Microsoft 365 backups: Ultimate buyer’s guide

by Dasha Shakov | Last updated on May 9, 2022

You know you need to backup your Microsoft Office data: from key documents to team brainstorms, a backup of your O365 data including Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Groups, and Teams is necessary.

But where to begin? The process of evaluating Microsoft 365 backup apps can be tedious and time-consuming. So, we thought we’d share our best research on how to select the best backup app for Office 365. While Rewind does offer Backups for Microsoft 365, we always aim to remain as impartial and objective as possible. We did hours of research, so you don’t have to.

Let’s explore the essential elements of Microsoft 365 backups, and how to choose the right vendor and solution for your organization’s needs.

Introduction

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of different backup apps, let’s take a moment to understand how exactly backups for Office 365 (also known as Microsoft 365, O365, Microsoft 365, or Microsoft Office) work.

Microsoft Office consists of a variety of different interconnected applications, like Exchange, Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, and more. Each of these apps creates distinct data types: a SharePoint file is stored differently than an email on Exchange.

Since Office 365 is a combination of SaaS apps, rather than a single SaaS app, backups of Office 365 must integrate data from a variety of application programming interfaces, or APIs. Essentially, APIs can be thought of as messengers; they allow different web applications to communicate and share data with each other.

Office 365 backup limitations

All backup apps have limits, and Office 365 backups also contain limitations.

Microsoft doesn’t provide a unified API that is capable of accessing all Microsoft 365 applications and data. Backup vendors have to rely on a combination of new and legacy APIs to backup and restore available Office 365 data (and ignore the data that APIs cannot access). Thus, all Microsoft 365 backup and recovery vendors are limited by the same APIs; all backup vendors have access to the same APIs (and their limitations).

Another limitation of Office 365 backups is the many different types of data stored in Microsoft Online apps. Because of frequent Microsoft 365 updates, it’s time-consuming and expensive to support every data type. Instead, Microsoft backup vendors focus on a subset of Microsoft 365 applications that they consider most relevant to their customers. These priorities differ from vendor to vendor; it’s important to find an Office backup solution that covers the apps your organization considers essential.

Due to API limitations, no vendor backs up all O365 data.

Cloud backups vs. on-premise backups

For the purpose of this comparison, we only evaluated cloud backup & recovery vendors. While Veeam offers on-premise backups, we included them in the comparison as they allow cloud backups as well. We only evaluated solutions that back up Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.

Evaluation process

To compare solutions, we evaluated 11 leading vendors against 22 factors. We explain the significance of each factor below. During our evaluation, we found that all vendors offer granular restores, powerful search, and multi-user functionality.

How to choose a backup solution for Office 365

Available for direct purchase

While some backup solutions are available to be purchased directly from their website, some vendors we evaluated are available exclusively through resellers like MSPs (Managed Service Providers) or VARs (value-added resellers).

If you don’t mind a more hands-on approach and don’t mind having to speak with someone from the company before purchasing, Veeam and N-Able are available in this manner.

But in our experience, life as a business owner is busy. Sometimes, you don’t have time to book a sales demo or talk to a representative. Maybe you prefer to kick the tires on new software yourself. If you want to do your own research and sign up independently, we recommend Rewind, SpinBackup, AvePoint, Afi, and CloudAlly.

Data recovery includes Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Groups, and Teams

Having a backup of one Microsoft 365 app is sort of like having flood insurance for only a single room in your home. Chances are, if the rec room floods, the rest of the basement will too. Similarly, if you need to restore or recover essential data that lives in your organizations’ Office 365 apps, it’s quite unlikely that the data will be solely contained in a single app.

That’s why comprehensive coverage is a key factor when considering Microsoft 365 backup solutions. At the minimum, we recommend an Office backup solution that can backup and restore data from Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.

Rewind Comparison Chart

Submit the form to get the full comparison chart 👇

Data backup and recovery success rate

This criterion is pretty simple: the higher the backup success rate, the better. Good Office 365 backup and recovery solutions have a high backup success rate and bring back lost data in a reliable, fast way. When you’re restoring lost data, you want to feel confident that you’ll be successful (not crossing your fingers).

