How to Backup Office 365 Settings and Policies Using a Third-Party Configuration Tool

How to Backup Office 365 Settings and Policies Using a Third-Party Configuration Tool

By
June 2, 2023

Beyond the applications and resources powering your Microsoft Office 365 cloud infrastructure lies a delicate system of configurations and policies. While you may not interact with them day-to-day, these settings and policies are responsible for keeping your system running and ensuring business continuity for your cloud environment.

Enterprise teams dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to backing up their precious data, but the configuration policies responsible for managing access to that data often takes a back foot. This is dangerous not only for your organization, but also for your customers by extension.

Unfortunately, Microsoft does not offer a full-service backup platform to secure your configuration policies across Office 365. But over the years, Microsoft users have developed their own unofficial workarounds and third-party tools to assist with the issue of backing up and recovering their configurations.

Let's take a look at the different third-party tools and techniques available for backing up your configurations across Microsoft Office 365, Azure AD, Intune, Microsoft Teams, Exchange Online, SharePoint, and more. We'll also try and understand why it's important to back up your configuration files and develop an overview of things that need backing up in Microsoft 365.

Admin Center: Your Portal to Every Configuration Setting In Microsoft 365

The Microsoft 365 Admin Center serves as a centralized portal through which system administrators can manage and configure all aspects of their organization's cloud environment. By providing a unified interface for managing users, groups, licenses, devices, and services, Admin Center simplifies the administration process, streamlines tasks, and enhances overall management efficiency.

From the Admin Center, administrators have access to various configuration settings, including user management, security, and compliance settings. They can add, delete, or modify user accounts, assign licenses, and manage group memberships. In addition, administrators can configure settings related to specific services, such as SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, and Exchange, to customize the user experience and maintain compliance with organizational policies.

Security and compliance are critical aspects of Microsoft 365. Admin Center provides a comprehensive set of tools for managing these areas. Administrators can configure security settings, such as multi-factor authentication and conditional access policies, to protect user accounts and sensitive information. They can also manage data loss prevention policies, manage email security settings, and monitor potential security threats through the Security & Compliance Center.

Basically, the Admin Center is the gateway to every configuration setting within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. It offers administrators a user-friendly and centralized platform for managing the various aspects of their organization's Microsoft environment, making it easier to maintain security, compliance, and an optimal user experience.

Why Back Up Your Microsoft 365 Configurations and Policies?

In addition to data backup, it's also important to secure your tenant configurations and policies in M365 using a cohesive backup plan that covers all major applications and resources like Office 365, Azure AD, Intune, Microsoft Teams, Exchange Online, and SharePoint. This is true for several reasons, such as:

  • Consistent Experience: Office 365 settings and policies define the user experience, including permissions, security settings, and other configurations. Having a backup ensures that you can maintain a consistent user experience even in the event of a disruption.
  • Compliance and Auditing: Many organizations have specific compliance requirements that mandate the retention of settings and policies for a certain period. Backing up your Office 365 settings and policies helps you meet these requirements and provides a reliable audit trail.
  • Change Management: When making changes to your Office 365 environment, it's essential to have a backup of your settings and policies. This enables you to revert to a previous configuration if the changes result in unintended consequences or if you need to compare the new configuration to the previous one.
  • Disaster Recovery: In the event of a disaster, such as a ransomware attack or data breach, having a backup of your settings and policies will help you get your Office cloud environment back up and running quickly and securely.
  • Migration and Testing: If you need to migrate your Office 365 environment to another tenant or perform testing, having a backup of your settings and policies will ensure that you can recreate the environment accurately and efficiently.

An Overview of Every Office 365 Configuration That Needs Backing Up

There are several settings and policies within Microsoft 365 that should be backed up to ensure a quick recovery in case of data loss, accidental deletion, or other incidents. Some of the key configuration settings that need backing up include:

