In September, I wrote about how features included in Office 365 undermine the case advanced by vendors who seek to convince customers of the need for off-site backups. In a nutshell, my advice is to make sure that you exploit all the standard features before you invest in a backup solution.
This doesn’t mean that circumstances exist where Microsoft’s approach of not taking backups for Exchange Online or taking limited backups for SharePoint Online does not satisfy the needs of companies that operate in particular industries or have to meet specific regulatory or legal requirements. For example, if you are forced to retain information for five years (or even longer), the backup regime practiced within Office 365 is insufficient.
Which brings me to a discussion at the VeeamON conference with Veeam’s Doug Hazelman (VP, Product Strategy) and Anton Gostev (VP, Product Management). As you probably know, Veeam has considerable expertise in the area of backup and restore, and, because some of the Veeam team came from the Windows-centric people who ran Aelita Software (acquired by Quest in 2004 and now part of DELL Software), they know their way around Active Directory and Exchange too.
I wanted to find out whether Veeam think that Office 365 customers need backup capabilities and if so, what their plans might be. Of course, I didn’t expect them to be totally open with me, especially as I was wearing my media hat, but it’s always interesting to debate these issues with people who are monitoring the market because of the influence that cloud services are having on customers and technology.
Veeam is an interesting company that has 158,000 customers serviced by 33,000 resellers. It’s a 100% channel play where partners are involved in every customer engagement. Originally focused on tools for on-site backup and recovery, Veeam has recently branched out into “Cloud Connect” to allow backups to be taken to and recovered from cloud repositories.
Veeam doesn’t see themselves as competitors for companies like Spanning, which uses APIs like Exchange Web Services to extract Office 365 data and back it up to their datacenters. Veeam is much more focused on disk-level backup and the tools necessary to recover information from those backups (even ones not taken by Veeam). The Veeam Explorer for Exchange is a good example.
Today, Veeam doesn’t have an Office 365 offering, but they acknowledge that the market for on-premises software is changing rapidly and that they might need to operate in the space in the future. They believe that they still have time to consider plans because the majority of the workload that has moved to Office 365 is from the small-to-medium market and not the kind of large enterprises who might need the kind of backup Veeam can provide.
And Veeam is quite happy for others to go first, acknowledging that it is easier to follow after someone else has found all the lurking land mines in a space before setting out to develop a best in class solution.
What would a Veeam solution for Exchange Online look like? Well, Veeam isn’t saying, at least officially, but Anton speculated that it might be possible to create a backup solution that copied the last 10 days of each mailbox in such a manner that the data could be quickly restored to Exchange servers running on-premises or on another cloud platform. This is not something that you’d want to do on a regular basis, but it might be a get-out-of-jail card that you’d like to be able to play if the Office 365 region that held your data suffered a catastrophic failure. Other ideas might be to use the same technology to create a mirror replica of your Exchange Online data for audit or other purposes.
I think Veeam is probably right that the market for Office 365 backup and recovery solutions is still immature and needs further definition before we understand the need and then the kind of technology that customers might be willing to buy. It’s also true that this is probably not an area that most small to medium customers will be interested in. However, as more workload moves to the cloud from on-premises systems run by large enterprises, the need for more comprehensive and long-term backup and recovery tools might just appear.
We shall just have to wait and see.
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