IT teams at enterprise organizations dedicate significant amounts of resources every year to make sure that their business data is properly backed up. Understandably so, but what about the settings, policies, and configuration files needed to access that data? That’s where they are at their most vulnerable.
Think about it. You could be devoting hundreds of thousands of dollars from your yearly turnover towards ensuring that business-critical data remains safe and protected. But all that an attacker really needs to do to compromise your data infrastructure is to target the login portal you use to access it.
For your cloud infrastructure to be truly secure, you need to back up not just your data but also the configurations and policies that govern your digital ecosystem. Azure AD is the access management platform at the center of all things Microsoft 365, making it too vital to leave out without a recovery plan.
Today, let’s talk about why it’s important for your Microsoft 365 organization to back up your Azure AD tenant configurations, along with the tools you need to make that happen.
Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft's cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) platform that provides a comprehensive and scalable solution for managing user identities, authentication, authorization, and security across your enterprise's applications and services. It’s designed to help IT managers effectively manage access to both cloud and on-premises resources.
A few key components and features of Azure AD include:
An IAM platform like Azure AD is essential for business continuity, as it ensures secure and reliable access to resources, supports compliance, and enables seamless application integration. Disruptions to an organization's Azure AD configuration can have serious consequences, highlighting the importance of effective IAM management and monitoring.
Here are a few ways Azure AD impacts business continuity in an enterprise environment:
Azure AD consists of several components — including configurations and data — that are essential to the continuity of your cloud environment. Without a proper backup solution to fall back on in the event of an outage, your organization can be at severe risk.
As an IT manager, it’s important to know the different components that need to be proactively secured and monitored inside Azure AD. Here are a few examples;
Microsoft’s built-in backup solutions for Azure AD were hardly ever meant to offer an enterprise-level recovery solution. Relying solely on these built-in mechanisms is unlikely to be sufficient for a business’ requirements, especially if that business is a large organization spread across multiple departments and locations.
One reason for this is that Microsoft's default data retention policies might not align with your organization's needs. Deleted objects are only retained for 30 days before being permanently removed. For organizations that require longer retention periods for compliance or business reasons, relying solely on built-in retention policies may not suffice.
Additionally, Azure AD's recovery options for deleted users, groups, and other objects might not support granular recovery of specific settings or attributes. Implementing a custom backup strategy can ensure the ability to restore critical configurations, such as custom domain settings, conditional access policies, or role-based access control settings.
Compliance and auditing requirements in some industries may necessitate maintaining additional backups of Azure AD data and configurations. Implementing a personalized backup strategy ensures the ability to meet these requirements and provide the necessary documentation during audits.
So to answer the original question: Yes, you need to back up your Azure AD tenants inside Microsoft 365. Not only that, but you need to use a specialized backup solution that goes beyond the native features offered by Microsoft to provide a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for your organization.
In 2021, IT contractor Deepanshu Kher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for intentionally causing damage to a protected computer by deleting over 1,200 Microsoft user accounts belonging to a Carlsbad company.
Kher was hired by the company in 2017 to assist with their migration to a Microsoft Office 365 cloud environment. But after the company terminated his contract, Kher retaliated by deleting over 1,200 of the company's 1,500 Microsoft 365 user accounts.
This incident highlights the importance of properly backing up Azure AD tenant configurations, which are responsible for managing access to all of Microsoft 365. If the company had a proper disaster recovery plan, they could have easily revived access to their lost M365 accounts and saved themselves from over $500,000 in damages.
But attacks aren’t the only threat. Human error can also pose a significant threat to your Azure AD tenant configurations, potentially disrupting your organization's access to resources and apps in Microsoft 365. This can occur in various ways, such as incorrect settings, erroneous changes, or unintended deletions.
Let’s consider for example an IT engineer who’s tasked with updating Azure AD's role-based access control (RBAC) settings to grant a specific group of users additional permissions. However, they mistakenly remove some critical permissions or revoke access for a larger group of users than intended. As a result, affected users suddenly lose access to essential resources, such as email, documents, and collaboration tools.
In addition to impacting day-to-day operations, human error can also have security implications. For example, if an administrator grants excessive permissions to a user or group, it could expose sensitive data and resources to unauthorized access or manipulation. In that case, the organization may find itself at risk of data breaches, non-compliance with regulations, as well as reputational damage.
An Azure AD backup solution is a tool or service that enables organizations to create and maintain backups of their Azure Active Directory (AD) data and configurations. Backups help ensure that organizations can quickly recover from accidental or malicious changes, data loss, or other disruptions that may impact access to resources and services within Microsoft 365.
While it has made significant strides in compliance and security in general, Microsoft’s backup and recovery mechanism for configuration policies has always been somewhat lacking. For example, it has very rigid retention policies that cannot be customized to your liking. Microsoft 365 also does not provide backup and restore functions for individual configuration files.
Using a third-party Azure AD backup solution ensures that your organization’s access to Microsoft 365 apps, services, and data remain unaffected in the event of an attack, outage, or misconfiguration.
Simeon Cloud is an end-to-end automation platform that offers a suite of tools and services to help enterprise IT teams efficiently manage their Microsoft 365 environments. One of our key offerings is an Azure AD protection solution, which enables organizations to implement a robust backup strategy for their tenants.
With Simeon, IT teams can benefit from comprehensive backups of various Azure AD components, scheduled automated backups at regular intervals, as well as granular recovery of specific settings and policies. Simeon also maintains a version history of the backed-up data, allowing teams to track changes and revert to previous configurations if needed.
Additionally, Simeon Cloud provides detailed comparison reports to help IT teams identify discrepancies between their current configuration and pre-established baseline, enabling them to detect any unauthorized or unintended changes. With a focus on security and compliance, Simeon ensures that your Azure AD configuration is securely stored in the event of an incident.
Want to learn more about how Simeon can help you implement a backup and recovery solution for Azure AD tenant configurations? Sign up for a free demo to see for yourself!