“AvePoint Online Services’ backup capabilities give us the same control over cloud backups as we would have on premises.”
-David Bullimore, National Infrastructure Manager, Oasis Community Learning
Oasis was founded in 1985 and since then has grown into a global movement pioneering a whole range of life-changing initiatives and projects in ten countries across five continents. Oasis Community Learning was established in 2004 with the purpose of transforming learning, lives, and communities through the development of Oasis Academies.
To provide a cost-effective platform for nearly 5,000 employees to collaborate across 11 countries worldwide, Oasis Community Learning implemented Microsoft Office 365 – SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. However, in migrating to a cloud environment, Oasis Community Learning saw challenges in SharePoint Online management and protection.
“We weren’t able to retain deleted items past Microsoft’s retention policy,” said David Bullimore, National Infrastructure Manager at Oasis Community Learning. “Since we did not want to lose that data forever, we went to market to find a solution that would give us more flexibility and control over backup and restoration.”
In addition to improving SharePoint Online backup and restore capabilities, administrators also needed an easier, less time-consuming way to manage and restructure content within its 500 gigabyte (GB) environment. “Using native capabilities to reproduce sites and site collections from templates was quite arduous and did not transfer all features and configurations,” said Shelagh Russell, SharePoint Developer at Oasis Community Learning. “It took up to four days to reproduce site collections and set them up individually.”
Looking to simplify SharePoint Online administration and implement a more comprehensive backup strategy, Oasis Community Learning sought a third-party solution.
To address its SharePoint Online management and data protection needs, Oasis Community Learning uses AvePoint Online Services (AOS), a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform hosted on Microsoft Azure. Because backup is a high priority for IT, administrators were drawn to the extent to which AOS is able to backup and restore SharePoint Online content beyond the platform’s native capabilities. While looking at different backup options, one possible solution involved using backup hardware such as tapes and shell scripts. With the variety of cloud-based backup destinations available through AOS, IT was able to eliminate the need for this hardware – a savings of £40,000.
In addition to cost savings, Oasis Community Learning also spent less time running backup jobs and restoring data. With AOS, Bullimore has the ability to schedule automatic backups and receive notifications when they are complete. AOS enables IT to capture full-fidelity backups of its SharePoint Online content. This, along with the ability to restore at the item level, results in a faster recovery time objective. “If content gets deleted, we can restore items to the same location and retain all properties,” Bullimore said. “We looked at several different tools in the market, and AvePoint Online Services is the only one that allowed us to retain all metadata. Having the structures and permissions intact when restoring items is a real time saver.”
This also reduced issues on the development side. “With out-of-the-box capabilities, it was very difficult to document exactly what and where content was deleted,” Russell said. “Without that information, it would take us about a week to rebuild a site from scratch since we couldn’t replace it exactly as it was. Now, we can easily access our backups and restore items with all metadata retained.”
While the organisation’s administrators’ initial intention was to find a SharePoint Online backup solution, they also take advantage of AOS' other capabilities. “Once we’d chosen AvePoint Online Services as being the best in backup, we explored some of the platform’s other tools to manage and deploy sites across our SharePoint Online environment,” Russell said.
One important component of developing the organisation’s environment was building 47 site collections, one for each of its academies in the UK. Although IT had devised its optimal site collection templates, copying the templates was still too time-consuming. “It previously took four days for our team of three to develop a new site collection using native capabilities,” Russell said. “With AOS, it took about five hours per site collection.”
Having reduced the time needed to provision these site collections from nine months to just two, Oasis Community Learning now has more time available to use AvePoint Online Services' other functionalities. Specifically, Oasis Community Learning uses the platform’s policy enforcement capabilities to ensure governance and automate control over permissions, configurations, and security settings. “The central administration portal in AOS is very useful,” Russell said. “Because we’re delegating control of some site collections, they won’t be tempted to change configurations. AOS allows us to enforce policies that protect the integrity of site collections once we give control to other teams.”
“AvePoint Online Services' backup capabilities give us the same control over cloud backups as we would have on premises,” Bullimore said. In addition to the platform’s data protection capabilities, its content management capabilities enabled IT to develop, provision, and deploy 47 critical site collections in two months – a significant reduction from the original estimate of nine months. “Out of the vendors we considered, AvePoint was the most attentive and really cared about what the business was trying to achieve. AvePoint proactively showed us AOS' many other functionalities although we were initially looking for a backup solution.”
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