Simplified Office 365 Disaster Recovery Practices

By CIOReview | Wednesday, August 31, 2016

With the spectacular developments in technology, especially storage, companies have now started running their applications on the cloud. Although this is a great option as it provides expandability, flexibility and mobility, cloud-based applications are often faced with several challenges. Chief among them is data recovery. By running the applications on the cloud, there is a possibility of back up failures and Microsoft is no stranger to this issue.

Microsoft takes supreme care of customer data and makes them available whenever required. The data is stored in a highly secure and redundant location—to enable availability, business continuity, and rapid recovery. Databases are regularly checked for blocked processes, packet loss, queued processes and query latency. The firm also provides preventive maintenance that includes database consistency checks, periodic data compression and error logging reviews.

Even though Microsoft takes extreme care of application data, it is not uncommon for users under pressure to unintentionally delete files. Employees also tend to remove certain files that turn out to be of very high importance at some point in the future. Server crashes and hacks are also a major reason for data loss. This data can be retrieved through certain special practices. Data can also be lost due to server crash or hacks or other such issues. It is highly critical that this data be recovered and there are certain practices which can aid in their retrieval.

Initially, data in the deleted items folder in Office 365 had a retention period, after which they were completely lost. After taking in a lot of inputs from its clients, Microsoft has designed its suite in such a way that the deleted files and data remain in the deleted items folder forever or at least until the user removes it permanently. In case of Outlook, for example, if the deleted files aren’t in the folder, then the ‘Recover Deleted Items’ command comes in handy. This command helps in recovering certain deleted items like messages, appointments, contacts, tasks and notes. For this feature to work, one needs to have a Microsoft Exchange Server Account. This is applicable to Outlook for Windows. In case of Outlook for Web, even though the rules that applied earlier also apply here, the retention period of the data in the delete items folder is controlled by the administrator. 

Of all the applications that are present in the Office 365 suite, SharePoint alone is a little different since the retention period of the deleted files is 90 days. Deleted files in SharePoint are stored in the Recycle Bin. The files which are then deleted from the Recycle Bin are stored in Second-Storage Recycle Bin from which it can be restored by clicking on the Restore Selection button. But this can be done only before the recovery period. Once the 90 days have elapsed, the data is lost forever. So it is to better to have a back up of the files.  One of the best options is to save the files in a local drive on the database and later transferring it to a shared folder on the network. One important factor to take into account while backing-up is, to never do a back-up when multiple users access the database. This could involuntarily lead to data loss. It is also in the best interest of the organizations to use incremental backup, especially when handling large databases. Incremental backup is a security copy which contains only those files which have been altered since the last back-up.  

Apart from accidental data deletion, there is also the chance of data getting lost due to corrupt mailboxes. In such a scenario, organizations can use Outlook cache. The Outlook maintains an OST file containing the entire mailbox contents. The OSTs are automatically created and encrypted. They are a complete copy of the mailbox and can be used to regenerate mailbox contents in case of data loss. The OSTs are present in individual PCs or centralized servers.

And as further help to its clients, Microsoft has a dedicated Office 365 support team who can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have a deep knowledge of services and their associated applications, and also have direct access to Microsoft experts in architecture, development and testing.

Clients can also access Microsoft’s knowledge base articles and FAQs that provide immediate help with the most common problems. These resources are continually updated with the latest information and provide solutions to known and common issues.