production APIs, the best service you can achieve is a primitive recovery of messages by posting messages back into a channel as a service account.

 And beware that some products in the "backup" teams on the market by taking a copy of the journal messages to Exchange Online means that a restore is more unlikely, and some items not captured for compliance will not be included.

 Most cloud-based SaaS backup vendors cover your Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams data.  Very few, if any - I think only one vendor - covers Planner data, and there are other ways, such as using PowerShell scripts, to capture the global configuration separately.

 The second key limitation you need to be aware of is data transfer speeds.  If you migrate to Microsoft 365, you'll understand how long data migrations can take.  If your data volumes have increased since the migration, it will take too long to restore the entire site or mailbox, and it is almost certain that a full data recovery will not fit into the common internal SLAs that govern data recovery.  Even if you backup to a third-party service, it may be "hello" only if the original recovery tools fail.

 For an insight into the limitations, Microsoft's Migration Performance Guide provides a good indication of the best restore times you should expect to see;  Although it's talking about migration, remember that the same APIs are used.  Since you'll often recover Office files, the "average" figure of 1 TB per day is reasonable.  If you consider that 100 terabytes of data in a small or medium-sized tenant is not unusual, you can do the math and determine potential restore times.

Almost certainly the best way to mitigate some of the potential restore time issues is to use a cloud-based SaaS backup service.  While this opens questions about security and compliance in the backup service itself - as many won't have the same Microsoft resources to secure their service - it provides a measure to ensure consistent migration performance that will not be hampered by on-premises infrastructure.

Essentially, understanding the limitations of each backup product is critical before choosing a product, and after examining the products in the market, remember that for most companies in all industries, you likely don't need to choose a backup product.  So, examine what's available in the market and the true capabilities of each, discard the brochure and focus on technical capabilities - then re-examine what Microsoft 365 offers as part of the service and make an informed decision.

 The post Getting Started with Backing Up Data in Microsoft 365, Understanding the LimitationsGetting Started with Backing Up Data in Microsoft 365, Understanding the Limitations, first appeared on Petri.

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