Granular Recovery for the Enterprise MS Exchange Environment
Microsoft Exchange email and backup administrators are continually faced with the problem of trying to backup and recover Exchange data in a reasonable amount of time, whether that is to meet a shortening backup window or satisfy new recovery time objectives that call for faster disaster recovery and business continuity. Currently, there are oodles of different backup and recovery applications out there that claim a more simplified approach when performing backup and recovery in a Microsoft Exchange environment. However, most of them use the same basic approach when performing Exchange level data protection.
In general, the approach most backup applications take when protecting Microsoft Exchange is to do two backups of the Exchange database to capture the level of information that companies desire. It first performs an application level backup of the Exchange server that captures all of the data in Exchange's databases for full recoveries of an Exchange database. It then does a brick-level (MAPI) backup of the mailboxes themselves to provide message and folder level recovery. However there are numerous problems with performing Exchange backups in this fashion, including:
- It doubles the number of backups recorded. Each backup (the Exchange level backup and the brick level backup) require a separate pass through the Exchange database to protect the data. This results in two entries in the backup catalog with backups that may occur at different times.
- Longer backup windows. Because the backup software has to make two passes through the Exchange database, it increases the overhead on the Exchange server and can add inordinate amounts of time to the backup window.
- Wasted storage infrastructure. Since you are backing up the same data twice, you are doubling the amount of storage (disk or tape) that you need.
To counter this problem, Symantec has for some time used Granular Recovery Technology (GRT) inside of Backup Exec to backup and recover Exchange environment. However it has now added GRT to its enterprise Veritas NetBackup software beginning with its 6.5.3 release. GRT offers significant advantages to customers who use either Backup Exec or NetBackup to protect Exchange environments by completely removing many of the redundancies involved in traditional Exchange based backups environments.
First, instead of requiring two separate Exchange backup jobs (the mailbox backup and the database backup), GRT captures information about the mail message, the mail folder, and the mailbox levels of Exchange in a single pass backup through the Exchange database. By incorporating GRT into both Backup Exec and NetBackup, administrators can perform either system-wide or granular recoveries of the Exchange database by picking from a list of objects inside Exchange that they wish to recover without first having to recover or dump the Exchange database to an alternate location to do so.
Second, by using GRT, companies remove the need to create specific secondary, brick-level backups of Exchange mailboxes. This introduces new efficiencies into their Exchange backups which include:
- Reduce the storage infrastructure needed for Exchange backup. Performing only one backup of the Exchange environment can cut in half the costs of tape or disk that may be in use in your environment
- Reduce the overhead on the infrastructure needed to process the Exchange backup. Since GRT only requires one backup, the resource utilization in the infrastructure required to perform the backup process is greatly reduced.
- Drastically reduce the backup and recovery window for Exchange. Provide a more attainable RTO and RPO as well as ensure that a single backup can recover something as small as a mail message or the entire Exchange system in case of system failure or corruption.
Symantec GRT for Exchange addresses long-standing concerns of how to properly and efficiently backup but more importantly recover Exchange environments. Unique features like being able to take a single pass backup of the Exchange database ensures that not only will you save time in your backup and recovery windows but also cut costs significantly for your backup infrastructure. The GRT will also reduce the amount of effort it takes to recover single mail messages so you can provide higher and faster levels of service for your company.
By Symantec extending its GRT functionality across its entire backup and recovery portfolio, I would encourage existing NetBackup customers to upgrade and take advantage of this new capability, especially if Exchange data protection is part of your job responsibility. Or, conversely, if you are thinking of pursuing a backup replacement project, take a hard look at your corporate data protection needs and, if they include Exchange, give some serious consideration to Backup Exec or NetBackup as potential candidates for your data recovery requirements.