What is Office 365?

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:

Defining requirements.

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.

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.

Advantages

  • One of the biggest advantages of Office 365 is ability to work from anywhere, provided the user has internet connection. Owing to cloud storage, all the data, May it be Word, Excel or PowerPoint - can be accessed from anywhere with any device.
  • Everyone who needs to contribute to a document can work on the same instance rather than having multiple versions of the same document. This eases the collaboration among team members.
  • As Office 365 has auto updates to every software without any additional charges, users always have access to the latest version of the programs without having to reinstall the programs on every device.
  • It is easy to use and customize. Hybrid plans make sure that the user pays only for whatever he requires. Up gradation to existing plans is also very easy.
  • As it is a subscription based service, user only has to pay a fixed low amount on a monthly basis for as long as he needs the software, rather than paying a large lump sum amount in the beginning.
  • Email encryption keeps anyone other than the intended recipient from accessing the contents of the mail, hence maintaining confidentiality.
  • Large mailbox storage space is made available to the users, with a capacity of 50GB storage to ensure hassle-free mailing services.

Traits of a good Office 365 services provider

  • A company should provide flexible configuration and customization options as the needs of the client may vary according to their customer response and space requirements.
  • A company should provide long term technical support and customer assistance on demand.
  • The company’s portfolio should reflect its work with various clients.
  • Reviewing customer satisfaction and ratings is also key to choosing the most appropriate company for your email exchange solutions.

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.

  • Automatic – one of the most important qualities of a good email backup solution is that it does its job automatically. This way, administrators can set the program to back up mailboxes as often as necessary and forget about it, until something bad happens.
  • Type of backup – there are different types of backup. It is important to learn what kind of backup the solution of your choice performs. For example, if a solution supports only full backups, the size of storage grows very quickly, and the backup tasks take a lot of time. It is a good idea to use a method which creates a full backup and then performs incremental backups periodically.
  • Granular recovery – a good backup should have the option to look for certain items and to restore them granularly. It means that in case a single file is lost, you should not need to restore the whole mailbox, but just the items which are missing.
  • Archiving – as I mentioned before, there is a difference between backup and archiving. However, if you add the archiving feature to a backup solution, it will provide you with a comprehensive tool which covers those two areas all at once. What is more, setting archiving and retention policies for storages lets you control the space consumed by your safe copies.
  • Brick-level backup – it is natural that some mailboxes store a lot of business-critical data, while others are unlikely to have a lot of essential content in them. The perfect backup software should let you control which mailboxes or even folders require the strictest policies.
  • Security – one of the most important aspects of a backup solution is its security. Without proper measures, like encryption, storage protection, and secure data restoration, a backup solution can, ironically, make your data less secure from, for example, inside attacks attempts at capturing confidential data.

Types of backup

From the technical point of view, backups can be divided into three types:

  • Full backup – a full backup creates a one-to-one copy of files. This type is the most sizable, but, at the same time, is the starting point for the two alternative kinds listed below.
  • Differential backup – copies data differences from the last full backup. It is a storage-friendly solution when compared to the full option.
  • Incremental backup – saves the changes which were applied since the last incremental backup cycle. This type is the quickest and the most storage-friendly. What is more, it can be performed in the real time.

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.

  • The first one is the PST backup using Power Shell (see this how-to article to learn how) or Exchange Admin Center (although this way is far from being automatic). Mind that all PST files limitations mentioned above, apply to the Exchange Server as well.
  • Another native backup option for the on-premises Exchange Server is using WSBExchange plug in. It lets you use the Windows Server Backup. The tool performs a full server backup; however, it cannot be used to perform incremental or differential backups. It might be too space and time-consuming to be an effective solution.

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:

  • No impact on users – mailbox backup tasks can be scheduled to run every minute. The process will be invisible to users – there is no delay or any other kind of influence on the mailbox performance.
  • Easy to use – thanks to a simple, yet powerful, user interface.
  • Search, preview, and recovery – thanks to an advanced indexing feature, searching through the database is a breeze. All found items can be easily restored to a chosen location.
  • Security-focused – Code Two Backup solutions go an extra mile when it comes to the security of storages and personal information stored in them.