CloudAlly Review – Microsoft 365 Backup

Last month I wrote an article about why you should backup Microsoft 365. During the research and comparison between the different providers, one product stood out, CloudAlly. They offer everything you need for a really good price. A good reason to do a thorough review of CloudAlly Backup for Microsoft 365.

If you are still in doubt if you even need to backup your Microsoft 365 tenant, then I really suggest you read this article first. It will describe in a detailed way why using a third-party backup solution is really recommended for Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Services Agreement

We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.

CloudAlly Backup for Microsoft 365

CloudAlly is one of the leading providers of cloud backups for Microsoft 365. They were one of the first companies, way back in 2011, that offered a backup solution for Office 365.

Their product is completely cloud-based. You don’t need to install anything, just simply log in through your browser to set up and manage your backups. This cloud-to-cloud SaaS backup has some huge advantages compared to on-premises backup, for example, Veeam.

You don’t have to worry about bandwidth requirements (or limitations), storage, or access to your backup server to restore a file. It’s really set and forget, they’ve got your covered.

What can CloudAlly backup?

CloudAlly is among the few Microsoft 365 backup providers that can back up pretty much every part of Office 365. Other providers can backup Exchange Online, SharePoint, and OneDrive, but some backup providers can’t make a backup of Teams or Groups.

Teams, in particular, is an important solution, given its increased popularity these days. Keep in mind that Teams also can have sites with files, important conversations, and calendars that you might need to restore.

The following is included in the Office 365 backup of CloudAlly:

  • Exchange Online (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks)
  • OneDrive (Personal Sites, Documents, Libraries)
  • SharePoint (Sites, Documents, Libraries)
  • Teams and Groups (Conversations, Calendar, Sites, Apps, Channels and Metadata)

You can use the link below to get a personal demo of CloudAlly:

Get a Demo on a Backup Solution for your Business.

Setting up CloudAlly Microsoft 365 Backup

So let’s take a closer look at setting up CloudAlly and configuring the backups. During the registration, you will have to choose a location for your data storage. CloudAlly offers four regions to choose from:

  • US East (Northern Virginia)
  • Canada (Central)
  • EU (Ireland)
  • Asia Pacific (Sydney)

Keep in mind that you can’t change the location later, even if you convert from the trial to a paid subscription. So make sure you select the correct location.

The registration itself is pretty simple; all you need is a valid email account, username, and password to get started.

After you have activated your account, I really encourage you to activate the two-factor authentication first. Keep in mind that you will have access to all your company data through CloudAlly when you have configured the backups. So keeping your CloudAlly account safe is really important.

CloudAlly Microsoft 365 Backup Review

Click on Settings and select Security. There you can activate Two-Factor Authentication for your account and enable it for all other users. You can use any Authenticator app; the settings page will suggest Google Authenticator, but Microsoft Authenticator for example will work as well.

Configuring Exchange Online backups

Before we can set up the backups we will need to configure one setting in the Exchange Online Admin center, Application Impersonation. Open the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and select the Exchange Admin Center

  1. Select Permissions
  2. Edit/open the Discovery Management role
  3. Add the role ApplicationImpersonation
  4. Do the same for the Organization Management role
Exchange Admin Center ApplicationImpersonation

After we have configured the Application Impersonation roles we can start adding the actual backup jobs. The authentication with your Office 365 tenant is done with OAuth. You will only have to authenticate once for the first job you create.

Settingup CloudAlly

Configuring the Exchange Online backup job is really simple. Given that CloudAlly Backup includes unlimited backup storage, we can leave the Backup Frequency to Daily. More automatic backups per day are not possible, but you can change it every three days or weekly.

I suggest turning on Index All Data for Search to ensure all your data is indexed. This allows you to search for specific items during a recovery, making it more convenient.

If you want to make a backup of all your accounts, you can simply select Activate ALL new accounts, so you don’t have to add them manually later.

Configuring Exchange Online backup in CloudAlly

If you have a small tenant you can simply activate the accounts by selecting them in the list (there is a select all option). But for a large tenant, you might want only to activate the backup for certain groups or accounts.

CloudAlly comes with options for bulk activation to easily accomplish this. You can use your Active Directory variables, Microsoft 365 Groups, or a simple CSV file to make a quick selection of the accounts that you want to activate.

Backup SharePoint Online and OneDrive

Setting up the other backup jobs goes pretty much the same way. Because you are already authenticated it really takes just a few clicks to set up. SharePoint Online and OneDrive are two different backups tasks, but their setup is pretty much similar.