  • User Accounts and Permissions: This includes user profiles, passwords, roles, licenses, and group memberships. These settings are essential for maintaining user access and ensuring proper authorization across the organization.
  • Email Configurations: Backup settings such as mailbox permissions, shared mailbox configurations, distribution groups, transport rules, mail flow settings, and retention policies in Exchange Online.
  • SharePoint and OneDrive Settings: This includes site collections, site templates, permissions, document libraries, list configurations, and customizations.
  • Microsoft Teams Settings: Backup Teams-related configurations such as team memberships, channels, tabs, apps, and policies.
  • Security and Compliance Settings: This includes settings related to multi-factor authentication, conditional access policies, data loss prevention policies, sensitivity labels, retention policies, and eDiscovery cases.
  • Device Management Settings: Backup configurations related to Microsoft Intune, device compliance policies, mobile device management settings, and device enrollment policies.
  • Domain and DNS Settings: This includes domain configurations, DNS records, and SSL certificates associated with your Microsoft 365 tenant.
  • Power Automate and Power Apps Settings: Backup configurations related to Power Automate flows and Power Apps applications, including custom connectors and shared resources.
  • Custom Scripts and Applications: Backup any custom scripts, applications, or third-party solutions integrated with your Microsoft 365 environment.
  • Organization Settings and Branding: This includes your organization's profile, custom themes, logos, and any other branding elements applied to your Microsoft 365 environment.

How to Back Up Your Office 365 Policies and Settings: 3 Ways

Microsoft does not offer a built-in full-service backup solution for securing your tenant configurations. However, a number of third-party tools and unofficial workarounds do exist. Here's an overview of each:

PowerShell Scripts

PowerShell is a powerful scripting language that allows administrators to automate and manage various tasks within Microsoft 365. With custom scripts, admins can back up settings and configurations in various services, such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Teams.

Pros:

  • High degree of customization
  • Broad coverage of Microsoft 365 services
  • Cost-effective solution

Cons:

  • Requires scripting knowledge and expertise
  • Time-consuming to create and maintain scripts
  • No centralized management

Microsoft 365 DSC

Microsoft 365 DSC is an open-source solution for managing and deploying configurations in Microsoft 365. DSC allows administrators to define the desired state of their Microsoft 365 environment and automate the deployment of configurations across multiple tenants.

Pros:

  • Easy to use with pre-built resources
  • Supports various Microsoft 365 services
  • Integration with Azure Automation for centralized management

Cons:

  • Limited to the supported resources
  • Requires familiarity with DSC and PowerShell
  • Open-source nature may lead to limited support

Simeon Cloud

Simeon Cloud is an end-to-end automation platform for managing and securing your Microsoft 365 system configurations. Right now, it's the only premium no-code solution that supports backing up your configuration files with features like ongoing drift detection and one-click system reconciliation. 

Pros:

  • Centralized management and monitoring
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Automation capabilities for backup and restore

Cons: 

  • It's a premium subscription.
  • Requires dependency on a third-party portal.
  • There's no free trial.

Simeon Cloud: The End-to-End Automation Tool for Backing Up Office 365 Configurations and Settings

Simeon Cloud provides a centralized, user-friendly, and automated solution for backing up M365 configurations, offering compliance, security, rapid deployment, version control, and customization capabilities to meet the needs of diverse organizations. Here are a few advantages of using the platform to back up your Microsoft 365 cloud environment:

  • Centralized Management: Simeon Cloud offers a single platform for managing and monitoring the backup of M365 settings and configurations across multiple tenants, simplifying the process and reducing the risk of inconsistencies.
  • User-Friendly Interface: The platform provides an intuitive interface that simplifies the backup process, making it accessible to administrators with varying levels of technical expertise.
  • Automation Capabilities: Simeon Cloud allows organizations to automate the backup and restore process, reducing manual effort and minimizing the risk of human error.
  • Compliance and Security: The platform ensures that backup and restore processes adhere to organizational policies and industry standards, providing a secure and compliant solution for managing M365 configurations.
  • Rapid Deployment: Simeon Cloud's pre-built configurations and templates enable organizations to quickly deploy and manage M365 settings, reducing the time and effort required for setup and maintenance.
  • Version Control and Rollback: The platform offers version control capabilities, allowing administrators to track changes to M365 settings and configurations and revert to previous versions when needed.
  • Customizable Settings: Simeon Cloud enables organizations to tailor settings and configurations to their specific needs, ensuring that their M365 environment is aligned with business requirements and best practices.
  • Ongoing Support: As a subscription-based service, Simeon Cloud provides ongoing support and updates, ensuring that organizations can take advantage of the latest features and improvements to the platform.

Ready to see Simeon's features in action? We don't currently offer a free trial, but you can request a free one-on-one demo where we can help you figure out how to use the platform in a way that's best for your organization's needs.