What are backup and retention?

It depends who's asking within the business

The terms "retention" and "backup" carry different meanings depending on the business function.

So what's the difference? Or is it clever cloud vendors trying to sell different products?

Backup and retention for IT

In IT, "backup" involves ensuring content recovery for user availability in case of need. In contrast, for the IT professional, "retention" simply refers to determining when backed-up content can be deleted.

Backup and retention for legal, records and compliance

For legal experts, records managers, and compliance auditors, the concept of "retention" takes on a distinct meaning. It signifies the necessity for accessible content during discovery and legal document production, accompanied by the ability to defend its origin, custody chain, and decisions regarding deletion or destruction. When communicating with these diverse groups, it's crucial to recognise that shared terminology might not convey the same nuances to each audience.

Defining the end goal

When contemplating changes to internal processes implemented in IT systems, it's vital to remember the process or policy's ultimate goal. Data retention isn't designed to ensure content restoration; that's the backup's role as the last-resort copy. In situations where disaster recovery and data availability aren't the primary concerns, retention's objective is to ensure the Legal Department can discover and defend documents when necessary.

Utilising the "backup" of Microsoft 365 content as the primary data retention compliance method can impede efficiency in ediscovery and data production. It requires the ediscovery process to navigate two systems, introducing a discovery variable that poses a risk if critical content is missed during production within the backup system.

The disaster recovery aspect

As disaster recovery and data availability are no longer the primary responsibilities of the IT department, individuals outside IT gain access to what were previously considered "administrative" systems for tasks that used to fall under IT's purview before the organisation's move to the cloud.

A notable instance of this access shift is the "Compliance Centre" in Microsoft 365's Administrative Portal. Assigning an eDiscovery role to the legal team enables them to search through all content in the organisation's Microsoft 365 tenant, manage data discovery and production cases, control data access for discovery, and generate reports on discovered data in subject matter cases. These activities constitute crucial aspects of the backend of data retention.

Next up, we look at the job of a good cloud backup solution.

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