Number of daily backup snapshots

Think about how much work takes place in a single day (but maybe not a Monday). How many documents are collaborated on, how many emails are sent, how many key changes are established? In today’s remote working world, it’s not uncommon to have colleagues spread across time zones, meaning progress is being made (and work is getting done) nearly 24 hours a day. The amount of data created and exchanged each day is staggering: losing a day’s worth of work could be crippling for a business.

For this reason, it’s important to choose a Microsoft 365 backup and recovery vendor that takes frequent backup snapshots. If your data is only being backed up daily at 5 pm, you could lose an entire day’s worth of work if data loss occurred at 4:55 pm. The more backups are taken each day, the more versions are saved in the cloud. This enables better protection from data loss, since you’ll always be able to bring back the latest, most up-to-date version of a document or folder.

Number of data regions

Being able to choose from a variety of data regions is key. For example, if you need to comply with GDPR legislation, it’s important to be able to select a data region that is located in the EU. We recommend choosing a vendor with multiple storage regions across Europe (and the globe) in case one data storage region fails. For example, Rewind offers over 16 data centers for customers to choose from (second only to N-Able, which is only available for purchase through resellers).

Storage location included

Some vendors do not provide a storage location for your backups – they only perform the backup, but they do not store it. This can add a significant layer of complexity to configuring your account. If getting set up quickly and/or easily is of importance, we recommend choosing a backup solution that comes with data storage included (and a broad choice of storage centers and storage center locations).

Unlimited data storage

Another key consideration is how much data storage a backup vendor is offering with their solution. Some companies limit the amount of data a single user can back up. If your company is exchanging high volumes of data or large file sizes, you risk exceeding the storage limit and paying overages. For example, with SpinBackup customers can back up up to 50 GB of data. Extra storage is available at $120/year for every additional 100 GB of storage. It’s worth doing the math to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible and aren’t going to face unexpectedly high overage fees.

Pro Tip: always read the fine print when a company offers unlimited storage. ​​We found that Backupify mentions unlimited data storage and recovery, yet also states: “Although we do not limit any customer or user to a predefined amount of cloud storage, we reserve the right to limit Product usage or cloud storage if we determine there is activity or usage that: (i) results in excessive bandwidth or storage usage; or (ii) harms, disrupts, or otherwise diminishes our brand, services, network, or any computer system.”

For peace of mind, we recommend choosing a vendor that offers unlimited data storage so that you aren’t worried about the amount of data stored. After all, the idea of a backup and recovery app is to reduce risk and stress, not add one more thing for you to worry about!

Unlimited data retention

Some vendors limit the number of versions of a single file that can be backed up. If you are in a highly regulated industry, this limitation on data retention may be an issue. If your company needed to hold onto data for a certain period of time, say 7 years, it doesn’t make sense to choose a backup solution that only holds onto 100 versions at a time such as SpinBackup.

Transparent pricing

Having to book a call with a Sales Representative just to get an idea of a backup and recovery solution’s pricing can be inconvenient. You’re busy. With dozens of Microsoft 365 backup and recovery solutions out there, you don’t have time to get on a sales call just to hear a price that’s out of your budget at the end of their pitch.

That’s why we’re highlighting Office backup providers that make their price crystal clear and readily available on their website: Rewind, Afi, and Metallic by CommVault each have a transparent pricing page (and we’re sure, lovely sales representatives).

Customize retention policies

When it comes to backups, sometimes more actually isn’t better: too long of a retention period can create legal risk. If you retain data that you don’t need to and your company is involved in litigation, you’d have to pay a legal team to sift through and categorize emails and documents that you could’ve deleted. That’s why most companies don’t retain data beyond a certain period.

With a customized retention policy, you can dispose of backups once your compliance requirements are met to protect yourself, your clients, and your employees.

Minimum number of seats

Some Microsoft backup and recovery solutions require a minimum number of seats, so it’s important to choose a provider that can accommodate your organization’s needs. For example, Backupify is geared to work with companies looking to back up 100 seats or more. If your company has less than 100 employees, they might not be the right fit for you. Companies offering backups with no seat minimums include Rewind, Spanning, CloudAlly, Metallic, and Veeam.

