Backup & DR

In M365 We Trust

Written by Andrew Vize

We take for granted the huge productivity and communication benefits of M365’s suite of desktop applications – even though famously, we only use a fraction of their full functionality. Whether it be ‘Teams’ connecting remote employees through video conferencing and supporting collaborations; ‘Outlook’ e-mail, scheduling and task management; the sheer volume of functionality behind the humble ‘Word’ word processor, or entire industries based around ‘Excel’ with its dazzling mathematical, statistical and data analysis capabilities.

These, now ubiquitous, tools are a standard across the world. Sure, we use additional specialist or line of business toolsets for the specifics of our work and industries but for most people. Starting a new job, sitting down at your new computer and not finding those familiar icons would be disarming and disorientating.

Organisations rely on these tools as the basic building blocks of productivity, knowledge management and value creation. We communicate, analyse, transact and create intellectual property – the currency of most service organisations, as well as in increasing part of next generation, intelligent ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ industry analytics and optimisation.

Oh, it’s hung…

In short, M365’s extensive usage is because it helps create value for organisations, and we rely on it – sometimes too much. We have all experience the anguish of a software ‘hang’ at the near completion of a major report – usually just before the deadline. Thankfully, the recovery rate has improved over time, but it is still a nerve-racking experience and frustrating if you have to recreate your earlier insight and inspiration under duress.

This is just one of the scenarios which threaten your hard-fought communications, analyses, reports and documents. See our common threat list here. <Link to campaign web page.>

Data governance is corporate governance

At an organisational level – corporate data not only has significant innate value as intellectual property, intelligence and commerciality, but a wider significance in terms of legality and compliance. We must maintain and demonstrate responsible governance of personal information under GDPR. Our communications through e-mail are legally sensitive and admissible as evidence. Many organisations are subject to specific industry regulations whether financial, security or commercial. This means data must fulfil two roles – internal to that organisation and externally as evidence of good practise, compliance, legality and responsible governance.

Handle with care…

Drawing these themes together, M365 helps creates valuable and important data but critically what M365 does not do, or was even intended to do, is provide disaster recovery or business continuity. Many organisations continue to generate information at an unprecedented rate without consideration of what happens in the event of data loss. When disaster strikes – and our assumptions are challenged we start asking key questions, “does the organisation back-up our data?”, “does Microsoft back it up?”, “when can I get it back?”, and “how!?”.

Leave it to Microsoft?

Well the answer in Microsoft’s basic licencing is that they’ll only guarantee 90% of your data for 30 days. There are more extensive licensing options with more protection but not every mid-market organisation wants to invest to an enterprise level. They also fall short in some good practise such as storing a full copy of your data in a separate physical instance geographically remote to your organisation’s locations. Their restoration process can be very cumbersome too without the ability to target specific files or e-mails.

This level is unlikely to be enough for any compliant or business critical service. It leaves too much to uncertainty and fate. It doesn’t represent good governance of sensitive or valuable data either internally within and organisation as risk management and governance, or externally to most formal regulatory frameworks.

Good data governance

So, what is the conclusion? Back it up. Continuously, completely and consistently. Make recovery quick, easy and reliable. Build this process into internal procedures and corporate governance as part of regulatory audits. So, with this principle (re-)established, we’re now a generation beyond relying on users their network drives on a file by file basis.

There are myriad forms of corporate data and the vectors through which information is generated with M365 – through Teams interactions, videos, calls and collaborations, e-mail communications and attachments as well as the older desktop productivity tools. To increase the challenge, the volume and rate at which new information is created, updates or arrives in an organisation means an organisation’s entire Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive datastores needs to be backed up continuously.

Get back to where you once belonged

In addition to back-up, its equally critical counterpart process - recovery needs to be quick, easy and as routine as any other IT service request. In short, it should be a call or e-mail away to the IT Service Desk. Whatever the reason for recovery – whether accidental loss or more formal data retention policies.

Unlike Microsoft’s basic service level, organisations need their critical data back in hours not days, and they need all of it!

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