What is Office 365?
Office 365 is a line of subscription services offered by Microsoft to provide plans that allow use of cloud-based software as a service product for business environments. It provides latest software applications for multiple devices, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Link on all Windows and Mac PCs, as well as Android, iOS and Windows enabled phones, allowing Office content viewing and editing on the go.
Every employee expects email to “just work.” But in reality, there are many complex factors to consider when it comes to business email, from server maintenance to spam filtering and security. And whenever email servers go down, productivity grinds to a halt—costing businesses thousands or, in some cases, even millions of dollars.
So, while choosing an email hosting solution may not always be the most exciting project for business and IT leaders, it is often one of the most important.
Our Business Email 101 Guide offers a detailed, step-by-step walkthrough to help decision makers evaluate the many different email hosting options on the market (free vs. professional, in-house vs. managed hosting, Webmail services vs. hosted Exchange) in order to help them choose the solution that best satisfies their business’s unique feature and infrastructure requirements.
The guide offers an in-depth look into several key steps that all businesses should take when implementing a new email solution or transitioning to a new one. Some of these steps include:
As with any major IT project, advance planning is critical to ensuring a successful email implementation or migration.
Businesses must work with relevant stakeholders to understand functionality, infrastructure, security, and integration and reliability requirements — among many other requirements.
Evaluating free vs. professional hosting.
For smaller businesses, free email solutions offer attractive benefits such as fast account setup and easy-to-use user interfaces, in addition to hypothetical savings.
However, decision makers must critically weigh these potential benefits against the need for key features and services (e.g., service-level agreements, uptime guarantees, business grade security features, spam filtering and malware protection, etc.).
Deciding between hosted and in-house.
New startups or companies that lack a dedicated IT staff should consider a hosted email solution; however, for companies with an existing in-house email system, the choice is usually more complicated.
The Business 101 Guide presents a detailed total cost of ownership comparison to help businesses account for the various hardware, license, labor and miscellaneous costs of a hosted email solution vs. an in-house solution.
Understanding different hosting options.
Businesses must understand the various high-level email hosting services on the market — including professional Webmail services, Microsoft Exchange-based services and hybrid hosted email services — in order to zero in on the best solution for their needs and begin evaluating vendors.
Businesses need to understand the various vendors on the market, as well as which features to prioritize. For example, most companies will need business-class support and SLAs. Once they narrow down their options, it’s important to ask a critical set of questions of each choice, such as whether the vendor has proven they can scale to meet their needs, whether their archiving solutions are easy to manage, etc.
Preparing to migrate.
The actual implementation and/or migration process varies widely depending on the type of email solution and the capabilities of the chosen vendor.
Based on the information gathered during the requirements process, businesses will need to consider a range of factors such as IT staff training, end user training and setting a realistic migration timetable.
Traits of a good Office 365 services provider
Office 365 and Exchange email backup software
There are many software solutions for email backups out there. Before deploying a certain tool, it is crucial to know what features are the most important.
Types of backup
From the technical point of view, backups can be divided into three types:
See this article for an in-depth comparison between incremental and differential backups.
Backup solutions can also be compared regarding the storage type. Some of them store emails in the cloud, while others use local storage. In most cases, there is a rule not to concentrate all resources in one place, so that emails from Office 365 are often backed up in local storages, while Exchange mailboxes are either secured in a cloud service or a separate local storage.
The main difference between local and cloud storage is that the former requires you to have your storage and protect it, while the latter leaves everything in the hands of a third party, which provides you with a ready-to-go service.
At the same time, local storages offer 100% availability with complete data independence, while cloud services make you dependent on the service provider. It is a very basic comparison, though, so you might want to see a more comprehensive guide in this blog entry.
Email backup of Office 365 mailboxes
The first and the most important thing you need to know about Office 365 mailboxes is that there is no native option to back them up.
There are mechanisms which you can use to archive data and to recover it in case it is lost; however, these are not the backup solutions which provide the functionalities the third party software gives. (Read more about the native backup options) That is why many companies choose third-party solutions to secure their data.
One of the ways to back up Office 365 mailboxes is to export them to PST files. See this article to learn how to create a local copy of Exchange Online mailboxes. Mind that although it might look like the cheapest way to back up emails and other Office 365 items to a local storage, it is far from being reliable.
Email export to PST can be done either manually by users, which is a rare case, or using eDiscovery – an Office 365 mechanism used primarily in case of litigation. PST backup is treated more as a workaround than as a true solution. What is more, PST files are extremely space consuming and cannot be managed centrally.
As storage grows, those files become more and more difficult to search through and tend to get unstable. If you want to know more about PST backup in Office 365, see this article.
There are additional native ways to secure Office 365 data, other than creating a backup. Those methods are a litigation hold and retention policies. A litigation hold is a way to prevent items from being permanently deleted.
Combined with an eDiscovery case, a hold can provide a way to protect a certain mailbox and to find the data you need relatively easy. Retention policies were primarily used to delete items after a set period. Currently, they can also block items from being purged.
As opposed to holds, retention policies can be used globally for a group of users, or even for a whole organization. To see a full comparison of a litigation hold and a retention policy, please consult this article.
The email backup is a bit different from the on-premises equivalent of Exchange Online.
Email backup in Exchange Server
The on-premises Exchange Server mailboxes can be copied to different storage for protection with two native tools.
If you want to know more about native backup solutions available in Exchange Server, the How to backup Exchange Server mailboxes? The article will provide you with more information. If you want to see a more functional option, see the section below.
Code Two Email Backup solutions
Code Two is a software provider which is best known for email signature management software. They also provide mailbox backup tools for Office 365 and on-premises Exchange Server. Their tools check out every feature from the list and add even more: