How to Back Up Microsoft Teams—And Why You Should 

Remote work was on the rise already, and then the pandemic struck—and companies that were previously hybrid or solely office-based found themselves scrambling to integrate remote capabilities. Now more employees than ever before are working remotely, and researchers expect the sector to continue growing steadily regardless of the outcome of the pandemic. While companies use many collaborative workspace applications, Microsoft Teams has seen a significant increase in users because of its ability to integrate with other applications commonly used by offices, such as Outlook and Excel.

Collaborative workspaces create the capability for remote employees to participate in dimensional conversations and co-work from anywhere in the world. In Microsoft Teams, users can message both publicly and privately and schedule calls and meetings within channels. These workspaces are the digital answer to the open office. Within Microsoft Teams, a workspace can create one or more Teams, and within each Team, there can be multiple channels. Users can videoconference, share files, and even work together in real-time on documents. In fact, users can upload and share a large amount of workplace data—data which many workplaces are now looking for ways to preserve and backup.

The Main Issue with Backing Up Microsoft Teams

Quite simply, the problem with Microsoft Teams is that there is no Microsoft backup for it. The larger the company, the more Teams may exist, and each Team can comprise dozens of channels. Multiplied across the entire workspace, that’s an enormous amount of shared files, conversations, conferencing, and more. Because it is entirely on the cloud, Microsoft Teams is not located in any physical space, and there are no backup interfaces currently. Microsoft 365 includes some retention features, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Why Should You Back Up Microsoft Teams?

Since Microsoft Teams is cloud-based, many companies falsely believe they do not need a backup plan. However, the cloud by itself may not be enough protection if data is deleted or lost. Half of all data loss is due to human error, resulting in potentially costly security breaches that may go undetected for months. Nearly one-third of businesses are impacted in some way by data loss in the cloud. Lost data also directly impacts productivity. Relying on the cloud leads to total dependency, and the path to retrieve the data can become long and complex. Restoring data can be time-consuming and still result in incomplete restoration. Employees might even accidentally delete or overwrite data in the cloud, meaning that it could possibly be lost forever—unless there is a third-party backup.

Other Potential Challenges with Microsoft Teams Data

When employees leave the company, management can deactivate their channels but may wish to retain all that data and need a way to store or transfer it. And as Microsoft Teams expands, so does its ability to work with third-party workspace applications. This functionality is handy, but as with all technology, it sometimes results in hiccups. A malfunctioning third-party app can result in unintended data loss or file corruption. Finally, companies must always be on guard against malicious users looking for ways to illegally retrieve or delete data so that a third-party backup can create a more secure experience.

Backing Up Microsoft Teams Is Harder Than You Think

Many companies correctly decide they want to backup their Microsoft Teams, only to discover that the process is a lot more complicated than they thought it would be. Teams data is not stored in a single place but in multiple locations all across the cloud. Documents shared in Teams channels are stored in OneDrive for Business, but Channel conversations can be found in Exchange Online. A backup can only be successful if it secures interconnected data—it must back up SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange, or data restoration will be unsuccessful. The backend process is complex and means that there is a significant risk for security failures. A backup also provides more security when users do not properly utilize Microsoft’s built-in retention policies.

Microsoft Teams facilitates easy and open collaboration by utilizing an open permissions model, but that also means that every Team member can access any information on the public Team channels. Data leaks can occur if users accidentally place sensitive information on public channels, especially if users unintentionally create backdoor access to unauthorized users. Ransomware and malware targeting Teams are also on the rise as usage grows, and Teams does not scan for ransomware that enters Teams chats directly. And users may or may not be aware that their profiles are compromised in some way. A company may not find out until the data is corrupted or lost altogether.

Aren’t Microsoft Team’s Retention Policies Enough?

There are limits to what users can retrieve from Microsoft Team’s retention policies. The data retention period is limited. Items that users delete from Exchange sit in a deleted items folder indefinitely, but once a user empties the folder, they’re gone for good. Items deleted from SharePoint and OneDrive remain in the Recycle Bin for 93 days, and then they are permanently deleted. Another point to consider is that the data that lives in the built-in retention policies count toward the storage quota. For larger companies, this could necessitate purchasing additional storage. The data that Microsoft retains when this service is enabled are the full versions, meaning that users and companies can very quickly reach their storage quota and would need to purchase more on a regular basis or risk losing critical data in the event of a problem.

Finally, Microsoft Team’s retention policies do not collect all of the data generated within Teams. User deleted messages are permanently deleted after three weeks. And the less expensive Teams plans offer only short-term retention that does not protect as much as the more robust policies in the higher tiers E3-E5. Microsoft itself strongly recommends that users back up their data themselves in the User Agreement. A third-party backup would be the only way to capture these data points for potential restoration later on.

Plan for Everything and Protect Your Data

A healthy outlook in this day and age is to shift from if to when a security breach will happen. Malware and ransomware will continue to grow and adapt as the use of Microsoft Teams grows, with many closely mimicking legitimate software updates. As companies adopt more robust usage and the remote work population increases, the chances for unintentional data leak and loss grows as well—as long as humans are involved, there will be human error. Integrating multiple apps and cross-functionality makes Teams a valuable and incredibly useful tool, but those benefits also create risk.

In fact, Microsoft is now tracking 50 million attacks and 8 trillion threat signals daily—an alarming increase over pre-pandemic levels. And 53% of businesses are reporting a shortage of cybersecurity personnel in their operations. Nearly 70% of data breaches are a result of phishing. And in just a single month between February and March of 2020, ransomware attacks spiked over 148%. Tracking over time has indicated that attackers are continuing to target users opportunistically following large-scale events that leave some populations more vulnerable.

Several backup options are available that attempt to tackle the complex nature of Microsoft Teams data. As Teams usage grows and Microsoft adds tools and features, it’s crucial to have a backup system that can also grow and adapt. And with the massive amount of data that quickly accumulates, a backup must be able to handle storing and retaining it all.

SkyKick provides a quick and accurate recovery, reducing losses in productivity. Companies can rely on SkyKick for Microsoft 365 backup and recovery, including Teams data. To find out more, book a live demo and activate a free 30-day trial to see what a data-security partner like SkyKick can do.