When you create the task you will need to enter your SharePoint or OneDrive URL. For SharePoint it’s this https://<your-tenant-name>.sharepoint.com and for OneDrive you will need to add -my between your tenant name and .sharepoint.com: https://<your-tenant-name>-my.sharepoint.com

Or simply open your SharePoint/OneDrive in your browser and copy the first part of the URL 😉

SharePoint Online backup with CloudAlly

Again the settings are pretty straight forward, you can enable indexing and automatically add new sites to the backup jobs. At the bottom of the screen, you can select sites you want to backup.

Backup Office 365 Teams and Groups

Teams and Groups jobs are the simplest ones. It will need the Application Impersonation access role as well, but we already configured that when we started with the Exchange Online job. You only need to give the backup job a name and select the Teams that you want to backup.

Just like the other jobs, we can index again and add new groups/teams automatically.

Keeping track of the Backup Jobs

It is important to keep track of your backup jobs after you have configured them. You don’t want to log in every day to check if the backup jobs ran successfully or if there are issues.

In CloudAlly you can configure your notifications to your liking. You can add multiple recipients for the notifications and choose when to email them.

CloudAlly notifications

Personally I want to receive failure notifications only. If you receive the same mail every day you will get “immune” to it, so after a couple of weeks, chances are you may not open it anymore and could miss something important. The failures are also mentioned in the full report.

The notifications have a CSV report attached to it (or with a download link) with all the details like the account name, service (mail, contact, OneDrive, etc), status, when the last backup was made, and size.

You can also see this information if you open the backup jobs in CloudAlly self. You can expand each row and get a nice overview of the data that is backed up:

CloudAlly Review backup overview

Restoring Items

Pretty much the most important feature of a backup solution, restoring files. CloudAlly offers different options for restoring or downloading the backup items such as from any point-in-time or using search and filter. It also allows you to export backups to your own storage.

I have done a couple of small tests and in general files or mailbox items are restored in a couple of minutes depending on the size of course.

To give you an idea, a small mailbox with 5000 items and a size of almost 1 Gb was ready for download within 3 minutes.

Recovering Exchange Online Items

To recover an Exchange Online item, we select the Exchange backup task in the recovery screen and choose the correct mailbox (You can restore it to the same mailbox or to a different mailbox) You can now choose if you want to restore from a snapshot, where you can filter on the date first, or use the item search if you have enabled indexing.

If you choose snapshots you can select a snapshot and browse to an individual item or folder that you want to restore or download. When you choose to restore, then it will do this in a non-destructive way. This means that it will create a new folder, (restored emails) for example, in your inbox with the items in it.

The download function will give you a couple of options, like export formats (.EML or .PST) or downloading it directly to another cloud storage provider, like Amazon S3.

Restoring items in CloudAlly

What’s good to know is that you can click on the search icon to open the snapshot and navigate through to the data itself. So you can open the snapshot, select Inbox (under regular items), and select that specific subfolder or item you are looking for to restore.

The Items search works pretty nice. You can simply search on a keyword or open the advanced search and even specify a date range, from or to address or subject you want to search for.

CloudAlly Search item

The search results will show a list of all individual items allowing you to select what you want to restore or download.

Restoring SharePoint and OneDrive items

Restoring SharePoint or OneDrive items work pretty much the same way. Again you can search for individual items if you have indexing enabled or open a snapshot to restore or download a complete folder.

If you choose to restore a file or folder directly back to SharePoint or OneDrive you will be given a couple of options:

  • Restore to a different Endpoint (SharePoint site)
  • Restore to a sub-site of the SharePoint site (the non-destructive way)
  • Replace – overwrite the existing live data
  • Bypass – existing data will be skipped and not restored
  • Duplicate – keep both versions.

CloudAlly Pricing

If you have more than 50 users, then the pricing of CloudAlly Microsoft 365 backup is pretty straight -forward. It costs only $3 per user per month or $30 per user per year. This includes all the features and unlimited storage.

When you have less than 50 users, the pricing is a little bit more complicated. You pay $3 per user per month. But if you also want to backup OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams you will have to pay an additional fee per service per 10Gb.

So 100Gb for a SharePoint store costs $30 per month to backup. The same goes for OneDrive and Teams.

To give you a better idea of the backup cost for your Microsoft 365 tenant, you can fill in the form below to get a custom quote.

Getting Support from CloudAlly

CloudAlly offers multiple ways for getting into contact with them for support questions. You can call them, use the chat, or simply open a ticket if you have a question. The chat windows are always visible in the CloudAlly app, so you can simply reach out to them.

I really like that you can call them. Some companies only offer support through email or their ticket system, but especially with backups, there is sometimes that time pressure where you need support now and not tomorrow. So it’s a comforting idea that you can always call them.

They have three support numbers available, spread across different time zones (US, UK, and AU).

Conclusion

Overall I really like CloudAlly. It’s super easy to set up, you can configure the whole backup of your tenant in just 5 minutes or so. Restoring items is just as simple, if you know what you are looking for, you can restore every item within 3 to 4 clicks.

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