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Microsoft 365 Backup Solutions and Tools in 2021

  • June 3, 2021, Rob Morrison

Overview

Ongoing digitalization within organizations affects each and every aspect of both our regular lives and the way companies operate their business. One of the most important assets of any company is its data, and the question of data protection is potentially more important than almost anything else for the organization in question.

As one of the biggest SaaS solutions on the market, Microsoft 365 offers a variety of cloud-based services to companies, from mailboxes to video conferences, file sharing, and more. However, the aforementioned problem of enterprise-grade data backup and recovery still exists inside of this platform, despite its technical strengths.

Microsoft 365 and data-related challenges

As multifunctional as it is, Microsoft 365 is still not a dedicated backup and recovery solution. And this difference typically makes it impossible for M365 itself to completely safeguard your data from some of the more enterprise-related challenges, such as:

  • Requirements for your retention policy
  • Internal security threats
  • External security threats
  • Compliance-related issues
  • API lock-in
  • Accidental data deletion

Generally speaking, the problem of poorly defined data protection strategies is remarkably common in this context. The main issue here is that a lot of people tend to misunderstand the exact responsibilities of Microsoft as a software provider, or even confuse the Service Level Agreement for a data backup strategy, leading to a high potential for critical data loss as a result.

Microsoft 365 and its responsibilities

This is an important point to address since a lot of companies not just expect Microsoft to protect the entirety of their data in the M365 service, but also think it is Microsoft’s responsibility to do so in the first place. In reality, the division between the responsibilities of Microsoft and the end user’s responsibilities is quite clear and concise.

Generally speaking, the main responsibility of Microsoft in the context of your cloud data is to provide a constant uptime with high availability. Practice shows that this is the point that Microsoft takes very seriously, storing your data within multiple different geographically related data centers near you. That way, they achieve a high level of availability, making sure that your data is still available even if one of the data centers is affected by some sort of a disaster, whether man-made or natural.

Additionally, Microsoft takes up the role of a data processor when it comes to your data – which includes regulatory controls, industry compliance certifications, data privacy, and so on. Their security responsibilities are purely physical – including app-level security, logical security, and many controls for regular employees and administrators.

With that in mind, it’s also important to mention that Microsoft 365’s built-in data replication capabilities are fairly basic and heavily limited by its nature – Recycle Bin is one of them, and geo-redundancy is also on the list. While it is possible to work with just this set of tools for some of your data-related concerns, it is rather more suitable for smaller businesses, at most – when you don’t have the funds to afford an extensive data protection solution that would be easier to manage and work with.

That being said, this is as far as M365 backup responsibilities go – the rest is on the client’s shoulders, including accessing and controlling business data, ensuring data retention, backup capabilities, protecting data from both internal and external threats, mitigating risks, and so on.

Main reasons to have a dedicated backup system for M365 data

Surprisingly enough, not having a third-party backup system for your M365 data gives rise to a lot of issues of different caliber, from security concerns to deployment conflicts. The biggest potential reasons to have an M365 backup system are listed below:

  • Internal and external security threats. While the problem of external security issues still exists to this day in the form of various ransomware, malware, and so on – the problem of internal threats is also important to keep in mind. Internal threats are the ones that start from the inside, be it from a disgruntled employee (or an ex-employee), some sort of accidental leak or deletion, or simple permission mismanagement.
  • Legal and/or compliance-related problems. Legal action is something that everyone strives to avoid, but when it does happen, can bring significant problems and expense for the company in question. Even a need as simple as the retrieval of specific files that were previously deleted is much easier to resolve when you have enterprise-grade third-party backups with versioning support ready and at hand.
  • Retention. While Microsoft does offer its 90-day data storage policy, that is typically still not enough to properly cover all of an organization’s data retention-related needs - such as compliance requirements, data exporting, and other, more demanding or sophisticated tasks. Granted, this is a problem that varies heavily, depending on the field of work and responsibilities of the organization, but it is still significant enough to be a problem for a lot of companies.
  • Hybrid deployment. Surprisingly enough, M365 adoption is also one of the topics on this list. The adoption of a cloud system requires some sort of a transitional time period, which is needed for the company to transfer its data from offline storage to a cloud one. Some companies even leave a part of their data on-side for added flexibility, and the only way to operate such a system properly is to have a dedicated backup solution that treats all of the data equally.

This brings us to the matter of choosing the correct backup solution for your company.

Features to look for in your third-party backup system

Luckily enough, the backup solution market is vast and varied, meaning that you should be able to find a solution that works best for your specific case. However, there is a list of features that any M365 backup solution should have to be at its best, and we highly recommend that decision-makers at least know about these factors before choosing their solution.

  • Extensive security. The overall security of your company would be readily and significantly increased by having a backup solution that is designed to be especially robust against ransomware, malware and internal misuse.
  • Scalability. Another important feature is to have the elasticity to scale both up and down to meet the business’s and the market’s demands.
  • M365 backup integration. The backup solution should have broad integration capabilities into not just M365, but all other IT environments within the organization. This should include integration into pending or possible new technologies in the organization's IT infrastructure, for example new kinds of virtual machines, or containers.
  • Additional features. Even though backup solutions, in general, can offer a wide variety of different features, there are some that tend to be especially important – some examples would be incremental backup, granular recovery, automation, and policy-based retention.
  • Flexibility. Aside from the previously mentioned scalability requirements, the backup solution should give an organization the freedom to be able to choose whichever cloud or clouds it prefers. The same goes for various on-premise storage-types and locations. No organization should allow itself to become restricted in its future choices.

