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Why you should store gray data and dark data in Office 365

Jul 29, 2016 by Peter Kozak

Fifty shades of gray data compliance

A while ago this blog highlighted the issue of gray data – metadata held in the cloud which has been generated during the course of managing or manipulating normal data. Gray data is neither active data nor data collected by normal business processes but not currently in use (the latter is defined by Gartner as dark data).

Just as some data changes frequently, other data is rarely accessed. That’s why, in reality, there’s a sliding scale about just how gray – or dark – certain enterprise information assets might be. Take low-touch, inactive data from an employee who has left the organization, for example. Do you physically store old disks from their laptop or PC? Do you leave the old mailbox in place or archive it? Do you back it up to the cloud?

At Quadrotech we’ve always been highly enthusiastic supporters of Office 365. We’ve helped customers migrate millions of live mailboxes, archives, offline files and shared Public folder resources onto the platform. And we don’t see why gray and dark data should be treated any differently.[vc_column width=”2/3″]Why? Because Microsoft’s entire Office 365 business model is about security, cost reduction and efficiency. If you suddenly need access to that long-forgotten email or report it’s most  likely to be for litigation or compliance purposes, and trying to track its whereabouts down across different systems or platforms can be time-consuming and expensive. Simply knowing it’s there in Office 365 solves compliance and retention issues at a stroke.

Microsoft can’t afford not to protect and support its Office 365 customers – there’d be too much at stake. And if you trust Microsoft to have your live mailboxes and gray generated-on-the-fly metadata sitting safely on its servers, there’s no reason not to add your very darkest data too.[vc_column width=”1/3″]

eDiscovery capabilities with Office 365

One of the great things about Office 365 is its range of Advanced eDiscovery options. The platform’s process module reduces the cost of eDiscovery, helping analyze unstructured data within Office 365. It works with data stored in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Skype for Business.

You can analyze groups, individual mailboxes and sites with Advanced eDiscovery. To prepare search results for Advanced eDiscovery you have be an eDiscovery Manager or an eDiscovery Administrator in the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center. Normally the user (the custodian of the data) must be assigned an Office 365 E5 license, although users with an Office 365 E1 or E3 license can be assigned an Advanced eDiscovery standalone license, and administrators and compliance officers who use Advanced eDiscovery to analyze data don’t need an E5 license.

All this capability is built into Office 365. You don’t need expensive third party tools (or third parties, come to that) to carry out eDiscovery when it’s needed. You retain full control over all your data. And you can demonstrate compliance easily.

What about other cloud options?

When critical records are required to defend a legal case, simplicity is the key. You may be running a hybrid version of Office 365 along with something like Veritas Enterprise, for example. That’s fine – everyone trusts that kind of traditional archive.

What we wouldn’t recommend is to create a new standalone repository for your dark/gray data. For example, if you were to archive to Azure you’d merely be creating another source that needed searching when the time came. And what tools/processes would satisfy your regulators that you’d be able to get the right data out when needed?

Another option would be to trust a third party to manage everything for you. For example, they might migrate your data into Azure and use proprietary indexing and discovery processes to manipulate what is stored there. As a result, you’d be paying for Azure, paying the third party, and you’d probably still have concerns about trust and liability.

Contrast that with an Office 365 solution, where your data can be stored effectively for free in shared mailboxes, where you have direct access to reliable eDiscovery, and where Microsoft is liable for keeping your data is safe and secure. That also means no ongoing costs for storing your data!

Lifting and shifting your data into Office 365

Have we convinced you yet? Well, of course, we do have an interest in all this.

Quadrotech’s role is to help you get everything – mailboxes, archives, offline files and shared resources – into Office 365, safely, securely, defensively and quickly. But that’s that – once you’re migrated we drop out of the picture. No ongoing contracts, no fixed long-term support. It’s just you and your supplier – Microsoft.

And just in case you weren’t aware, we’re a Microsoft Managed Partner (fewer than one percent of Microsoft’s 600,000 partners achieve Managed Partner status). We have a raft of Gold and Silver competencies and are part of the Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Alliance.

Having such a strong relationship with Microsoft is strategic to our business. It may well be right for yours, too.