The Teams Protection Challenge

The last 12 months have seen wide adoption of many technologies that had only previously skirted around the edge of many enterprises. Microsoft Teams is perhaps one of the most visible examples of this. First appearing in preview in November 2016 it was designed to replace Skype as Microsoft’s business communication and collaboration platform.

Its adoption was steady until March 2020 when the world changed, almost overnight as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and we saw a massive shift to distributed working. Organisations needed effective collaboration tools quickly, with many enterprises already using Microsoft 365 and with Microsoft offering broad access to 6 months of free E1 licences, this drove a big surge in the use of Teams.

Teams has been valuable for many enterprises, sitting at the heart of new working processes developed as part of their COVID response. However, this widescale rapid adoption has presented challenges, ones that many had not considered, meaning enterprises are now having to go back and review their Teams and Microsoft 365 environments.

The Teams Challenge

Why the challenge? Isn’t Teams just an update to Skype for Business?

No, it is much more than that, it is an integral part of Microsoft’s 365 platform which in turn is integral to the way Teams works. Teams is not even really an application, the client is an aggregator of multiple 365 services (Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive are just a few) that together provide us with the experience that has been vital to many.

The Teams client is very effective at hiding the complexity of integrating multiple platforms so we can easily communicate, store and share data across organisations. However, that complexity exists, and it is this that presents us with challenges for data protection and security.

These issues are crucial in the modern enterprise and for the remainder of this post I’d like to focus on protecting your data in Teams.

Teams data protection

Teams is an enterprise application that holds business-critical data and records so ensuring that we protect that data is crucial, not only technically but commercially and legally. Protection of data inside of Microsoft 365 is not a new discussion, but it is always good to reference Microsoft’s shared responsibility to underline YOUR responsibility for the data you place in their cloud.

How do we protect our 365 based data? In some cases 365’s native tools such as legal hold, archive and recycle bins may be enough to meet your needs, however, for many that is not appropriate with those tools lacking the enterprise capabilities we need to meet today’s data protection demands. Fortunately, the data protection industry has responded with a range of companies now offering data protection for, at least, the core elements of 365 Email, SharePoint and OneDrive.

However, even to the most experienced data protection vendors, the disparate nature of Teams has presented a real problem, especially when it comes to recovery. For many vendors they have only been able to offer manual approaches to the recovery of Teams data, their solutions can recover the component parts of Teams but the onus then shifts back to the enterprise to “stitch” back together the Teams platform. While this is certainly better than not been able to recover Teams at all, under pressure this is far from ideal.

Protecting Teams Properly

Fortunately, we are now beginning to see 365 data protection solutions that provide enterprise-class recovery options across the entire platform, including Teams. In December Veeam added to this number with the release of Version 5 of their Backup for Office 365 solution providing much-needed enterprise capabilities to Teams data protection.

Those of you who know Veeam will be familiar with their Explorer technology, these powerful tools present both deep insight and granular recovery options of backup data sets. It is good to see that they have taken this familiar technology and developed it for Teams, hiding the complexity of the underlying infrastructure and offering the enterprise easy to use powerful recovery tools.

It’s also good to see they are not alone with a small number of other vendors starting to deliver improved recovery capabilities in line with the increasing criticality of Teams.

Doing Teams Right

There is no doubt Teams has gone from curiosity to critical enterprise tool, but circumstances dictated, in many cases, its rollout was done rapidly and with little consideration or understanding of the broader impacts of its complexity. However, Teams is not going away, with a much more disparate workforce it is a core part of the way many organisations function and is going to remain so for the majority. Therefore, it is important that we treat it in the same way we treat any other core enterprise app, ensure it is resilient, secure, and protected.

If some of this is new to you or you have not had the chance to look at effective protection of your Teams and broader 365 data, I hope this post has given you some basic understanding of the challenge and fortunately, with solutions like those from Veeam entering the market, you will also have the tools available to protect your data appropriately.

If you’d like to see Veeam’s solution I recorded this video with Veeam Technologist Rin Bessette as part of my companies 365 data protection awareness campaign. In it, we discuss the challenge and show Veeam’s approach. It is free to watch, feel free to check it out.

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