Office 365 and data loss

Migrating to the Cloud has enormous benefits and users should be aware that Microsoft guarantees 99.9% availability of all its applications and services in Office 365. Despite their guarantees, this does not mean everything is completely safe and users should know the dangers.

Relying on Office 365 may be dangerous because Microsoft does not offer an online backup. Perhaps this doesn’t matter, because users should save their documents locally, but Exchange and SharePoint cannot be saved locally. By default, an Exchange Online mailbox is configured to retain deleted items for 14 days and users can change this to a maximum of 30 days should they wish. However, after this duration the items are permanently deleted. Should a user need to retain deleted items for longer than 30 days, they7 have to place the mailbox on In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold. This is only possible though if they’ve subscribed to the Exchange Online Plan 2.

SharePoint Online is very similar and creates backups every 12 hours, which are subsequently retained for 14 days. To restore the full site collection, users need to make a service call into Microsoft technical support. The only restore option is a full site restore. This means that users will lose all the current data being hosted. Furthermore, recovering a single item can be difficult, especially as all items are automatically deleted 93 days after they were originally recycled.

Whilst the data is safe if Microsoft’s data centre fails, any accidental deletion that is not restored within the retention window is unrecoverable. Hence, businesses should have a backup plan through a third party backup software solution. Backing up emails from Exchange online can be done by backing up the Office 365 database to a local computer. For this Outlook software is required on each computer and this is only feasible for individuals. Unfortunately there is no product on the market that provides a comprehensive protection ofr all Office 365 data. So if you need to restore documents for business, regulatory or compliance purposes, think about a definitive backup plan.