What is Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive?
Although backups and archives have existed since computers were invented, Microsoft announced its newest solutions, Microsoft 365 (M365) Backup and Archive, that provide innovative ways for businesses to backup, restore, and archive data while staying within M365's trust boundary and security protocols. Both M365 Backup and Archive will be available for public preview toward the end of 2023.
M365 Backup enables users to create backups for large volumes of data in OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange. Whether you want to back up and restore discrete elements or entire accounts, specific settings enable a high degree of customization within the M365 admin center. Backups can be automatically created at least once every hour after setting some initial parameters and are stored in Microsoft's own data centers. Once created, backups can be searched and filtered by file type, user, and other parameters—and then restored to their original location.
M365 Archive enables users to store SharePoint files efficiently and cost-effectively in an archival format without moving them to external storage locations. Businesses can keep their M365 data organized and archived properly as they expand and use more storage space. M365 Archive enables administrators to set parameters for retention policies, allowing a company's data to be handled effortlessly, effectively, and consistently in SharePoint.
Why is data storage so crucial for my business?
Small business owners often undervalue the importance of data storage because they believe they can manage it the same way they manage data (think emails, photos, passwords, etc.) in their personal lives. Even though simple cloud-based services like Gmail work well for personal use, they are rarely the optimal solution for businesses. Sam Blowes, Director of IT at Bit-Wizards, likens it to a business owner using their sedan to haul dirt for their construction company.
"Your 15-year-old Ford Focus can get you between your house and office, but that doesn't mean you should try handling construction projects with your car instead of a dump truck," Blowes says. “Personal solutions for data may work for your family’s information, but your company’s information needs to be treated differently.”
What are the most common data storage issues for businesses?
Even though proper data storage is imperative for any company, most business owners have yet to learn the fundamentals of how to securely and efficiently handle their information. Of all the mistakes companies make in storing data, two core issues persist across industries: storing data in fewer than three locations and failing to test restoring backups after creating them.
For many individuals, personal files are typically stored in one or two places. A great example is photos taken on a digital camera or mobile device. In terms of one or two storage locations, the device you use to take pictures is the first; any cloud storage like iCloud or Google Photos connected to the device would be a second location. Even though two storage locations may seem thorough enough, it provides a false sense of security for businesses.
"If I were a professional photographer, I would take the photos from my camera's SD card and immediately back them up in two other places," says Blowes. "That way, I know I can safely work with those photos and recover the original files if something happened to them."
Blowes emphasizes the importance of storing backups in two other places that are physically apart. Many businesses may have taken the first steps and are performing regular server backups to an external hard drive connected to the server via USB or the network. The digital backup provides security, but the false sense of security comes into play again because the physical locations of both sets of data are essentially the same. If your business were to suffer from a catastrophic fire, the hard drive with your backups would then melt into the back of your server, meaning all your data would be lost. It also keeps all your data handily convenient for any would-be hacker or light-fingered visitor.
The second most prolific issue is that companies create backups but do not learn how to restore them or test the restoration process. Depending on how much data your business deals with, restoring your operations with a backup could take significant time and effort that you need to be prepared for.
"Thinking the backup itself will work without restoration is like dumping a box of Lego pieces onto a table and calling it a complete build," Blowes says. "All the parts are there, but they are not a solution unless you add the process of incorporating the backups into a new system."
For savvy businesses that implement robust backups, expenses can quickly build, primarily based on two factors: the recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO). An RPO refers to the maximum amount of data a business can tolerate losing between an incident and the last backup. In contrast, an RTO refers to the target period of downtime it would take to restore your company's data with a backup after an incident.
For businesses that need to back up high volumes of data frequently, RPOs might be as short as every minute. On the same note, companies that cannot afford to deal with even short service outages will need a shorter RTO. The more frequently a backup updates and the quicker it takes to restore that backup, the more expensive it is for a business to accommodate minimized data loss and downtime.
What's the difference between backing up and archiving data?
Although some use the terms "backup" and "archive" interchangeably, the two are significantly different. It is essential that business owners understand the difference between the two components of their company’s data.
A backup is intended to restore data your business actively uses. It takes a snapshot of your data and stores it securely until your company needs to replace lost or damaged information. Regulated industries usually require companies to maintain a certain number of backups at specific frequencies, and failing to follow regulations can lead to significant consequences. Without backups, crucial operational data can be lost, leading to legal issues.
"If a city is required to hold onto city council meeting minutes and loses them after a ransomware attack, they're still required by law to provide that document for public record," says Blowes. "Even if a cyberattack is why they can't provide those minutes, the city is still on the hook."
Regulated industries aren't the only ones who benefit from backups. Any organization that deals with personal or financial customer information should lean on backups to avoid procedural headaches and potential legal trouble. When a company loses billing information, they have no ground to stand on when customers dispute billing records that weren't backed up.
In contrast, an archive is designed to store data that your business doesn't actively use but needs to retain. While backups typically also include a company's archived data, especially in regulated industries, archived data are not a primary concern in backup solutions. Compared to backups, it is much more straightforward to access archived data. When used properly, businesses use archives to store important older files out of the way so employees can focus on current clients and their information.
"If you can archive ‘stale’ data, you're not paying a premium to have all that information running and readily accessible at your fingertips in the system," Blowes explains. "Even though you may not need quick access to all 15 years' worth of your financial data to run your company, it's important to store it properly."
Unfortunately for businesses, many perceive backups and archives as unimportant, especially if they have yet to experience significant data loss. Brian Schlechter, Managed IT Services (MITS) Technical Team Manager at Bit-Wizards, says many businesses make the mistake of getting rid of backups and archives to save money, leading to additional expenses related to downtime.
"This is the first place people will try to save money, even though it's the worst place to do so," says Schlechter. "They'll think they don't need backups because their computers haven't crashed, and it'll be too late before they realize that choice was costly instead of cost-effective."
How can M365 Backup and Archive help businesses?
In understanding the importance of business continuity in everyday operations or disaster recovery after a hurricane or fire, Microsoft is offering businesses key advantages through M365 Backup and Archive. Backup offers frequent RPOs and minimal RTOs, allowing users to maintain business operations at unprecedented speeds. Archive provides the ability to handle data properly by following a consistent archiving policy and being able to access archived data within 24 hours.
Instead of taking several days to restore backups or archived information in the wake of massive data loss, companies that need to revive vast amounts of data can do so within a day after a few clicks. Schlechter explains that these actions are easier and more secure since they all operate within Microsoft's programs in the cloud.
"If you're managing a truly redundant and secure on-premises solution, your backups and archives are running on three separate sets of hardware managed by three sets of staff," Schlechter says. "By using Microsoft 365 and its built-in tools for archiving and backing up your company's data, you can bypass the extra expenses while still promoting resiliency."
Connecting to Microsoft 365 with Bit-Wizards
Whether your business is more concerned with business continuity or disaster recovery, it's crucial to consider the implications of both elements. The cloud is essential for both components, and Bit-Wizards can help you fortify your company's business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Our Managed IT Services can connect you to the cloud by migrating your business to Office 365, all while providing support to increase your productivity, promote resiliency, and give you peace of mind.
Ready to get started? Contact us today.