Best Microsoft 365 backup solutions

As we’ve mentioned before, the market for backup solutions is vast and varied, and a lot of those solutions offer Microsoft Office 365 backup and recovery capabilities. However, it is possible to figure out a list of 10 best Microsoft 365 backup solutions (in a random order, without ranking, since each of these 10 has their own advantages that change depending on the need in question). We presenting this list below:

  • Carbonite

Carbonite Backup is a data solution that provides comprehensive Office 365 cloud backup capabilities for all of the M365 apps. Carbonite’s solution is capable of administrating sites, performing both massive and granular recoveries (including email communications), and much more. The entirety of backed-up data is encrypted automatically and is stored on secondary Azure cloud storage, providing one of the best services on the market.

  • Rubrik

Rubrik Polaris is a SaaS-based backup platform that offers instant data recovery for O365 applications for hybrid cloud enterprises, combined with granular restoration capabilities and extensive search tools. Extensive centralized data management for administrators is also included in the package, as well as one more feature – Polaris Radar. Radar is a machine learning system that looks for suspicious activity inside of the entire client’s system, capable of detecting and preventing various threats before they can actually damage the data.

  • Veeam

Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 is a solution that puts flexibility as its main advantage. Both the backup and the restoration processes can adapt to many different situations, offering up to 25 different ways to restore your data – from full recovery to granular file-level restoration. The same could be said for the variety of data storage locations that are supported – no matter if you decide to use the on-premise storage or one of the many supported cloud ones. All of that is packed in a user-friendly interface that is easy to operate but might seem slightly complicated to set up initially.

  • Commvault

Intelligent and scalable solutions are the main focus of Commvault as a whole, and their Backup & Recovery Solution is no exception. Commvault is capable of automating the entirety of file retention processes, making them policy-driven and intelligent. The encryption to the data is applied by default, and deduplication is there to improve the efficiency of your storage via deleting duplicate files. While the first setup might be somewhat complicated, the result of it all in the form of a powerful multifunctional backup system is more than worth the trouble.

  • Altaro

Altaro Office 365 Backup tools are represented by a solution that mostly works with OneDrive and SharePoint, storing and backing up both regular files and mailboxes. Both granular and full restoration can be efficiently launched from a centralized management console, and secure Azure infrastructure is used as secure second storage for your important files. Granular recovery can also be used not only for your files but for the mailbox contents, as well. This includes the ability to restore the content to either the original mailbox or a new one. The company’s customer support is also nothing to scoff at, working 24/7 to be able to solve all of the customers’ issues with as little response time as possible.

  • SolarWinds

SolarWinds is a cloud-based solution for both virtual and physical servers, offering backup and recovery features and compatible with cloud, on-premise, and even hybrid organization structures, including Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365 data backup). SolarWinds has their own global private cloud storage that is used to keep your backups safe, and it also means that the platform itself requires no hardware to install in the first place. The option to create your own backups is also available through this platform, along with a unified dashboard, backup scheduling, backup types, automation options, and more.

  • Dell EMC

PowerProtect Data Manager is one of the Office 365 backup options from Dell Technologies that focuses on backup and recovery operations with multiple features, such as data deduplication, data protection, automated discovery, and many other features to protect your company’s working environment, be it physical, virtual, or hybrid. While it is more suitable for larger enterprises and might have some troubles managing hybrid deployments, it is still a great contender on the list of backup and recovery solutions for Microsoft Office 365.

  • Acronis

Acronis Cyber Backup is a backup and recovery solution with many different features and a dedicated Office 365 cloud backup support. Aside from your regular backup and recovery features, Acronis offers ransomware protection via AI-based authenticity verification for backed-up files before they’re restored. There’s also a Cyber Backup management console that is web-based and can be accessed from basically anywhere. The solution itself is industry-targeted, focusing on healthcare, automotive, government, and energy industries, and is generally widely popular in these markets.

  • Druva

Druva Phoenix is a cloud-native backup solution that secures a company’s data from various risks, from ransomware to insider threats. It can also scale to a company’s size, has an automatic restoration feature, and can notify users of various predicted data risks. Data compliance can be easily monitored with this solution, since the retention policy is the same for all of them, and the dashboard of the solution is multifunctional and user-friendly. No hardware installation is required, and the deployment time can be as short as 10 to 20 minutes after the purchase.

  • Bacula Enterprise

Bacula Enterprise offers vast backup and recovery-related capabilities for a large number of Microsoft 365 services, such as OneDrive, Calendars, Contacts, SharePoint Online, Emails, Mailbox settings, OneNote, etc. Bacula’s complete feature list is long and extensive, covering most of the possible use cases with Microsoft 365. Some of the features included in the package are:

  • Full, Differential and Incremental backups;
  • Mailbox backup and restore;
  • Granular file restore;
  • OneDrive document library backup and restoration;
  • Scalability from small to very large enterprises;
  • Broad tape and other storage compatibility options
  • Large range of Hypervisor-type and container compatibility
  • Advanced deduplication technologies
  • Especially robust design against ransomware
  • Disruptive licensing model for large organizations using M365

Conclusion

Be sure to plan adequately for tomorrow’s needs and use best practices to protect against ransomware. The importance of a backup strategy when it comes to Microsoft Office 365 and, accordingly, the various backup solutions available are significant for nearly all relevant enterprises. However, a good number of solutions are available to choose from and it should not be too hard to find an M365 backup solution (formerly O365 backup solutions) that correctly meets the needs of your company.

About the author

Rob Morrison Rob on LinkedIn

Rob Morrison is the marketing director at Bacula Systems. He started his IT marketing career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, performing strongly in various marketing management roles for almost 10 years. In the next 10 years Rob also held various marketing management positions in JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho ensuring market share growth for these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Honours Digital Media and Communications degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.

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