This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Rubrik Forward 2022 conference and news coverage

Rubrik expands protection for Microsoft 365 backups

Microsoft 365 users can tap Rubrik to secure their backups in an air-gapped vault with multi-user authentication for security, but experts warn a more proactive approach is needed.

Rubrik is expanding its backup and protection tools for Microsoft 365 SaaS data with additional security hardening and recovery capabilities in the months to come.

Rubrik for Microsoft 365 will feature immutable backups with additional security features, Teams channel restorations and new Retention Lock SLAs in the forthcoming summer release, according to a keynote presentation at Rubrik Forward 2022 in San Diego and online.

These new features, as well as a collection of existing capabilities already included with Rubrik for Microsoft 365, help protect the data of Microsoft's flagship SaaS product.

Microsoft has indicated that protecting user SaaS data is a priority, given that the company injected a multimillion-dollar equity investment into Rubrik last year to beef up protection services available to Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft 365 SaaS product.

The partnership enabled Rubrik to use Microsoft APIs faster and more efficiently, according to Rubrik. The service is sold as a subscription and is priced according to the number of users protected. It requires no additional Rubrik products or subscriptions to function.

Data backup experts advise continued caution and vigilance in protecting Microsoft 365 data, however, even if an organization purchases a backup and recovery product.

Self-defense

Microsoft 365 operates under a shared responsibility model with Microsoft, which guarantees uptime and service-level agreements (SLAs) for applications., but the protection and availability of the data is the responsibility of the enterprise or individual user.

Most enterprise IT departments, however, fail to follow through on their part of responsibility. A majority of Microsoft 365 customers do not purchase additional services to protect data, said Vinny Choinski, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a TechTarget company. ESG's research shows 74% of enterprises using Microsoft 365 don't use third-party data protection tools. This lack of innate protection can quickly become a serious problem when ransomware or user error leads to a loss of data.

People think they buy a SaaS application [and] it's backed up at a level they want. All those [applications] people are using need to be protected.
Vinny ChoinskiSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

"People think they buy a SaaS application [and] it's backed up at a level they want," Choinski said. "All those [applications] people are using need to be protected."

Rubrik's SaaS application enters a crowded market of established competitors and partnerships each claiming to keep Microsoft 365 data under lock and key. Some of these competitors include Metallic by Commvault; Backups for Microsoft Office 365 by Rewind; and Keepit, which has a partnership with Zerto.

Companies looking to compete in this market will need to bring a mature backup platform to meet the myriad demands customers may know -- or not know -- they'll have, Choinski said.

"You can't enter this space without all the features everybody else has," he said. "You have to have all the bells and whistles."

Protection upgraded

Microsoft includes a handful of data compliance and retention tools with Microsoft 365, which can perform simple restoration tasks slowly but lacks features that can scale to enterprise-sized recovery requests or ransomware attacks. The company also sells Azure Backup Service, a service that protects workloads and data in Azure but not SaaS data specifically.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has flagged Microsoft 365 environments as a major target for cybercriminal activity due to its ubiquity in enterprises around the world.

Rubrik for Microsoft 365, which is managed by the vendor, can support the recovery of 15,000 users within a single day, protecting backups in an "air-gapped" data vault separate from a user's on-premises or cloud environments, according to the company.

The forthcoming update will enable users to bring their own security keys, protecting an organization from rogue internal attacks. It will also include new capabilities that build off Rubrik's recently touted machine learning capabilities to identify data that may contain personally identifiable information or other sensitive data.

Whether using Rubrik or another backup vendor, Microsoft 365 SaaS users should ensure they're following a backup schedule and an established organization recovery protocol to avoid complacency, Choinski said.

"I think people got used to working with the very basic features and not following good data protection standards," he said. "If you want to start matching [your backups] with your company SLAs, RTOs and RPOs, you need some better tools."

Best defense? Good offense

What constitutes a better tool may come down to how proactive an enterprise wants to be in combat against cyberattacks.

The offerings by Rubrik are a more passive form of defense against ransomware and other attacks, said Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting. Rubrik can restore your data from a backup, but having software that can detect and intercept issues before a ransomware detonation or before a pattern emerges is a more aggressive, smart strategy, he said.

Machine learning, which Rubrik is currently touting, can identify abnormal patterns in data and warn users about compromised files, but a system infection could have already taken place by the time of detection.

"It's like closing the barn door after the horse is gone," Staimer said. "It's much better to be active than reactive. … It's seeking out the problem before it becomes a problem."

Services sold by companies such as RackTop Systems, Acronis and Asigra provide a more active defense but come with their own quirks and drawbacks, Staimer said.

Rubrik's offerings can help speed up recovery but beyond speed and "table stakes" immutability updates, users should consider additional tools to protect their organizations' data, he said.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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