This content is part of the Essential Guide: SharePoint integration and implementation best practices

How to create a SharePoint online backup strategy to protect data

Just because you're in the cloud on a platform such as SharePoint Online doesn't mean your data is backed up. Here are important considerations to protect your organization.

The shift to SaaS-based applications has helped organizations quickly adopt tools with very little upfront infrastructure...

or IT resources compared with on-premises applications. SharePoint administrators have embraced the technology as an opportunity to eliminate the complex support and maintenance requirements generally associated with SharePoint farms and all the components they require.

A downside that admins will quickly discover about the cloud version of the platform, SharePoint Online, however, is the lack of on-premises backup options. So what should administrators consider when designing their migration strategies? And how should they address the lack of SharePoint Online backup options?

It would be hard to imagine a SaaS offering that does not contain backups to stored data. Yet, if a SharePoint user deletes a site, document library or other settings, the information will initially be placed in the recycle bin of the sites. After that, it's basically gone forever -- even Microsoft can't recover it.

The following five steps can help administrators avoid the disastrous results of accidental or intentional data corruption or deletion due to a lack of built-in SharePoint Online backup options:

  1. Implement third-party backup tools for SharePoint and OneDrive: Microsoft has given third-party software vendors easy access to build tools that can make copies of entire site collections and store them in other cloud-based or on-premises locations. Vendors such as SkyKick, CloudAlly, Backupify, AvePoint and several others provide robust backup and restore tools that must be part of a SharePoint Online implementation from day one.
  2. Implement adequate document retention policies: In addition to third-party SharePoint Online backup tools, there are other settings that can provide preventative measures to ensure that data is preserved. By accessing the Compliance & Security Center, administrators can configure any portion of SharePoint Online to disallow anyone from deleting content from any one or all sites across the intranet. This is a similar feature to Hold, which has been used in the past as part of a legal case where information was put on hold.
  3. Implement early detection systems to react quickly to incidents: While it might not be feasible to disable the option for end users to delete content that might have been accidentally put in a document library, SharePoint administrators can leverage some new Microsoft security enhancements. Alerts can be set up through the Microsoft Advanced Security Management feature to flag when abnormal behavior is occurring inside SharePoint, such as when a large number of files is being deleted.
  4. Implement and set a recovery destination: SharePoint administrators must be ready to migrate and extract data out of SharePoint Online in order to move to different cloud environments or meet data retention requirements that require a second copy of data stored internally. While the possibility of a records request may be slim, CIOs must be prepared for the worst case scenario and hope for the best with a SharePoint Online backup strategy that supports alternative recovery options in which backups can be written to a local storage component.

While it may be hard to accept that Microsoft, with all of its products' cloud capabilities, does not offer any tools to assist with backup and restores of some of its Office 365 workloads, many vendors have already thanked the company for making Office 365 more easily accessible to them -- with prior approval of the tenant administrator. The vendors have shown that their tools are very powerful and capable of recovering data from within SharePoint Online.

Protecting digital assets stored within a SharePoint site can be very valuable, and IT must ensure that it is well-protected against data corruption and loss.

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