No training required

Some backup vendors offer flexible, yet complex products with a steep learning curve. Becoming a product expert requires dedication and training that simpler products do not. Veeam’s “User Onboarding Guide”, for example, is 485 pages long. Barracuda offers a training website called “Barracuda Campus. Backupify’s Datto offers courses in their “Datto Academy”.

If your company has a large IT team, taking some product-related courses might be a good trade-off for a more advanced solution. However, if you’re in the market for a backup and recovery solution that can be implemented quickly and managed by a single person, we recommend evaluating solutions with a shallow learning curve that do not require training.

If you’re looking to minimize the complexity associated with data backup and recovery, consider the following solutions: Rewind, Spanning, SpinBackup, AvePoint, Afi, CloudAlly, and Metallic.

Support availability and hours

The availability of support is arguably one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a Microsoft backup solution. Data loss isn’t typically a stress-free experience, and when you need assistance, it’s rarely at a convenient time. It’s important to have someone to talk to in the time of a data loss catastrophe.

We recommend considering companies that offer multiple ways of contacting them, like a phone number, an email address, a chatbot, etc. It’s also worthwhile to check out a vendor’s Knowledge Base: is it up to date? Does it offer product screenshots, how-to videos, or other helpful resources for those who want to troubleshoot independently? You don’t want to find out during a data disaster that your vendor only has 2 “how-to” articles.

It’s important to consider support hours as well. Just because a company lists a support phone number, doesn’t mean someone will be there to answer your call at all hours of the day. Disasters don’t only occur from 9 to 5.

In our research, we found that the only companies to list their support hours were Rewind, SpinBackup, CloudAlly, and Metallic.

Company size

Company size is an often overlooked, yet important, factor when evaluating an Office 365 backup solution. While small companies can certainly build amazing solutions, when it comes to supporting the solution and growing the product, larger companies have more bandwidth and support staff to support you and your needs.

Rewind, Barracuda, AvePoint, and Metallic have 100 employees or more.

We want to point out that Veeam and N-Able are only offered through resellers, including MSPs and VARs. Even though Veeam and N-Able employ over 1,000 people – it is the MSPs and VARs that provide support for you, the customer. Please speak to your MSP and VAR to understand SLAs and customer support commitments.

Passed the Reddit sniff test

Savvy consumers have long flocked to Reddit for honest reviews and recommendations. It’s no surprise that many people in search of a Microsoft backup and recovery solution check relevant subreddits such as r/MSP, r/AWS, r/Azure, r/TalesfromTechSupport, and r/googleadmin.

We took to Reddit to see what information was being shared about the vendors in this comparison. If comments about the solution were mostly positive, we considered them to pass the Reddit Test. Conversely, if the comments were mostly negative (e.g. horror stories from past or existing customers and recommendations to choose other solutions), they did not pass the Reddit Test.

A common theme was that companies that were acquired by larger organizations experienced overall service degradation. These companies include CloudAlly (acquired by Zix in 2020, Spanning (acquired by Kaseya in 2018), and Backupify (acquired by Datto in 2014). As an example, it is alleged that Kaseya shut off phone support for Spanning to increase margins.

The company that really didn’t pass the Reddit Test was Datto’s Backupify, with the largest volume of Redditors posting about issues related to Backupify’s service and problem resolution. One person claimed that their support ticket from 10 months ago was still unresolved.

Spanning, Barracuda, and Metallic didn’t pass the Reddit test due to slow restore times. One Redditor claimed that it took over a day to restore a single file. For context, a single-file restore should take a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the file type and size.

Be cautious when researching solutions on Reddit. N-able recently changed their name – and brand – from SolarWinds after getting a lot of negative press after a massive data breach took place in 2020, impacting 33,000 customers.

Info on the breach: In early 2020, hackers secretly broke into Texas-based SolarWinds systems and added malicious code into the company’s software system. The system, called “Orion,” is widely used by companies to manage IT resources. Solarwinds has 33,000 customers that use Orion, according to SEC documents. Most software providers regularly send out updates to their systems, whether it’s fixing a bug or adding new features. SolarWinds is no exception. Beginning as early as March of 2020, SolarWinds unwittingly sent out software updates to its customers that included the hacked code. The code created a backdoor to customers’ information technology systems, which hackers then used to install even more malware that helped them spy on companies and organizations.

