Most firms assume that their Vendors are adhering to the service level agreements (SLAs) that were promised to them when they first signed up to do business together. But assumptions can be perilous.

Isaac Asimov once said be watchful of your assumptions because they are your windows on the world. He urged people to clean off their windows once in a while or the light might not shine in.

For businesses, this means you should always seek to get a broader perspective of the world than you might have today. To question what’s being said and shared.

In the case of SLAs, this means taking the time to reread the fine print in the agreement your vendor promised to deliver, and even ask for verification of services rendered. Don’t be surprised to discover that vendors sometimes fall short on their promises, especially when it comes to data backup, and in particular, email backup.

In fact, industry stats of Managed Services Providers (MSPs) according to consultant Todd Kane show that the average SLA achievement rate is around 75%. And at the low end of the scale that achievement rate drops to under 50%. Clearly, some MSPs are delivering less than their SLA’s promise.

But fear not — here’s what you can do about it.

According to Wikipedia, a Service Level Agreement is:

“An official commitment that prevails between a service provider and a client. Particular aspects of the service – quality, availability, responsibilities – are agreed between the service provider and the service user.”

Each day, more and more small businesses turn to third party companies like MSPs to act as their outsourced IT department. And most of these vendors have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place regarding email backup and archiving. This makes sense, after all, managing, storing and enabling recovery of email data is a key element of any third party I.T. service.

And if you are like many firms, you may well be using Office 365 for your business email.

Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most popular and comprehensive office productivity solutions available on the market today. Office 365 allows companies to manage their emails, documents, and productivity tasks faster and more effectively than ever before.

So most firms using Office 365 assume their email data is automatically protected by O365 data backup and recovery offered through their vendor.

Surprise! Why Office 365 Email Backup Isn’t Enough

Many firms believe that because Microsoft Office 365 provides up to 1TB of storage for users, there is little need for data backups. With all that storage, who needs to delete anything?

However, that 1TB storage is for file storage and sharing only, not for email archiving or mailbox. Archiving is only available with Office 365 Enterprise E3 plans or higher, which can be cost prohibitive for smaller to mid-sized firms.

Also, the setup process for native Office 365 archiving is complex. It requires a thorough knowledge of the Office 365 admin control panel and constant monitoring by account admins.

Backup and recovery are also extremely restricted and recovering deleted items is difficult. This makes it imperative for many companies to find alternative solutions to improve Office 365’s ability to backup, recover and archive data.

What About the SLA?

According to the recent Dropsuite Perception Gap Report, there is a gap between expectations businesses have for email backup, archiving and recovery and what is often offered through the outsourced vendor’s SLA.

As you might suspect, much of this gap is caused by the assumed backup capability offered through Office 365 versus what is actually offered. For example, in most small business plans, Office 365 only backups up deleted emails for up to 30 days. If a data SLA guarantees all client data
is being backed daily, the vendor may be in breach.

However, in some cases, there is a real issue between what’s being promised in the SLA compared to the service level being delivered. For example, an SLA usually spells out important criteria that vendors promise to adhere to.

Let’s start with a typical list:

  • Availability (e.g. 99.99% uptime)
  • Performance (e.g. fast response times)
  • Backup (e.g. against data loss by backing up data)
  • Security/privacy of the data (e.g. encrypting all stored and transmitted data)
  • Disaster Readiness (e.g. recovery guarantees)
  • Location of your data (e.g. consistent with local laws or compliance rules)
  • Portability of the data (e.g. ability to move data)
  • Government Data Protection Compliance (such as HIPAA and GDPR)

It’s important that vendors deliver on their SLA promises, after all, a provider’s business reputation is at stake.

3 Quick Tips for SLA Success

  1. Read your provider’s SLA very carefully
  2. Ask your technically-minded internal staff to validate your providers SLAs against common crisis scenarios
  3. Have a contingency plan ready to safeguard your against real world outage scenarios

So what’s a smart business to do?

Ask questions!

Here’s a short list of some additional questions you can ask your vendor about email backup and archiving.

Questions Savvy Firms Should Ask About Email Backup and Archiving

  1. What email backup and archiving service do you offer? The smart business will inquire as to what the vendor has in place for protecting their all-important email data. Does the vendor offer a robust solution that goes well beyond the Office 365 limits? What about the reliability of that system and uptime? What about security and encryption? These are all important factors that should be known well in advance of any potential disaster happening.
  2. What will it cost? A business that needs a robust email archiving system may be concerned about the fees a vendor might charge them to set up, migrate and maintain an email backup and archiving solution. Many vendors bundle this cost into their overall monthly service fee and then pitch email backup and archiving as a cost saver.
  3. How quickly can your archiver migrate pre-existing data? While this is by no means the most important software feature to look into, the average intake speed for migrating pre-existing email records is something a business may ask. Migrating data for archiving can take significant time and resources. A data processing architecture that was designed to cope with large amounts of data flow will yield better throughput performance metrics, speeding up the processing time for the initial migration of historical data.
  4. Does your archiver provide a professional feature set? There are different quality levels of email archiving. Professional grade email backup and archiving tools are more advanced than the standard tools that some vendors provide. Examples include: eDiscovery, Boolean searching, search by attachment, legal hold, unlimited storage, alert creation, user access control management, attachment managers, advanced reporting, and more. Businesses should ask their vendors which professional grade, compliance archiving features are included in the email backup and archiving software they offer.
  5. How does your archiver ensure the security of its data? A business’ email documents should have the minimal baseline security safeguards in place such as: AES-256 bit encryption, DDOS mitigation techniques such as SYN cookies and connection limiting protection, Secure Socket Layer SSL encryption for data in transit, geo-distributed data centers with over 99% availability, compliance with common information security standards and more.

Learn More about Email Backup and Archive and SLA Dis-agreements

If your business can survive without your email, then the rest of this article is not important.

But if you, like most businesses in the world today cannot live without your email then you should be aware of what to look for in a best-in-class email backup and archiving product.

Dropsuite Email Backup and Archiving is a solution specifically made to meet, and beat, all the requirements above, and more. Our solution is used by tens of thousands of businesses across the globe. We have the best system including uptime performance, ease of use and features. We take the hassle out of data backup, archiving and recovery with our easy-to-use yet powerfully secure system.

Want more information? Visit our Business Email Backup and Archiving page for details.

Contact one of our Dropsuite data loss prevention specialists who can provide more information and even give you a demo of our best-in-class solution.

Or, call us anytime: US +1-408-780-2106 or International +65 6813 2090.

Author: Dropsuite
Dropsuite is a Cloud based software platform that enables SMEs to easily backup, recover and protect their digital assets.
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