Backing up the cloud

Tech is all about buzzwords.  Currently, everything is about artificial intelligence, augmented reality and machine learning.  In prior years, it was all about moving to the cloud, virtual working environments and connectivity.

Most businesses now have moved over to the cloud in some form or another and are using a wide variety of products where data is stored off site in data centres or in the “cloud” as it is commonly called.  Products our clients use vary from accounting systems such as Xero or Quickbooks, CRM systems like Salesforce as well as the more everyday Dropbox or even Office 365, a product we have implemented over 200 times for clients in the past year alone, migrating over 50,000 mailboxes!

One of the things we have noted is that people seem to think that different rules apply in the cloud and recent reports suggest that an astonishing 1 in 3 companies report losing data stored in cloud-based applications, effectively resulting in the permanent deletion of potentially hundreds of work hours or loss of business-critical information.

We have produced a simple three-question checklist for our team to consider when implementing cloud based technologies:

  • Can a user accidentally delete or overwrite a file / email / contact?
  • If a user leaves can we prevent their emails or files from leaving with them?
  • How is the organisation protected from ransomware attacks?

Only when our team can outline the processes in place can they proceed, or alternatively we generate an exception report to our clients highlighting the risk that data could deleted or corrupted and the potential for lost data, lost time and lost revenue.

But, Office 365 products are safe right?

What has become increasingly evident is that clients assume that data in cloud-based applications such as Office 365 is completely safe.  Whilst as a package it certainly has more protection than many in-house servers which are still in operation because, inherently, it is always up to date and is not hosted on one particular bit of kit, it is still vulnerable to:

  • Malware damage or ransomware attacks because they target users rather than the hardware infrastructure and as cloud applications have increased so has the sophistication of the potential hackers.
  • Accidental end-user deletion where a user deletes a file or particular email – and whilst there are some safeguards in place, such as a time limited delete folder, if it’s a document or similar then just as on a PC, when its gone its gone.
  • Malicious user activity such as leaving employees deleting files or all of their emails.
  • Operational errors such as accidental data overwrites.
  • Lost data due to cancelled account subscriptions.

So the answer to most of our clients questions is that no, Office 365 core product offers a lot but it still doesn’t provide what we consider to be business level cover to protect against many or all of the above risks.

Why, because Office 365’s built-in backup is insufficient!

Office 365 does include basic restore capabilities but we have found them to be lacking in a number of ways:

  • Data loss due to inactive licenses – As you would expect, an active Office 365 license is required to access the data and if you don’t keep the licence active then it will be de-provisioned and that data is permanently deleted with no rollback option once an account has been removed.
  • Data loss due to permanent deletion – When data is deleted, it’s kept for 93 days. After that time it is automatically and permanently deleted with no rollback option.
  • Data loss when restoring files – Under a basic backup the only option is to restore at the same location which means an overwrite of whatever data currently exists whether it’s a newer file with more recent data or not.
  • Time lost contacting Microsoft Support – Many of your/our options under a standard plan require contacting Microsoft which is both time consuming and frustrating as it can take days to get a complete response and often be unsuccessful.

One client that recently signed up to us sadly was at the mercy of several of these problems.  A user had left the business and after an slight issue with a customer it became apparent that the user account had lapsed and the critical information they needed was held, against policy on their email account.

After 5 days of chasing Microsoft support they were finally informed that the account data had been deleted and they were unable to recover what they needed. Suddenly they recognised the value of having proper backups and came to us for help.

So what are the options?

There are a number of options available and we are always happy to talk to clients or prospective clients about what best matches their needs from full disaster recovery solutions through to our Microsoft back up plan which, at £2 per mailbox pcm, delivers the following, specifically designed for businesses who use the Office 365 environment:

  • Microsoft Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Calendars and Contacts are automatically backed up 3 times every day.
  • Old accounts are archived, saving you money on licenses without ever losing any data.
  • Data is backed up indefinitely, so you can go back as far as you want to recover data.
  • The service is administered and supported by Systemagic’s team, meaning recovering data is fast and pain free. No need to wait for Microsoft as on average we have data back within 11 minutes!

The key thing is that all backups are stored in a secure data centre and data is encrypted both in transit and in storage.   For those clients working in regulated environments, or undergoing audits for GDPR or data protection, the solution supports HIPPA compliance and is SOC 2 Type II audited so you can be assured that your data is safe, secure and even helps you to become compliant with industry standards.

So perhaps you should give it some thought and think about how secure your current cloud data environment is, and put in place measures which can stop data being blown away!

Incidentally we’ve focussed on Office 365 as that’s what most of our clients use.  The Systemagic back up system works just as well with G-Suite, and our agency clients are starting to use it, as well as Salesforce which we have already had a number of back up installs from as overzealous sales and marketing administrators delete business critical data.

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