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  • Writer's pictureSara Millis

5 Steps for backing up M365 data successfully

As a business owner, you understand that your organisation's data is the lifeblood of its operations. From critical documents and emails to collaborative projects, Microsoft 365 (M365) holds valuable information crucial to your success. However, one question niggles at the back of your head: Are you adequately prepared to protect this treasure trove of data from unforeseen disasters?


We all know that data loss can be catastrophic, leading to financial losses, reputational damage, and operational disruptions. Having a robust strategy in place for backups is essential to ensure your business's resilience. That's where we come in - to guide you through the intricacies of backing up M365 data effectively.


This comprehensive guide provides five essential steps to safeguard your business's M365 data.


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Step 1: Start by assessing your data backup needs

When protecting your business's digital assets, the first step is understanding your data backup needs. Before diving into any backup solution, take the time to assess the critical data stored within your M365 account. This step will help you prioritise what needs to be backed up and streamline the backup process.


Here's how to do that

  • Identify critical data - Identify the most crucial data in your M365 account. That includes financial records, customer information, intellectual property, and other data vital for daily operations and compliance.

  • Analyse vulnerabilities - Next, evaluate potential risks and vulnerabilities to your data with a cybersecurity audit. Remember to consider scenarios like accidental deletion, hardware failures, or even natural disasters. These naturally occur alongside cyber threats.

  • Determine backup frequency - Based on the importance of your data and the frequency of changes, determine how often you need to perform backups. Some data may require daily backups, while less critical data can be backed up less frequently.


As a decision-maker, your proactive approach to assessing your data backup needs will lay a solid foundation for securing your M365 data effectively. With this vital information, you can confidently move on to the next step – choosing the right backup solution.



Step 2: Choose the right backup solution

Now that you clearly understand your data backup needs, it's time to explore the diverse array of backup solutions available for safeguarding your M365 data. Making the right choice is vital, as it can significantly impact the security and accessibility of your files and information.


Here's what we think you need to consider

  • M365’s built-in solution - Understand Microsoft’s backup and data security policies. Ask if it is robust enough. If it fits your compliance needs. And how you can set up your system to automate maximum security.

  • Cloud-based vs. on-premises solutions - Consider the benefits and drawbacks of cloud-based and on-premises backup solutions. Cloud-based solutions offer flexibility, scalability, and off-site data storage, while on-premises solutions provide greater control and security for sensitive data. We recommend a hybrid model, something that is set up to cover your specific compliance needs.

  • Automated backup systems - Opt for a backup solution that automates the process. Manual backups are prone to human error and can be easily forgotten. Automatic backups ensure your data is consistently protected without requiring constant attention. You can also have your IT service provider monitor and back up remotely.

  • Data encryption and security - Prioritise backup solutions that offer end-to-end data encryption during transmission and storage. That ensures that even if the data falls into the wrong hands, it remains inaccessible and secure.


As IT professionals, it would be remiss not to say at this point that this is precisely what our services are for; to help you through the maze of data protection. So contact your service provider to help you choose and roll out your data backups.



Step 3: Implement a robust backup policy

Now that you have chosen the right backup solution, it's time to establish a comprehensive M365 backup policy to ensure consistency and efficiency in data protection. A well-defined policy will help your team understand their roles and responsibilities and outline data retention and versioning protocols.


  • Create a comprehensive backup policy - Craft a concise backup policy outlining the scope, objectives, and guidelines for M365 data backup. Specify the types of data to be backed up, the frequency of backups, and the designated backup storage locations.

  • Define roles and responsibilities - Assign specific roles and responsibilities for managing the backup process. That ensures that everyone involved knows their tasks and accountabilities, reducing the risk of oversight. Remember, while your IT professionals can help you back up the entire system, there are points at which your staff need to play a role when entering or handling data throughout the day.

  • Set up retention periods and versioning policies - Determine how long backup data should be retained based on your industry's compliance regulations and internal business needs. Additionally, consider implementing versioning procedures to keep historical copies of documents, facilitating easy recovery from previous states.


With a well-structured backup policy in place, your business gains the confidence to protect its vital M365 data effectively.



Step 4: Regularly test data recovery procedures

You've invested time and effort in implementing a robust backup policy, but how do you know if it will deliver when a data loss event occurs? Regularly testing data recovery procedures is essential to validate the efficacy of your backup strategy and ensure your M365 data can be restored seamlessly.


  • Emphasise the importance of testing - Highlight the significance of testing data recovery procedures. Regular testing allows you to identify potential issues before an actual data loss event and proactively address any shortcomings.

  • Conduct mock data recovery exercises - Perform simulated data recovery exercises regularly. These drills enable your IT team to practise restoring data from backups, providing them with valuable experience and confidence in handling real recovery scenarios.

  • Address common challenges - Discuss challenges that may arise during data recovery and provide tips to overcome them. These challenges could include data corruption, incomplete backups, or compatibility issues with different backup systems.


By incorporating regular data recovery testing into your data backup strategy, you can ensure your business is well-prepared to handle any potential data loss incidents effectively.

At this point, IT professionals like us here at IT Soho come in because we can handle testing for you to ensure it's carried out effectively without disrupting daily operations.



Step 5: Encrypt and secure your backups

Securing your backup data is as important as backing up the data itself. Encrypting your backups adds a crucial layer of protection, ensuring the data remains inaccessible even if unauthorised access occurs. Here are essential steps to enhance the security of your M365 backups.


  • Data encryption during transmission and storage - Opt for backup solutions that provide end-to-end encryption for data both during transmission and storage. This encryption prevents unauthorised interception and ensures the data remains protected throughout its journey.

  • Secure backup repositories - Store your backup data in secure, off-site locations. Utilise encrypted cloud storage or physically secure on-premises repositories to reduce the risk of unauthorised access and data loss due to physical threats.

  • Compliance considerations and data privacy - Keep abreast of relevant industry regulations and compliance requirements regarding data protection and privacy. Ensure your backup strategy meets these standards to avoid legal complications and penalties.

By adhering to these encryption and security practices, you reinforce the safeguarding of your valuable M365 data.



Hold on, doesn't M365 backup for me?

M365 provides data protection through native features, including data retention policies, versioning, and recycle bin options. However, these features might not be sufficient for robust data backup and recovery strategies, especially for businesses with more complex needs.


To address this, many businesses supplement M365's native protection with third-party backup solutions. These third-party backup solutions offer more comprehensive and automated backup features, allowing you greater control over your data protection.


Remember that since technology and software offerings continuously evolve, staying updated with the latest features and best practices from Microsoft and other service providers is essential to optimise your data backup strategy effectively. As part of our service, we keep our clients updated, not just with Microsoft changes but compliance changes, too - something else to consider.



Conclusion: Backing up M365 data successfully

Following these five essential tips for successfully backing up M365 data, you can fortify your business against potential data loss incidents and ensure continuity.


Remember to thoroughly assess your data backup needs, choose the right backup solution, and implement a robust backup policy tailored to your organisation's requirements. Regularly test your data recovery procedures to validate the efficiency of your backup strategy and address any potential challenges proactively.


Additionally, prioritise data encryption during transmission and storage while securing your backup repositories. Taking these proactive measures instils confidence in your business's data protection capabilities.


At IT Soho, we understand the critical nature of data security for your business. Let us partner with you to tailor a comprehensive M365 backup solution that meets your specific needs and ensures the resilience of your valuable data. Don't leave your data at risk - take action now to safeguard your business's future.


Contact us today to learn how our expert team can help you back up Microsoft 365 and protect your vital business data.


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