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Do I need to back up my Microsoft 365 data?

08/11/2022 - Information Technology

Many businesses are moving their data to Microsoft 365, whether it is email on Exchange Online, or documents on SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive. One of the most common questions we are asked is how they are backed up. What people often dont realise is that Microsoft only has basic data retention policies. In short, Microsoft doesnt fully back up your data.

Microsoft provide a fantastic, scalable platform to store and access data. The Microsoft 365 systems have resilience built in, with features such as Geo-Redundancy, providing protection from server and network outages. However this should not be seen as a replacement for proper, independent backups.

Even Microsoft themselves make clear in their service agreement that they "recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services." And to emphasis the point - they say that if they have an outage "Microsoft is not liable for any disruption of loss you may suffer as a result". (Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/servicesagreement)

Why do we back up data?

This sounds like a simple question - but answering this explains why Microsofts resilience is not enough.

We backup documents so that we can recover them if they are lost - whether accidentally or maliciously. Sometimes you will know straight away that you have deleted something by mistake, or overwritten an important document with a new document. When this happens - the recycle bin or previous versions are quick and easy ways to restore data.

If it is spotted straight away you can use the inbuilt recovery tools to get your data back, but often missing information isnt spotted until it is too late. Some reports suggest that the average length of time from data compromise to discovery is over 140 days. That’s a long time. There is a strong chance that you won’t notice something is missing or gone until it’s too late for the recycle bin.

What are the risks?
We receive requests to the helpdesk to try and find emails that no longer exist in a users inbox, but the person is sure they were there before.  And we have also had calls from clients who have gone to look at their SharePoint document, only to find it has been overwritten or corrupted.

Most of the time such issues are accidental, but there is also the risk of disgruntled employees just hitting the delete button. Ransomware and other viruses continue to cause serious damage to organisations (and their data) across the world.

Another consideration for many organisations is Legal Compliance. Some business sectors have requirements to retain and safely protect certain documents for specified time periods, particularly with regards to legal and financial transactions. Often disputes can happen months or years after a transaction or incident has happened, and being able to ensure access relevant emails and documents can be critical in such cases.


So the answer is simple: Yes, you do need to back up your Microsoft 365 data. Its your data and your responsibility.

If you’re using Microsoft 365, you will want to ensure you’re deploying a backup solution to enhance the basic protection included with Microsoft 365 – one that offers protection against unnecessary risks and data loss.  That’s why 4Cambridge offer a service a full backup service for Microsoft 365 content, completely independent from the Microsoft 365 infrastructure.  Emails are backed up every few hours and retained for up to 7 years.  This means that even if you accidentally delete an email today you may still be able to retrieve it in a few years time.  SharePoint and OneDrive data are also automatically backed up daily, giving protection for files in these systems as well.