Back up other apps to save

The number of SaaS applications used at a single organization is exploding. Today, the average mid-market company (101-999 employees) uses 185 different SaaS apps.

When considering a backup and recovery solution for Microsoft 365, keep in mind what other applications you might need to protect against data breaches, malicious actors, and simple human error. During our evaluation, we were not able to find a single Microsoft 365 backup solution offering multiple backup and recovery solutions for a discounted price. Except for Rewind.

With Rewind, your business can protect Microsoft 365 and QuickBooks Online, Shopify, BigCommerce, Trello, GitHub, and Jira. Rewind is on a mission to protect every SaaS application, so we’re continually expanding our offering of backup and recovery tools. When you back up more with Rewind, you save more and worry less. If backing up multiple solutions with a single pane of glass and consolidated billing is of interest to you, we recommend considering Rewind.

Granular data restoration

Precise (or granular) data restores allow you to recover from data loss quickly by only restoring the data you need, and none that you don’t. For example, you could restore only a single email quickly and efficiently with granular restores, rather than restoring the user’s entire inbox (a longer and more disruptive process).

All vendors we evaluated offer granular restores.

Powerful search

Much like granular restores, a powerful and accurate search function is important for swift restores. With a precise search, you can locate and restore lost data quickly to minimize workflow disruptions.

All vendors we evaluated offer a search tool.

Multi-user functionality

Being able to have multiple administrators log in and use an organization’s Microsoft 365 backup and recovery solution with individual credentials is important. Your backup and recovery solution should scale with you.

All vendors we evaluated offer multi-user functionality.

Our recommendation for Microsoft 365 backup and recovery

For small and medium-sized enterprises
recommendation: Rewind Backups for Microsoft 365

For small to medium-sized businesses (think: 1-500 employees), the best Microsoft 365 cloud backup solution in 99% of cases is likely to be Rewind. This is particularly true if you need something simple, don’t have a large IT team and hours to spend on product training, with a support team available to assist you if you need help restoring data.

Rewind is a “Goldilocks” solution that’s user-friendly, and easy to use. Rewind runs more snapshots per day than any competitors while staying committed to offering unlimited data storage and retention. Rewind offers over 16 data centers for customers to choose from – second only to N-Able which is only available through resellers.

Rewind is available to purchase directly from Rewind.com with crystal-clear pricing displayed on the website. With no seat minimums, even companies can purchase the product independently without talking to a sales representative and start their first backup within seconds.

Runner-up: Afi

If your company isn’t concerned about limited data storage and a 5-seat minimum, Afi is a runner-up recommendation based on our set of criteria. Afi has a very high backup success rate and comes recommended by many users on Reddit.

Our main concern with Afi is its team size. With only 28 employees, support may be limited when compared to companies with larger customer support teams.

Large enterprises

Our recommendation for a Microsoft 365 solution for small to medium-sized enterprises with 500+ employees is Veeam.

Veeam is the undisputed winner for large enterprise companies and offers the flexibility and customization that many enterprise solutions don’t and comes highly recommended by the MSPs and VARs that offer it to their clients. Companies with unique data storage requirements can bring their own storage including AWS S3, Azure Blob, IBM Cloud, Wasabi, and S3-compatible providers, or store data on-premise.

Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 offers comprehensive automation via PowerShell and RESTful API support for all functionality.

Conclusion

There are a lot of solutions out there. The Office 365 backup and recovery solution you choose should be tailored to your company’s size and specific needs. Small to medium-sized companies should go with a solution like Rewind, while large enterprises should consider Veeam to get extra features and flexibility.

We think the most important criteria are simplicity, ease of use, high backup success rate, and availability of support.

If there are any vendors we’ve missed and you’d like us to review – contact us by filling in the form below.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rewind Backups for Microsoft 365, head over to Backups for Microsoft Office 365 to learn more, watch a demo-on-demand, or reach out to our Sales Team for a custom demo and more information.


Profile picture of <a class=Dasha Shakov">
Dasha Shakov
Dasha Shakov is a product marketer, entrepreneur, and aspiring morning person. Outside of Rewind, you can find Dasha working her ecommerce businesses, designing her home, or playing fetch with her Goldendoodle, Finley. Dasha will never say no to tacos, game nights, or an episode of The Bachelor.