Office 365 Information Recovery

o365dcOne of the many advantages of using Office 365 is freedom from a myriad of worries at the data center (watch this video for an interesting glimpse at Microsoft data centers), server, and application levels.

 One of the most important concerns for any enterprise is that of “business continuity” – making sure a service is both available and, in the event of trouble, restorable with minimum information loss. Two metrics are traditionally used to help define business continuity goals — Recovery Point Objective (“How much data can I afford to lose?”) and Recovery Time Objective (“How long can I wait for the service to be available?”). While Microsoft publishes “financially backed SLAs for up-time” (see   Office 365 Trust Center), it does not provide specific RPO and RTO guarantees. RPO and RTO are, however, published for related services (see SharePoint Online Dedicated and Exchange Online Dedicated service descriptions.)

For most organizations, these ranges of RPOs and RTOs are likely to be acceptable. If they are NOT, the organization will need to design processes to meet the more stringent objectives. It is important to keep in mind that scenarios other than outright Office 365 failure may result in information loss (e.g. accidental document deletion). Some of these scenarios are well supported by the application (e.g. SharePoint recycle bin, versioning, etc.), but others are not (historical file deletions, file corruption, version overwrite, etc.)
For on-premises deployment, a number of 3rd party vendors have developed tools to support a wide variety of information loss and recovery scenarios. For Office 365, tools and technologies are beginning to appear — some of these tools are extension of on-premises technology while others are cloud-only implementation. Here are a few available options:

When looking at these products and services, consider your specific use cases as well as the following:

  • Full platform support – Does the product/service support Exchange, One Drive for Business, Lync, Yammer, AND SharePoint?
  • Integrated tool suite – some of these tools support other Office 365 needs (e.g. governance, data migration). For a larger and/or more complex implementation, a suite will likely prove more valuable than a singular solution
  • Archiving  – does the tool provide support for removal of data meeting certain requirements, or only recovery of missing/corrupt information?
  • On-Premises AND Office 365 – if your organization is transitioning from an on-premises implementation, a solution that seamlessly supports both platforms is ideal
  • Backup Location – some of these solutions use cloud storage exclusively while others provide a variety of targets
  • Target User – some of the solutions are targeted toward business users, while most are for IT professionals

As always, a well formulated set of requirements based upon business needs will make the decision making process easier. Technology in this area is rapidly changing, so always check for new developments.

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