Why the ‘G’ in G Suite Stands For ‘Groundhog’
(Clue: It’s That Lack of Backup Again!)

02 Jul 2020

To us, Google’s G Suite feels like Groundhog Day – and not just because lockdown has put our lives, as in the movie, on endless repeat.

No, it also feels this way because in a post just a short while ago we explained that Microsoft Office 365 does not back up your data – and now we have to tell you the self-same truth about G Suite, as the language from Google’s own terms and conditions proves:

‘We don’t make any commitments about the content within the Services…Google, and Google’s suppliers and distributors, will not be responsible for lost profits, revenues, or data…

UPDATE: Google recently strengthened this disclaimer to also cover loss of business opportunities, goodwill, anticipated savings, indirect or consequential loss, and punitive damages. And even if you do make a claim against them stick, they have stated that the maximum that they will be liable for is the greater of £500 or 125% of the fees that you paid to use the relevant service in the 12 preceding months!

In short, whether Office 365 or G Suite, it’s the same scenario being played out. They will store your data, sync your data, and enable you to retrieve your data – but when the data’s gone, it’s gone forever – and, the update to their terms above simply proves that they view this as a significant risk that they must insure themselves ever more determinedly against.

Here’s why that should make you worried - and what you can do about it.

Going, going, gone - with a V-sign to versioning!

It’s now clearer than ever that Google are strongly focused on the opportunities for removing your data, rather than retaining it!

After 30 days, deleted items are automatically purged from your trash and you cannot restore them. Admins can retrieve them for you – but only for a further 25 days, or 30 days if they have access to an API designed and built for this purpose (which many don’t). After that, the data disappears – irreversibly.

Anything you’ve trashed – Gmail messages and their attachments, documents, spreadsheets, calendar events and associated files, and much else besides, but might need to get back, is, frankly, therefore, a data deletion time bomb.

FURTHER UPDATE: It gets worse. Your deleted contacts and folder structures are gone forever after 30 days, and a deleted user account is retained for only 20 days! Anything that a user created, wrote, sent or stored – including items that could be business-critical, or, indeed, that could form crucial evidence in a dispute, arbitration or litigation scenario - is permanently lost after this brief retention period.

And if all this weren’t hazardous enough, G Suite also makes getting back a specific version of a file very hit and miss indeed, since it only versions files that are in native Google formats.

This effectively sticks two fingers up to all the Excel spreadsheets and Word documents your organisation generates (and might need to locate previous versions of) every day.

So, G Suite is not backup in anyone’s book. But then does this even matter?

Why is backup so important for G Suite anyway?

For anyone reading who thinks the worst might never happen to its backupless G Suite data, think again. Your G Suite data is subject to multiple data-threatening risks daily, including (amongst many others):

  1. Accidental or deliberate deletion – Some 90% of data incidents in the UK are attributable to user error, according to recent media comment, so the danger of accidental deletion is very much a thing - as is the danger of deliberate deletion by malicious apps or disgruntled employees!
  2. Malware / ransomware – The G Suite sync feature, which conveniently copies the data from your desktop to the cloud, will also happily transport malware and ransomware straight to the latter, potentially stealing or locking your data, or both.
  3. Legal non-compliance – If data necessary for legal compliance is held in G Suite, it’s vulnerable to permanent deletion, putting the business at constant risk of prosecution.
  4. G Suite outage – Yes, it can happen! In 2019, Google suffered a global outage that left millions of users unable to access their data – and it could happen again.

Any organisation in any sector can be affected, as G Suite’s widespread use by every kind of organisation in the UK demonstrates - from Councils, to Central Government, to health and social care providers, manufacturing, pharma, energy, retail, technology, and many more.

And in all these sectors, and all the examples of data risk given above, the right backup is key to ensuring that those organisations – like yours - can carry on accessing and using their data even if they can’t get to it in G Suite.

Backing up G Suite: what to look for

Backing up G Suite to a cloud-based backup service gets rid of the need for on-site hardware and technical expertise, but the cloud isn’t a panacea in itself (as G Suite’s own shortcomings show!), so it pays to look out for some critical features:

  1. Ease of use - ‘Set and forget’ is the key phrase here. It should be as easy as connecting G Suite to the cloud backup through your browser (a few minutes’ work), selecting what you want to back up and how often in an intuitive dashboard (a few ticks in boxes), and the rest of the time leaving it do its stuff in the background, with just an occasional notification to remind you it’s working.
  2. Coverage and completeness – Needless to say, your backup needs to seamlessly handle every type of data stored in G Suite - Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and everything else. But it also needs to go beyond just backing up files and folders – it must keep file structures, permissions, and settings intact too, otherwise you’ll find yourself with a loose pile of data ‘bricks’ that you’ll have to manually rebuild from the ground up!
  3. Speed of restore – Every minute lost to a data outage is money lost too – but with many backup systems you have to download the entire backed-up data set before any of it can be restored into your systems for use – and that can be many hours or even days. Look instead for backup that can restore any portion of the backed-up data into your systems on demand and instantaneously, so that it can be used immediately.
  4. Zero-minimal impact – There’s nothing more self-defeating than a backup system that slows down the very business processes it’s meant to protect, so insist on backup that is hyper bandwidth-efficient and doesn’t impact the performance of your existing IT (and, indeed, your existing backup tools and routines).
  5. Security, support, reliability – Your backed-up data is as much a target for a hacker as the data stored in your own systems, so security is paramount. Insist on a UK, ISO 27001-compliant data centre, and Government-grade 256bit AES encryption to keep your data secure both in transit and at rest, using a key that only you have access to. Also, be sure that your backup has robust defence against ‘ransomcloud’ and similar malware that can infect G Suite and then be passed on to poorly configured backup products.

Tempted to go with a cheap or freemium online backup based out of the US? Don’t. They risk exposing you to a GDPR compliance infringement, make your data fair game for US Patriot Act ‘snooping’, and are notorious for weaknesses around security, accessing and restoring backed-up data, and poor (or non-existent) technical support.

When the proverbial hits the fan, they could cost you much more than you’ve saved on the fees.

Same storage, same story

None of this, of course, is to detract in any way from G Suite’s usefulness, or to deny its popularity: with around a fifth of all businesses using it, second only to Office 365, according to media reporting, the one tends to prove the other, and vice versa.

But what this does highlight is the dangers of the oft-made assumption around sync and storage services like those offered in G Suite: they’re in the cloud, so they’re backed up already, right?

Wrong, said the groundhog. Again.

Ultimately, Google's cloud is not your backup. But we can be. Contact us today to start your G Suite Backup trial.