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Is Microsoft Backing Up Your Cloud Data?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to cloud data and backups.

Most people assume that the cloud inherently backs up there data. If you are using SharePoint, OneDrive, O365, or some other cloud-based data storage solution, you might be surprised to learn that your data isn’t really backed up.

What do I mean by not ‘really backed up’?

Yes, you have a copy of your data in the cloud and if you have a disaster in your office you very well will be able to access that information somewhere else. But there are some very real concerns where simply relying on your cloud solution to recover lost data will get you into hot water.

Consider the following scenario:

Imagine you have a quarterly report that’s due next week. You’ve been working on compiling a bunch of numbers and collaborating on the document with a variety of colleagues inside and outside of your office. The day before it’s due, you delete the file from your shared folder (you had thought you copied and pasted it into another location, but mistakenly removed it entirely).

By deleting that file from the folder, you updated the cloud file storage to remove that file as well. There is no back up of what you have—everything is synced, meaning any errors, changes, or deletes that you make are permanently made. There are NO re-dos when it comes to restoring your cloud-based files if you simply are using a cloud file management tool.

Moral of this story: the cloud isn’t exactly a golden bullet when it comes to recovering data.

Data protection planning is actually a bit more complex of a process than many of us realize. It is critical that you and your team understands the ways in which your data are protected and determine what best suit’s your needs.

In data protection and management, we typically think of backups in a variety of ways. Here are 3 common scenarios:

Disaster recovery—In the event of software, hardware, or network failure, you have copies of your data (and databases) to enable a fast failover where little to no data is lost and you are able to resume work quickly. Disaster recovery can account for individual computers, servers, and data centers all the way to multiple network locations.

Recovery of a deleted item—like above, a user deletes an item that they actually need later. Typically a file recovery will be a point in time, where you require a file be restored from a particular point in time. If your organization backs up its data at regular intervals, you should be able to restore a file that accidentally gets deleted.

Archiving—Backups have also been used as an archive to preserve a point-in-time snapshot of all the data on your network. This typically is required by compliance requirements. You might also have certain retention policies that requires you to retain messages, emails or communications to ensure specific policy compliance.

Just to be clear: Microsoft even admits that their products—such as O365—do not backup your data. In their end user licensing agreement, Microsoft lays out their policy when it comes to data backups. They do not take responsibility for them. They, in fact, suggest that you backup your data using a third party backup solution just to make sure your data is backed up and accounted for, so that deleted files, lost accounts, or other disasters do not impact what you have stored in the cloud.

Take a look at this very pertinent section of O365’s agreement:

“We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.”

Just as I said above, cloud-based solutions—in this case Microsoft’s Office 365 solution—does not back up your data. If you suffer an outage, delete a file, or have some disruption to their cloud-based service and cannot retrieve files, you are solely responsible for restoring your files.

Even if you are extremely careful about the data you decide to delete, there are other very real ways that you can permanently lose data:

  • Ransomware attacks
  • Disgruntled employees
  • Third party applications not syncing properly
  • Employee errors

If you do not have an additional backup solution in place and your account got into the wrong hands or if something out of your control impacted data loss, you may have an irreversible situation on your hands.

Something to consider: A backup solution for your cloud-based platforms.

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