Microsoft Exchange Admins: Survey says, you might be a data loss story waiting to happen.

I recently had the privilege to participate in a live webinar featuring two Microsoft rock stars Phoummala Schmidt and Paul Thurrott – both are Microsoft Exchange experts who know a thing or two about data loss in Exchange. During the webinar, we discussed the common ways to lose data in Exchange – on-premises and in Office 365. You can view the webinar on-demand here.

As promised, we would like to respond to the many questions that were posed during the Q&A at the end of the webinar. We also polled the audience during the webinar, and I want to share that information too.

The live poll of the webinar attendees revealed three things:

  • Only 5% of the attendees are not considering a migration or have not migrated to Office 365.  30% are “all in using all apps in Office 365”, 26% have migrated mail and 40% are evaluating how to move to Office 365.
  • Have you migrated to Office 365?
  • The top 2 reasons for an email outage or issue were caused by human error – accidents – with 51% caused by administrator errors and 37% by end users.
  • What was the cause of your worst Office 365 email outage/issue?
  • 47% of attendees say they are relying upon Microsoft to protect their Exchange online data, 16% use litigation hold, 9% use a 3rd party app and 28% admit to not protecting Exchange online.
  • How are you currently protecting Exchange Online?


Here are the questions submitted during the webinar, with answers! We’d love to hear from you if you have more questions. You can use the Twitter hashtag #wheresmyemail or ping me directly @gminks.

Q: When we say Office 365 backup, does Spanning take care of SharePoint and OneDrive and OneNote?

A: Right now, Spanning Backup for Office 365 protects email. Soon, we’ll release support for Calendars, OneDrive for Business and Contacts, and we’re investigating SharePoint, OneNote, and the rest of the Office 365 suite.

Q: How does Spanning get a backup of the email from O365?

A: Spanning is authorized to work with an Office 365 tenant by an administrator. Once authorized, Spanning syncs with that tenant’s Azure AD to get a list of user accounts to back up. Then, Spanning uses the APIs that Microsoft provides to connect to Exchange Online, as well as AWS compute APIs, to back up, store, and retrieve and restore email.

Q: With OneDrive for business available for Office 365 users, how do companies handle the backup and versioning for user files? How do they cope with such a large storage space per user?

A: Now that Microsoft offers 1TB of storage for OneDrive for Business (and have stated they are extending it to unlimited), it is getting a lot of traction and is quickly becoming THE place for users to store their files and collaborate – and the size of those drives is quickly growing. Backup protection for sync and share apps like OneDrive for Business done right is not easy.

The best backup solutions provide you point-in-time backups and restore capabilities, allowing you to view and restore some or all of your files back to any point in time – restoring along with it the metadata like sharing permissions.

Q: Did I hear correctly that all emails are kept forever currently and policy-based retention is being added later? If this incorrect, what kind of, based on what, email retention policies can be configured?

A: You did hear correctly. We will release support for policy-based retention soon.

Q: I believe you said that it backs up to YOUR cloud. Can it be backed up to Azure or an on-prem environment using the Spanning product?

A: Currently, we back up to our cloud (which is on AWS). Will plan to provide support to back up from Spanning to other locations next year.

Q: It was stated, on a slide, that OneDrive for Business will be supported in 1H ’16. Will Spanning support backing up Document Libraries directly from SharePoint online? If not, how will OneDrive data be backed up?

A: We’re tackling supporting OneDrive for Business first. Once we’re happy with that architecture, we’ll announce our plans for supporting SharePoint.

Q: We use the 2013 Outlook desktop. Would be better to use the Online Exchange?

A: I think the answer here is: it depends. And what each app provides is constantly changing. Here’s a really good article on the differences, but it’s already a little outdated. Readers: What is your advice here?

Q: Is the email backup encrypted in transmit and at rest with Spanning?

A: Yes. All data is encrypted during transit using industry standard SSL at 128-bit or 256-bit. Data at rest is encrypted with item-level AES 256 encryption.

Q: Is accidentally syncing a personal device to the iCloud still an issue with Exchange Calendars?

A: Unfortunately, I don’t know. It would be worth contacting Microsoft support to ask.

Q: How long do email archives need to exist? Does it vary with industry?

A: Let me start by defining the reason for backups and archives. We take backups to have a copy of production data. We keep that copy close to production for a certain amount of time (that depends on your business needs) so that if data is deleted, we can restore it rapidly with minimal impact to production. Once that time period you’ve decided you need the data around to rapidly recover expires, you send the data to archives. Again, how long you keep your data around in archives depends on your business. There are compliance regulations in some industries. There are legal reasons not to retain data (if the data exists, it is discoverable during litigation). That’s why it’s important for IT to work with the business to determine how long the data should be in available for rapid recovery, and how long it should be kept in archives.

So, another great webinar is in the books. Please feel free to keep the conversation going on Twitter, using #wheresmyemail or ping me @gminks with further questions.