Microsoft Briefs Partners about Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive Products

More Details Revealed About Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive During Inspire session

A week or so after the launch of Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive at their annual Inspire conference (for partners), I took the time to listen to the recording of the session covering the topic delivered at the event. It’s hard to get much detail from a 14-minute session after filtering out all the marketing messages delivered by the avuncular Chris McNulty, but I found some interesting points to ponder.

As a reminder, these products are not yet available. They might be toward the end of 2023. Then again, product dates have an unfortunate habit of slipping, especially when they’re for solutions in a new area. This is doubly true when dealing with solutions targeted at backup and restore and touted as a great solution for ransomware because of their “unprecedented speed and scale.

McNulty started with some statistics:

  • Microsoft 365 users add two billion documents and emails daily. I assume this figure includes Office documents, PDFs, Loops, OneNote notebooks, emails, Teams messages, and everything else that can be stuffed into SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online. In September 2022, Microsoft said that Exchange Online processes 9.2 billion messages daily, 2.4 billion of which are spam. However, it’s unclear if these figures include system messages that are transient and not stored.
  • Microsoft 365 user activity consumes 200 petabytes of storage monthly. Much of the data is unstructured. I assume that imports from SharePoint Server and other non-Microsoft 365 sources consume some of this storage. While providing such a large amount of storage is a heavy expense for Microsoft, its existence inside Microsoft 365 creates opportunities. For instance, it is the raw material for Microsoft 365 Copilot.

Microsoft also said that the estimated annual cost of ransomware is $20 billion (2021). They also noted a 74% increase in password attacks in one year, which is yet another good reason for Microsoft 365 tenants to make better use of multi-factor authentication even if attacker tactics like password sprays are less effective due to the removal of basic authentication.

Microsoft 365 Backup

The basic value proposition for Microsoft 365 Backup is simple: the ability to backup and restore data more rapidly than any other backup solution. This is because the data remains within Microsoft 365 and therefore doesn’t have to be copied across an internet connection. Partners have access to the Microsoft APIs for backup, restore, and archiving to allow them to integrate Microsoft 365 in their solutions. In this context, Microsoft will take care of the background processing and the partner looks after the user interface and integration with backup and restore solutions that handle other non-Microsoft workloads to create a single pane for all backup and restore operations.

Of course, keeping backups of your SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online data within the Microsoft trust (security) boundary is a double-edged sword. Keeping all your data eggs in the one Microsoft basket is convenient, enables fast restore, and easy to use because operations are integrated in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Jacklynn Hiranaka’s demonstration of backup and restore showed how easy it is to configure full backup for a tenant (Figure 1). She made the point that once backup is enabled, it becomes effective immediately. This is likely because Microsoft can utilize techniques like capturing SharePoint changes in the Preservation Hold Library or Exchange changes in Recoverable Items to generate backup items. You can imagine how restores operate like a supercharged version of the SharePoint Restore this library feature or Exchange’s Recover deleted items.

Microsoft 365 Backup in the Microsoft 365 admin center (source: Microsoft)
Figure 1: Microsoft 365 Backup in the Microsoft 365 admin center (source: Microsoft)

Even more impressive was the assertion that Microsoft 365 Backup can perform parallel restores for SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online to restore information very quickly.

Microsoft 365 Archive

Brad Gussin covered details of Microsoft 365 Archive. This is a SharePoint Online option (Exchange Online has its own archiving). You can already archive Teams and put the associated SharePoint Online sites into a read-only mode. Microsoft 365 Archive puts inactive SharePoint sites into a state where administrators can still manage the sites (to bring them back into an active state) but the data is no longer “hot” (available for immediate user access).

The major advantage gained by moving sites to an archived state is that the storage they consume is no longer charged against the tenant’s SharePoint storage quota. The data is still in SharePoint, but just like the storage consumed by Syntex Repository Services to hold Loop app data, it’s not accessible in the normal way.

Administrators will be able to search for inactive sites and decide which sites to archive. Site owners can protest this action and negotiate with administrators to keep their sites online. Once the final decision to archive, the process to archive sites takes a couple of hours. Actions to archive or reactivate sites are available through the SharePoint Online admin center (Figure 2) or PowerShell. Microsoft hasn’t specified how the PowerShell option will work, but it could be through an updated Set-SPOSite cmdlet or perhaps dedicated cmdlets to archive and reactivate sites. Long-term, Microsoft plans to enable finer granularity by supporting archival at the file level.

Microsoft 365 Archive in the SharePoint Online admin center
Figure 2: Microsoft 365 Archive in the SharePoint Online admin center

Microsoft 365 features such as data loss prevention, data lifecycle management (retention processing), information protection, and search remain in place for archived sites. eDiscovery can find items in archived sites (using the search indexes) and retrieve items using search exports.

A cynic might say that Microsoft created the need for an archive solution by restricting the amount of storage made available to tenants (1 TB plus 10 GB per eligible license) and the way that retention processing consumes quota. The more intelligent versioning planned for document libraries might help restrain storage consumption, but overall it’s still true that SharePoint Online storage is expensive when compared to the abundant storage made available to OneDrive for Business accounts.

No Pricing Available

Microsoft hasn’t revealed how much Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft Archive will cost. I’ve been surprised by some recent Microsoft pricing decisions (like the $7/user/month demanded for slightly more intelligent Entra ID access reviews). The good thing is that backup for Microsoft 365 is a competitive market. Microsoft has some strong advantages, but if it goes too far in terms of inflated pricing, customers will vote with their wallets and go elsewhere.

Learn about using SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and the rest of Office 365 by subscribing to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. Use our experience to understand what’s important and how best to protect your tenant.

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