Thought Leadership

Protecting Cloud Email

Protecting Cloud Email

(February 12, 2024) Regular backups are essential for protecting cloud email, ensuring that business-critical data can be recovered if needed.

Many organizations have adopted cloud-based email to eliminate the need for an onsite email server and better support their remote and mobile workforce. However, inadequate backup practices create vulnerabilities for cloud email systems and the business-critical data stored within them.

For example, hundreds of millions of people have Exchange Online mailboxes connected to their Microsoft 365 accounts. What many don’t realize is that you still need a reliable backup solution to protect this information. As a result, a great deal of information is at risk.

“Email systems in most organizations — whether on-premises or in the cloud — have evolved into huge, unsanctioned data repositories,” said Mark McClelland, co-founder and vice president of Mainstream Technologies. “By some accounts, about 60 percent of an enterprise’s business-critical information is stored in its email system. People routinely use their inboxes to keep messages and attachments containing negotiation details, contracts, financial statements and other information.”

True Backup Needed

Microsoft does have some native data protection capabilities for Exchange Online mailboxes, but they are not true backup solutions. It is possible to back up mailboxes using personal storage table (PST) files, but that is a cumbersome, manual process that requires some proficiency with the proprietary technology.

In December 2023, Microsoft began offering Microsoft 365 Backup as an add-on service to your existing Microsoft 365 subscription. However, it does not yet offer protection for Microsoft Teams data. This also begs the question; does it make sense to back up your important email and documents to the same provider that is hosting the service? This is why it may make sense to evaluate a third-party backup solution.

“Microsoft has made it clear in their M365 service agreement that customers should implement a solution to back up mailboxes regularly,” McClelland said. “Choosing a solution requires some homework, however. While most backup vendors offer tools for M365, they don’t always provide coverage for the dozens of individual applications within the cloud service.”

Don’t Forget Teams

Microsoft Teams is particularly problematic. The popular collaboration application is a data-rich environment holding chat and voicemail messages, images, videos, files, recordings and contacts. But that data is scattered throughout the M365 cloud.

Unlike most other applications, Microsoft Teams is a complex combination of different services, including Exchange Online. Because of this, Teams data is stored within several different apps — Teams chat data, conversation history and calendar data are stored in Exchange, for example. As a result, you must back up Exchange to fully protect Teams data.

“Backup and recovery of the Teams environment should be among the essential features to look for when evaluating third-party backup solutions for Exchange Online,” said McClelland. “You want full control and protection over all Teams data, including entire groups, specific channels and settings. You’ll also want the ability to enable long-term retention for compliance or regulatory purposes.”

Choosing an Email Backup Solution

Here are a few other key features to look for:

  • Full mailbox backup. You need more than the ability to retain certain information within email. The best solutions will perform a full backup of mailboxes, creating a single-point-in-time copy of the mailbox that remains protected against deletion, corruption or security threats.
  • Hybrid support. Many organizations have both on-premises and cloud email. Top solutions allow you to easily back up mailboxes across a hybrid environment and migrate mailbox data between M365 and on-premises Exchange.
  • Granular restores. Look for solutions that will provide the most flexibility, allowing you to restore individual emails, entire mailboxes or an entire Exchange environment.
  • E-discovery capabilities. Retrieving emails for legal or regulatory compliance reasons can be costly and time-consuming. The best solutions have advanced search functions that allow quick recovery of individual mailbox items.

“Many businesses have migrated to cloud platforms such as Microsoft 365 to fulfill their communication and collaboration needs,” McClelland said. “However, surveys suggest that up to 60 percent are not backing up their cloud email environments. Organizations should make it a priority to evaluate, select and implement a backup solution for critical cloud-based data.”


Mainstream Technologies delivers a full range of technology services in Arkansas and the surrounding region including managed technology services and consulting, custom software development and cybersecurity services. We also offer industry-leading data center services in our Little Rock facilities. Established in 1996, Mainstream has earned a reputation for delivering quality, reliable, and professional technology services for public and private-sector customers across the United States. 

Jeff Pracht
IT Business Development Manager
(479) 715-8629 Office
(501) 529-0008 Mobile

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