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Druva helps Thirteen Group get round Azure data retention limits

Social housing business has migrated to Microsoft Office 365 on Azure, but needed long-term data retention to comply with General Data Protection Regulation

Social landlord Thirteen Group has used backup from Druva to overcome the data retention limitations of the Microsoft Azure cloud it uses for Office 365.

The landlord and housing developer manages 34,000 properties and provides homes and support for more than 70,000 people who need housing. 

Its data backup strategy began with tape drives, but has now migrated to the cloud.

Hassan Bahrani, Thirteen’s head of IT, said the company previously used physical tapes for backups, and these were stored in fireproof safes and rotated across multiple sites. “We moved off tapes due to GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation],” he said. “The right to be forgotten and data subject requests are hard to do with tape backup.”

The company implemented tapeless backup with replication to a second site and then moved to Office 365.

However, Bahrani said: “Microsoft has a built-in recycle bin, but this only keeps data for a certain period of time, which is not good enough to comply with GDPR and doesn’t guarantee that your data will remain safe and secure.”

Microsoft operates on a shared responsibility model. Bahrani said Microsoft’s native data recovery features hold files for up to 90 days, which fails to meet the company’s long-term data storage requirements and puts it at risk of irrecoverable data loss.

In Bahrani’s experience, many IT departments fail to take into account the importance of having backups to avoid damage caused by ransomware attacks. “We identified a gap in our defences and used Druva to protect Office 365 workloads,” he said.

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Thirteen uses Druva to protect Outlook 365 email messages, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint data and OneDrive. As the Druva cloud service runs on AWS, said Bahrani, it provides a great way for Thirteen Group to use more than one public cloud provider.

Given that Thirteen manages homes that were built decades ago, it uses a document management system built on Sharepoint to store paperwork relating to building regulations. For instance, there are 30 years’ worth of gas safety documents covering its 35,000 properties, which are backed up using Druva.

One of the interesting facts about cloud-based backups over traditional on-premise options is that IT departments need to take into account how the cost of backing up will grow continuously as more data is backed up. This is something Bahrani has needed to look at for Thirteen Group.

“Our data compliance plan mandates us to keep email messages for two years and we are committed to a three-year agreement with Druva,” he said. “The forced email retention policy means we have to keep capacity planning to avoid spiraling costs.”

As such, the contract with Druva allows for an annual growth rate of 20% in backup data capacity, he said. For Bahrani, the ability to have backup data readily available outweighs the cost of cloud-based backup.

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