10 Practical Tips for Microsoft Teams Backup

The following article is an excerpt checklist based on the eBook Conversational Microsoft Teams Backup.

Although backups have been around for as long as IT itself, backing up Microsoft Teams presents some unique challenges. This checklist is designed to give you some practical guidance for backing up Microsoft Teams.

1. Make Sure That You Are Backing up Microsoft Teams

Although it might seem completely obvious, the number one best practice with regard to Microsoft Teams backups is to make sure that you are actually backing up Microsoft Teams (and the rest of the Microsoft 365 apps).

Microsoft uses a shared responsibility model for Teams and the other Microsoft 365 applications. This shared responsibility model essentially states that Microsoft is responsible for keeping the Microsoft 365 applications and the underlying infrastructure healthy, but Microsoft 365 subscribers are responsible for securing and protecting their own data. This data protection responsibility includes making sure that data is backed up.

2. Adopt a Backup Solution that Truly Understands Teams

Office 365 is the most difficult application to back up because it leverages so many different Microsoft 365 components. Unlike applications such as Exchange Online or SharePoint Online, Teams does not store all of its data in one place. Instead, Microsoft Teams data is scattered across a variety of different Microsoft 365 applications. While any Microsoft 365 backup application should be able to backup Teams data, the restoration process could be extremely difficult unless the application has been specifically designed to support Microsoft Teams.

Although Microsoft does provide an API for Teams backup, this API was only released recently. As such, not all backup vendors have incorporated the Teams backup API into their products at this time. Although it seems likely that all of the major backup solutions will eventually include native support for Microsoft Teams, for the time being it is important to check whether or not a backup product currently includes such support.

3. Use the Right Tool for the Job

A third best practice for Microsoft Teams backups is to make sure that you are using the right tool for the job. There are features within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, such as retention policies and litigation hold, that can act as a pseudo-backup. However, these tools exist for compliance purposes, not data protection. As such, they do not adequately protect Microsoft Teams data.

Retention policies and litigation hold can create inconsistencies and coverage gaps with regard to the way that data is protected. The only way to make sure that all of your Microsoft teams data is being protected in a way that is consistent with your business requirements and legal obligations is to use a dedicated backup application that is specifically designed to protect Microsoft 365.

4. Take a Hybrid Approach to Backups

Best practice number four is to take a hybrid approach to your backups. Rather than backing up Microsoft 365 separately from your on-premises Microsoft Office applications, it’s better to use a single backup application that can simultaneously protect both environments.

The reason for this is that if you are restoring a backup it means that something bad has happened. Because it can be difficult to predict what type of event might trigger the need for data recovery, it is extremely important for a backup application to give you the maximum degree of flexibility. Taking a hybrid approach to backup can help to enhance this flexibility. It might for example, allow you to restore an on-premises mailbox to the Microsoft 365 cloud, or vice versa.

5. Keep SLAs at the Forefront of Your Backup Planning

Best practice number five is to keep Service Level Agreements (SLAs) at the forefront of your backup planning. Specifically, you need to consider the appropriate Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for your Microsoft Teams environment. The RPO will determine the frequency with which backups are created, thereby determining the maximum amount of data that could potentially be lost between backups. The RTO pertains to the length of time that it will take to restore a backup.

Both of these metrics are extremely important as they play directly into an organization’s ability to quickly and completely recover from a disaster. In organizations RTO and RPO should not be arbitrary values, but rather should be a reflection of the organization’s business requirements and any applicable regulatory requirements.

6. Don’t Overlook Recovery Granularity

One of the often-overlooked best practices for Microsoft Teams Backup is to make sure that the backup solution that you are using allows for granular recovery capabilities. While it is important to be able to restore an entire team (or even multiple teams), it is equally important to be able to restore a file or a chat within a team.

If a user accidentally deletes a team, it is often possible to recover that team simply by using PowerShell to recover the associated Azure Active Directory group from the Azure AD Recycle Bin. Unfortunately, however, native Teams recovery is an all or nothing operation. Microsoft will allow you to recover a deleted team, but you cannot use the native Microsoft 365 tools to recover individual items from within a team.

7. Use Backup to Augment Your eDiscovery Capabilities

Microsoft 365 has long included eDiscovery capabilities that allow an organization to locate specific data from within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem in response to a subpoena. Although the native eDiscovery capabilities have their place, it is often more effective to use backup software in the discovery process.

If a backup application includes a good search interface, an organization may be able to search their backups for the data that is required by the subpoena. Not only can this be quicker and easier than using the native eDiscovery functionality, but the organization also can restore the documents that appear in the search results to a removable drive that can be supplied to the opposing counsel.

8. Defend Teams Against Ransomware

Another best practice is to make sure that you are protecting your Microsoft Teams data against ransomware. Contrary to popular belief, data that is stored in Microsoft 365 can be encrypted by ransomware. The fact that so many people are still working remotely from personal devices greatly increases the risk of a ransomware infection. A good backup is the best defense against ransomware related data loss.

If a ransomware infection occurs, the only options for recovering the organization’s data are usually to either pay the ransom or to restore a backup. Ransom payments tend to carry a hefty price tag and there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will actually result in the data being decrypted. Even if the data is decrypted, paying a ransom emboldens attackers who may end up re-encrypting the data and asking for more money. Restoring a backup represents a far better option.

9. Ensure Your Storage Offers Flexibility

It’s important that the backup solution that you are using allows you to back up your data to the storage that you want to use, regardless of whether that storage is on premises or cloud based. Having the freedom to choose the storage that you want to use gives you the ability to select the storage tier that best meets your performance, resiliency, and cost requirements. It also allows you to take advantage of capabilities such as immutable storage if you so desire.

10. Focus on Ease of Use

One last best practice is that when it comes to backup applications, ease of use matters. Some backup applications have a reputation for being overly complex to configure and use. The problem with this is that complexity increases the odds of human error. If an organization selects a backup application that is intuitive and easy to use, it can decrease the odds that backup or recovery failure will occur as a result of human error.

Click here to download the PDF of this article. 

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