Backup Microsoft 365 data to Synology 920+

Synology contacted me to review their DS920+ NAS unit, with specific emphasis on the Active Backup Suite. To perform the review, they supplied me with a unit and asked me to write a review which is unpaid; thus, any opinions are my own.

What’s in a name?

The unit name is DS920+ which stands for DiskStation 920+. 9 Bays for full capacity including extension, version of the year 2020,  plus series.

What this article is

This article is a review of the Synology DS920+ NAS, with specific emphasis of usability in a 365 backup scenario.

What this article is not

This article is not a of why 365 data should or should not be backed up.

Active Backup Suite

The Active Backup Suite speaks to a consolidation of hardware and backup software onto a single multi-use NAS platform, which is not limited by the amount of backup volume, backup sources or even the number of CPUs required to license the solution. 

The solution offered by Synology is a hardware purchase, the NAS device, which is bundled with backup software, which can backup a plethora of sources including 365 data. I have mentioned that there is no restriction on the number of items in scope of backup, which realistically means that you can backup as much user’s data as you have space on your NAS unit.

I was surprised to see the number of backup sources includes VMWare virtual machines, servers, file servers, Windows PCs, 365 and G Suite. Backup types include full and incremental backups for supported sources via VSS for Windows and Change Block Tracking for VMWare.

It gets better – deduplication is built in. I honestly don’t know why this is free; however, there’s a LOT of value here for this price point.

Graphical user interface, text, application

Description automatically generated

sources, i.e., 365 and G Suite, may be backed up continually, i.e. every few minutes, which can raise concerns in larger environs, however considering that we’re dealing with a SOHO NAS unit, this doesn’t raise a real concern for me.

Setup and configuration

Since the supplied unit is made for SOHO, setup was intuitive and straight forward. I added drives, configured the unit, added my 365 tenant, and I was done. The only constraint was how much data I could backup over my internet connection at home within a reasonable time frame.

The backup wizard includes the ability to automatically find and add new supported objects to the backup:

Graphical user interface, table

Description automatically generated

What 365 data CAN be backed up:

Graphical user interface, application, Teams

Description automatically generated
  • Exchange Online mailboxes, including folders, calendars, contacts, attachments, etc.
  • OneDrive for Business files and file metadata including permissions
  • SharePoint Online site collections, documents, lists, libraries
  • Microsoft Teams data stored in OneDrive and SharePoint Online ONLY
Graphical user interface, application

Description automatically generated

What Microsoft 365 data CAN’T be backed up:

  • Anything else. This may change over time though.
Graphical user interface, application

Description automatically generated

A backup isn’t a backup unless you can restore it

This was a happy surprise, since the restore wizard supports individual or date ranged emails, an entire folder (ever deleted one of those by mistake), a contact item, etc.

SharePoint and OneDrive restore are similarly granular with the ability to restore a single file, or an entire folder as well as permissions.

I did not test any Teams related restore scenarios.

Pricing

The backup software is bundled with the Synology unit and is included in the unit pricing, without the need for extra activation keys. Buy the unit for around USD 550.00 for the current DS920+, add the hard drives of your choice and you’re ready to go.

My view on backing up Microsoft 365

I have mention this point a few times; however, my point of departure is that a backup is only a backup if you can restore it. We also need to define your need for backup, as well as the scenario that backup needs to satisfy. If you’re in a regulatory framework that requires a backup and the Microsoft 365 service descriptions don’t fit into that framework or your definition for backup, then you need something that is a backup.

What else can it do

So much! Besides being a capable NAS device, it also offers virtualization, the ability to host docker containers, storage replication to other units, Apple time machine backup, Rsync, and the list goes on. None of these features require extra licenses. They’re simply built it. 

Conclusion

This review centered on the Microsoft 365 backup capability of a DS920+. During the review, I was pleasantly surprised at the units ease of use as well as how capable the device as a whole is. Everything I’ve seen has been thought out well and is easy to use.

 Does it backup Microsoft 365 mail and file data in a way that it can be restored easily, by date range and in a granular fashion? The answer is yes. If the capability of the Synology units fits your backup requirement, then I would heartily recommend you look at the Synology DS902+ for your small business or home office backup needs.