With Office 365 Comes Great Data Management Responsibility - But for Whom?

Posted 01/31/2018 by Tom Atanacio

The ascent to the Microsoft cloud continues as more companies move email, collaboration and user file services into Office 365. The move is certainly warranted given the many features and benefits that come with Office 365 cloud services, such as simplified licensing and administration, automatic updating and easy scaling - just to name a few. But what about the data? Will there be less of it in the cloud? More? Do companies still need to protect it as they did on-premises? What data management does Microsoft provide? I’ll try to address some of these questions here:

What is data management anyway? In my opinion, it's best described as a responsibility. Just about any organization that exists today is generating, using, storing and deleting data. Some of this data is more sensitive; some will be more private or personal; some will be extremely valuable to the business; and a great percentage of the data will be pure junk containing word-of-the-day emails, jokes, or how there’s extra birthday cake in Conference Room C. Well, that birthday cake email may be more important depending on personal priorities. But one thing is certain: all this data can’t be managed and protected under a single policy or set of rules for compliance, availability, storage, security and access. That just wouldn’t be fiscally prudent or technically reasonable. This is what data management is all about. Using the proper tools and applying a set of policies to the data so that you know what you have, why it matters, where it lives, who has access to it, when it expires, what it costs to find and produce, and most important, to protect it from deletion, corruption and attack.

So moving to the cloud is going to help with your data management responsibility, right? In some cases, yes. Office 365 has great tools in its higher-level subscription plans, but in many cases the hard truth is no. Data management and protection just got harder because your data is now farther away, across the Internet if you will, stored on commodity, multi-tenant systems rubbing elbows and fighting for resources with data from thousands of other customers, with fewer, far slower and closely metered access methods. Additionally, Office 365 customers are more likely to store redundant data across user file shares, SharePoint sites and mailboxes, as there is no deduplication or single-instancing in Office 365. And the approach to litigation hold is to either create a new copy of data in SharePoint or to hold messages in user mailboxes. Neither has any form of item reduction.

The capabilities and experiences with Microsoft Office 365 data management features such as archiving, searching and holding data will vary. For example, email message archiving is supported but no such capabilities exist for SharePoint or OneDrive documents. Mailbox data is held in-place while SharePoint data is copied for hold. eDiscovery search can include deleted data for email but not for SharePoint and OneDrive. In short, the Microsoft ecosystem isn’t as tightly integrated as it may appear on the cover, at least for data management tasks, which is why most customers see the value in third-party data management and protection for cloud assets.

Companies moving into cloud services should be looking to implement a backup and recovery strategy the same as they did for on-premises solutions because the responsibility to manage the data is still with the owner. The methods may change, but the requirements don’t:

  • Protect my data from accidental deletion corruption and attack
  • Maintain compliance with regulations
  • Provide fast and efficient eDiscovery, and
  • Empower admins and users with self-service access

Commvault can solve these data challenges with intelligent Office 365 data management solutions that span your data center and the cloud.

If the challenges and opportunities of using a SaaS application like Office 365 are a top concern for you, you’re not alone. These data management and protection issues need to be carefully evaluated. To learn more, please join with your peers and view our Common Data Management Challenges in Cloud SaaS Applications webinar.

Tom Atanacio is a Director, Product Management at Commvault. With more than 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Tom has managed servers, networks, customers and colleagues in numerous different roles and efforts. In his current role, he strives to deliver products to market that solve for today’s increasingly difficult data and information management challenges.