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Best practices for collaborative backup and recovery

CBSi surveys show that storage and backup are the primary use cases for cloud services. Here's how to ensure that shared files are backed up reliably and accessible easily.

As companies, departments, and team members move their work efforts to the cloud, there is a growing concern regarding backups and recovery. Any potential loss through a system or user error could potentially impact a business or department.

In the case of a database, usually, there is a clear plan for backup and recovery. But a cloud-based storage system could contain sensitive and mission-critical documentation for product development, design specs, as well user guides for applications. These files are just as important as data and cannot be left to chance. Let's review some practical decisions when it comes to backup and recovery of files used in a collaborative environment.

First, let's consider what a collaborative work environment is. A collaborative work environment comprises team members across geographic locations, all of whom have access to the same source information. They communicate using email and instant messaging tools like Skype. These individuals may work on large initiatives by updating shared documents. Recovery is a key part of a backup strategy.

A basic understanding of recovery practices would be beneficial.

  • Recovery point objective (RPO) is the objective for the maximum time period between the last available backup and any potential failure point. It is determined by how much data that the business can afford to lose if a failure were to occur.
  • Recovery time objective (RTO) is the objective for the maximum time that a data recovery process will take. It is determined by the time that the business can afford for the site or service to be unavailable.
  • Recovery level objective (RLO) is the objective that defines the granularity at which you must be able to recover data -- whether you must be able to recover the whole farm, Web application, site collection, site, list or library, or item.

SharePoint, along with Office 365, have backup and recovery models built in. It is recommended that you review each of these components in detail to determine how to set up your recovery solution.

Here are a few of the highlights:

SharePoint has three backup and recovery options (as defined by Microsoft):

  • Web Package (.fwp file) Use this feature when you want to share or reuse Web pages or a site, list, or library structure. With Web packages, you can either package an entire site or choose the specific pages, lists, or libraries that you want. Web packages are a great way to duplicate site structure, but they cannot include list data, subsites, or security and permissions settings.
  • Backup and Restore (.cmp file) Use this feature when you want to make a backup copy of an entire site or subsite, or when you want to move one to another server or location. Note that you may lose some customizations or settings in the process. For example, the backup file does not include workflows, alerts, and properties stored at the site-collection level. The backup file also does not include the Recycle Bin state or objects inside it. To use Backup and Restore, you must have administrator permissions to that site.
  • Site Template (.stp file) Use this feature when you want to create multiple Web sites that start with the same base content or site structure. You can do this by saving a site as a site template and adding it to the Site Template Gallery.

In SharePoint Online, backups are performed by Microsoft every 12 hours and retained for 14 days.

Office 365 and OneDrive for Business offers these solutions:

  • Store documents on OneDrive for collaboration
  • Easily integrate with SharePoint's recovery model
  • Use Version History or Syncing to restore files.

It's noteworthy that Microsoft Online Services provides a solid service-level agreement (SLA) and has a 99.9 percent guaranteed uptime.

To learn more about backup and recovery with Microsoft Cloud Services, check out this Technet blog about business continuity and Office 365.

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