Posted by: Anthony Drewery | November 14, 2005

Exchange 2003 Backups

I’m often asked my thoughts on the individual mailbox backup feature (aka Brick Level backups) in some third party backup products. If it’s for Exchange 2003 my response is always “don’t bother”.

Firstly I would never recommend using it instead of the standard database and log backup as this could leave you hurting in a true DR situation. That’s not to say that you couldn’t use Brick Level backups to recover from a corrupted store or dead server but it’s going to cause you some pain. The restore is going to take longer, you’re going to lose single instance storage and you’re not going to be able to replay the logs to get you back to the point of failure, resulting in lost email.

So secondly, if you’re going to use it as an additonal backup method, you’re going to double the amount of storage required and increase the time taken for your backups.

So what would I recommend? This:

  • Run a full nightly backup of your storage groups, stores and logs.
  • Do not enable circular logging as this will prevent you restoring to point of failure.
  • Enable deleted mailbox retention on your stores. I’d recommend 30 days to allow for long vacations and HR cock-ups.
  • Enable deleted item retention on your mailbox and public folder stores. Again if space allows use 30 days.
  • Read and inwardly digest the Exchange 2003 Disaster Recovery Operations Guide.
  • Test your backups! With Recovery Storage Groups in Exchange 2003 there is no excuse not to run periodic test restores of your backups.
  • Now if you accidentally delete a mailbox, for the next 30 days you can re-associate it with a user account via Exchange System Manager.

    So what do you do if someone says they’ve deleted an important email? If they followed the normal deletion method you can highlight Deleted Items in Outlook and use Recover Deleted Items from the Tools menu. If they shift-deleted from a folder or moved the item to a PST file (which is actually a copy & delete) you’ll need to use the DumpsterAlwaysOn reg hack to enable Recover Deleted Items for other mailbox folders and public folders.

    If you need to recover an item or mailbox after the 30 day retention period then you can restore the appropriate mailbox store to a Recovery Storage Group and use the Mailbox Recovery Centre in ESM or Exmerge to get back what you need.


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