Backup Exchange 2003

15 pts.
Tags:
Backup Exec
Exchange 2003
Exchange Backup
Veritas
I am putting a backup strategy in place at the moment and would like to know the best way to do so for our Exchange 2003 server. The server is a windows 2003 sp1 exchange 2003 sp2 server. The backup server is a windows 2003 r2 sp1 server running Symantec/Veritas Backup Exec 10d. I am backing up the C: and D: drives, the Exchange mailboxes, the First Storage Group (there is only 1) and the Shadow Copy Components each night at 3am to tape using BE 10d via the Remote Agent. This is all well and good and works ok. My problem is, what happens if our Exchange server fails at say 5pm the next day? I will have lost all data since the last backup the previous evening at 3am! My question is, what can i do to prevent this situation from arising? Many thanks
ASKED: January 3, 2007  7:53 AM
UPDATED: September 26, 2008  5:31 PM

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Hello,

What type of budget do you have to invest in a DR solution? There is a growing number of products available using snapshot technology to back up databases such as Exchange or SQL which minimizes gaps between data collection. Open file technology has improved quite a bit as well. Downside to these options are they require a good chunk of available storage to house your snapshot data, constantly running jobs during the course of the work day will most likley place a load on your network performance and the products that are worth their salt are going to come with premium price tags.

The only way I know to truley have up to the second real time backups is to set up a mirror of your Exchange server to a hot spare or VM Exchange server. In larger environments clustering may be a viable option as well.

If your organization is on a budget as most are these days, the chance of losing several hours of data is going to exist. The bright side is that should you completely loose your Exchange server, your still going to be able to recover better than 95% of your data which will keep things running quite smoothly. And should someone need to replace a lost message, it’s far easier to have a contact re-send a message that is 3 or 4 hours old than one that is several days, weeks or even months old.

Good luck!

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  • JimTrouble
    Looking at it that way it isnt the end of the world should be lose a few hrs worth of emails. I think ill leave the backup solution as it is at the moment! Thanks for your reply!
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  • PDMeat
    Good question. It's a long conversation and there are a lot of good articles on the subject of SLAs for recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives (RTO and RPO) but to answer your question, I would recommend: 1) Consider clustering Exchange. It's been around for a long time and I've worked on Exchange since 5.x and the most likely reasons you'll lose email service are related to the server hardware, OS and 3rd party apps like antivirus, antispam and disclaimers installed to the server that malfunction. These risks can be mitigated by using clustering. It's not cheap, nor is it 100% perfect but it's handy and has proven itself over the years to myself and many others. If you use RAID disks it's unlikely you'll ever lose the database. Most servers will allow you to pull the database raid set and pop it into another (exchange) server and bring the raid set right up to access the data. Clustering does this of course in about 15 seconds with no user interaction required. Clusters are nice for rolling upgrades, etc. Very easy to test/roll back without breaking production. 2) If you absolutely cannot sleep because of the thought of losing an exchange database and losing data after a full backup, you'll need a way to either replicate the exchange database and logs in realtime to another server with software like XOSoft, a SAN or specific disk-sync product or you will have to perform database snapshots and keep copying the transaction logs somehow. When you go to recover, you can either mount a snapshot copy of the database and choose to replay some/all/none of the logs or choose to recover a realtime sync'd secondary database and logs such as via SAN, xosoft, etc. Exchange 2007 also has log shipping that may help alleviate local server failures and there are many other products like Nerverfail that claim to do the same. Personally unless your company has a large budget they are willing to spend to ensure exchange uptime to this level, I wouldn't sweat it too much. Exchange database failure by itself is extremely rare and as noted above, if you have another exchange server handy it's pretty easy just to move the RAID set with the database to another server and just mount the DB and you're up and running again after reconnecting the mailboxes. It's also a good idea to move anti-spam, content scanning and disclaimer funtions to a gateway/bridgehead server, not run on exchange. Trend Micro IMSS and Clearswift Mailsweeper, etc are examples.
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  • Jimk0157
    You may want to upgrade to Backup Exec 11d. It has a much improved exchange agent which permits continuous backup of your exchange info store (basically it continuously saves transactions to the exchange log file). With this new feature you can restore to any point in time. With 11d you can also restore individual mailboxes (or messages) from the info store backup.
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  • JimTrouble
    I will be upgrading to BE 11d over the next weeks coincidentally! Thanks again for all replies on this topic! Happy new year
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  • Danm66
    Another thing to keep in mind is that any users using Outlook with cached mode enabled, will have copies of the "lost" emails as long as they were online and running Outlook on the day the server goes down. Of course, if they left early in the day, then they will lose those emails that came in after they disconnected. If you are working on a DR plan, you might want to investigate what will happen to incoming emails while the server is offline. Your company could be missing important messages while your system is down for the hours or days it takes to get it back online. If your server has a h/w malfunction overnight, getting a replacement part shipped to you may take another day plus the time for a rebuild/restore (if needed) and factor in some time for Murphy's laws to interact with the entire incident...you could be down for 2+ days. Most people have a personal email account they can switch to if need be, but that takes time and isn't going to get impromptu sales inquiries. Virtualization of your mail server will help limit your exposure to failure and/or utilization of an external party to relay your mail through so that they can cache incoming messages until your back up. My $.02.
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  • Danm66
    Another thing to keep in mind is that any users using Outlook with cached mode enabled, will have copies of the "lost" emails as long as they were online and running Outlook on the day the server goes down. Of course, if they left early in the day, then they will lose those emails that came in after they disconnected. If you are working on a DR plan, you might want to investigate what will happen to incoming emails while the server is offline. Your company could be missing important messages while your system is down for the hours or days it takes to get it back online. If your server has a h/w malfunction overnight, getting a replacement part shipped to you may take another day plus the time for a rebuild/restore (if needed) and factor in some time for Murphy's laws to interact with the entire incident...you could be down for 2+ days. Most people have a personal email account they can switch to if need be, but that takes time and isn't going to get impromptu sales inquiries. Virtualization of your mail server will help limit your exposure to failure and/or utilization of an external party to relay your mail through so that they can cache incoming messages until your back up. My $.02.
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  • JeffSloan
    What about a mail archiving solution? They can be had for not too much money, and will also protect you and the users from their own mistakes. How many times have you been asked to help recover a freshly deleted e-mail that just arrived a few hours ago. "I didn't mean to delete it." With live archiving, all e-mail, and in the case of unified messaging, voice mail and faxes are always stored seperatly from the Exchange server. And in some solutions cases, the users have the ability to restore their own "lost" messages. I am sure there are several out there, but one for instance now does all this and all without even needing an SQL server. Check out GFI's MailArchiver for example. No, I don't work for them...
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  • Christine Herbert
    What about using Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS)? It's not as good as getting a third-party enterprise backup product, but it sounds like it might be a good interim measure for you if you aren't able to afford the purchase of a third-party backup product right now. There are pros and cons to using VSS though, so you'll need to weigh all the issues before making an ultimate decision. Here are a couple articles that will help you learn how VSS works, as well as its strengths and weaknesses as a "snapshot" backup method. Backing up Exchange Server with Microsoft VSS VSS for Exchange
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