Microsoft 365 – To backup or not to backup?

To backup or not to backup in Microsoft 365, is that a question?

In Architecture and Design sessions we do with clients, we often get the question “Microsoft 365, backup or not?”

Backup Software vendors would like you to believe that their software is always necessary if you use Microsoft 365, but I advocate a decision based on facts and therefore Requirements of the organization. The “that’s how we do it now” (often in the pre-cloud era) is not a strong argument in my opinion.

In my opinion, backup requirements should at least be about:

  • Availability of data in the event of an outage (network failure, hardware failure, cyber-attack, etc.) – this also includes fallback, fail-over, multiple data centers, etc.

  • Availability of data for regulatory reasons – Comply with laws, regulations and / or industry standards by keeping AND deleting relevant data, especially also in your backups

  • Circumvent the “Oops I’ve deleted this – can you bring it back” user question, being able to retrieve “that one important Excel file from 2 months ago” 

Three completely different things, but traditionally often filled in with a Backup (and Restore! – don’t forget to test the latter) solution.

However, Microsoft 365 already has related functionality by default that you can use without investing in a backup solution:

  • Availability of data according to the Microsoft Service Descriptions (link)

  • Recycle Bin in OneDrive, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint – users can retrieve filesfor up to 93 days (link)

  • Versioning in SharePoint Online (and therefore also in OneDrive and Microsoft Teams) – with which you can easily retrieve previous versions of documents (link)

  • Litigation Hold – for storage of information for legal reasons and against legal conditions (“immutable”) – not suitable as a backup replacement! (link)

  • OneDrive “Point-in-Time” Restore (for example in case of a Cyber Attack) (link)

You can arrange a lot with the above functionality. Only if you have tailored requirements recognized by the business that cannot be fulfilled with Microsoft 365, would you want to purchase an additional Backup solution.

And last but not least; do you really need to be able to restore data beyond the period of 93 days for all the users in your organization?