Backup

Exchange 2010 and Symantec BackupExec 2010

2010 is well and truely here and I haven’t updated my blog for a while, so here goes…One of the more interesting things I have been working on lately is Exchange 2010. Released towards the end of 2009, this version has many improvements over Exchange 2007 and I have been dying to roll it out to clients.

One of the biggest issues that has prevented many people putting Exchange 2010 into production until now has been backup. Many of my clients use Symantec BackupExec which until last week didn’t support Exchange 2010. Upgrading BackupExec from 12.5 to 2010 is required before Exchange 2010 can be backed up. Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager (DPM 2010) supports Exchange 2010 but is still in beta and being a bit conservative when it comes to client networks, I generally wait for products to go RTM before deploying.

The other Symantec product on my radar is Symantec Mail Security, the current version doesn’t support Exchange 2010, however version 6.5 due out before the end of February 2010.

I should know in the next week or so if this really is “bliss”. My Experience with Symantec recently could best be described as buggy. I hope they have learnt some lessons from the BackupExec and Endpoint Security issues of 2008/2009 and the quality of BackupExec 2010 and Mail Security 6.5 is good!

Update: 27 Feb 2010

BackupExec 2010 is now up and running in production. Only one minor issue with the mailbox of the BackupExec service account causing errors after it was moved to Exchange 2010 (with Exchange 2003 still in the backup). Simple work around, was to create a new service account and mailbox on Exchange 2003 and move that mailbox last.

Backup (and Recovery)

I’ve spent a bit of time recently looking at backup solutions for Windows 2008 Server. For those who don’t know Windows 2008 has no native support tape devices which have been replaced by removable disk storage e.g. external USB hard disks. Microsoft have replaced the old NTBackup utility with Windows Backup in Windows 2008. A free download version of NTBackup that allows you to restore files from historical backups.

One limitation of Windows Backup is that it only supports direct attached disks when scheduling jobs. A manual backup job can use a UNC file path but can’t be scheduled. The solution to this issue is to use the Windows Scheduler to run this command (with updated UNC path and drive letters):

  • wbadmin start backup -backupTarget:\\servername\share\folder -include:C:,D: -allCritical -vssFull -quiet

Other limitations are around the ability to backup other server products such as Exchange, SQL, Sharepoint etc. Microsoft provide Data Protection Manager (DPM 2007) which supports these more advanced requirements.

Data Protection Manager Posts

If your requirements are for a more traditional disk to tape backup model then a number of third party backup solutions are available for Windows 2008 e.g. BackupExec, ArcServe, Data Protector Express etc

Backup

Backup is a critical function of any IT Infrastructure and should be high on the list of priorities for everyone. Backup can be a complicated thing to understand so here are 3 things to consider when choosing a solution:

  • How often should we backup?
  • How long do backups need to be kept for?
  • How long will it take to get data back from backup?

It is also a good idea to ensure backups are stored off site incase of fire or other disaster onsite. It should also be secured because backup contains all of your customer information, intellectual property, sales data, email messages etc

It is important to ensure you monitor your backups so that you know they are working and assign someone the responsibility of managing the backup process and ensuring data is stored securely offsite.

Recovery

It is important to understand the recovery process and set reasonable expectations for the length of time it will take to recovery data. Factors that will determine the time required include access to backup media, data transfer rate, complexity of the restore process and amount of data being restored.

Some backup solutions give end users the ability to restore data themselves for disk copies. This is useful for small recovery jobs e.g. a deleted file or folder containing user data. In other situations it may be necessary to collect backup media from offsite storage and the require a systems administrator to restore data e.g. recovery of Active Directory, Exchange or SQL databases.

Some systems have special recovery requirements that should be taken into consideration e.g. document level recovery of Sharepoint may require a “Recovery Sharepoint farm” or Exchange item level restore may need a large amount of disk space to restore the entire EDB file before extracting data.