Microsoft Data protection VS 3rd party backup in M365

Recently I have worked with a few of the vendors to know/test the M365 backup solution on top of what we have in Microsoft 365 data protection to make sure that we are completely covered in case of disaster. I have also followed several posts available on the internet and some of them are.

Debating the Need for Office 365 Backup – Tony Redmond

Ten Years On, Office 365 Backup is More Challenging Than Ever Before – Tony Redmond

Garner Recommendation

Source – Gartner Report

As we all know, there is not a straightforward answer if we should go for 3rd party backup or fully rely on Microsoft’s inbuilt data protection features like retention policy, MRM solution, Hold etc. During my test, I observed some of the data and insights which would like to share which may help you to take decisions in such a need.

Tenant Usage and storage

It might feel strange, why I am mentioning the storage and usage of the tenant, but this also plays an important aspect in 3rd party backup selection vs MS protection. The total storage for main core services Sharepoint, One drive for business, and Exchange depends on the number of license subscriptions we have taken. There is nothing unlimited or can say free in the MS licensing model :). you can refer to my other post for MS license-related here.

If your tenant is aggressively using the storage after enabling the long period of retention policy or hold, you may end up thinking to purchase additional storage from Microsoft ($0.20 per GB per month). in this situation, you can trade-off between having a 3rd party backup solution and lowering the policy time period. this will help you have an extra layer of protection along with MS protection.

Example – A tenant storage holding 10K M365 E3 Subscription.

WorkloadE3 License Counts #Total Storage (TB)
Exchange Online10K*100 GB~ 976.56 TB
Onedrive4Business10K*5 TB~ 50,000 TB
Sharepoint Online1 TB + (10K*10 GB)~ 98.65 TB
M365 tenant storage for 10K E3 Users

An additional layer of protection

No doubt, having a 3rd party backup solution will enable an extra layer of protection on top of Microsoft’s inbuilt protection like a secondary location to save your data. is it really something you need it for? this depended upon the type of data, organization, and capability to restore the data. in case of disaster, you need to restore the data from 3rd party backup which is going to take a good amount of time (consider the throughput of restore, throttling in SharePoint and one drive, etc.). Are you ready? to wait for such restore time?

Data for compliance and residency purposes

If your target is to use 3rd party backup only to keep the data for compliance and data residency needs then the above-mentioned scenario is not appropriate for you, and you can simply go for 3rd party backup. if you are opting for the 3rd party backup for data residency purposes for example the laws impose such needs in India, Japan, Australia, Canada, etc., you just need to test the vendor’s capability to keep the data in those locations with a couple of restore scenarios.

Test the vendor capability

Don’t trust the very exciting PowerPoint presentation of the vendor mainly for restore capability. you may hear lots of rosy and catchy words, but you just need to test them in POC. always go with some massive amount of data restoration instead of testing 5-10 mailboxes, SPO sites, or one drive for business files. Create a solid test plan those cover all the backup and restore scenario, some of the scenarios I am sharing was created for my POC recently conducted.

ServicesRestore Scenario
EXORestore emails in alternate location
EXORestore folder-folder (inbox, sent items, calendar etc)
EXORestore emails by override
EXODelete the emails of ~200 mailboxes and restore all items in one Job
ODRestore ACL (Permission)
ODRestore files of ~200 OD accounts
ODRestore protected files
SPORestore files permissions
SPORestore files to original sites and other sites
SPOVolume restoration of ~200 sites to the original location and alternate location
M365 restore with 3rd party backup

Automation – you may need a certain scenario where you don’t want to restore the whole data of mailboxes, SPO, and OD but initial ~3 months or ~6 months of data. also, you may need to restore first the high-level executive and critical resource data first. to meet all these needs, you need to make sure that the vendor has the ability to execute by automating it.

Simulate the disaster scenario

As we are evaluating the 3rd party backup over the MS native protection, you need to think about the worst scenario where you need data and how fast you can be back to business. For example – exchange mailboxes, are protected by ligation hold, which protects the entire mailbox and can be reconnected back if someone removes the mailboxes and not relying on the items to restore of entire mailboxes by 3rd party backup. With the recent changes in the M365 retention policy, you get 30 days grace period as well which let you recover the data after even being deleted by the retention policy.

I did a few restores with MS protection and 3rd party backup and found that we can get data much faster from the retention policy (but it’s not a backup/restore solution) as data sit in the same network, storage, and tenant (this is what we know from the birds eye).

Vendor commitment

If you pass all the above points and are now ready to sign the 3rd party one, you need to create an agreement with the vendor which should commit to a certain SLA for restoration and Support.


What is your expectation with 3rd party backup?. if you are considering it to restore whole tenant data (e.g. – for an enterprise tenant) in case of a complete outage then you are misleading yourself. I have checked with many vendors and tenant admins, and they never did such testing in mass. I am not saying that they don’t have the ability but massive restoration needs lots of time. So you need to take this into consideration too.

Above all, having another copy of your data will give you peace of mind even if you might not be using it for any disaster recovery purpose. Also, MS native protection feature is not backup and restored. I hope the above points will help you decide to buy an M365 backup solution.

Photo by S Migaj on

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Eine Tolle Reise

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