Product Review: Macrium Reflect v5 Server Plus for Exchange
Product: Macrium Reflect Server Plus for Exchange
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Macrium Reflect is a backup and disk imaging software for Microsoft Windows developed by Paramount Software UK Ltd. It creates disk images and file backup archives using Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy service. It can back up an entire workstation (Windows XP and above) or server (2003 or above) to a single compressed image file, backup files and folders to a single compressed archive file, or even recover partitions and entire disk images. Macrium Reflect Server Plus also supports applications such as Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server.
In this review, we will focus our attention on Macrium Reflect v5.3.7220 Server Plus for backing up and restoring an Exchange environment.
At the time of writing this review, Macrium Reflect v5 Server Plus supports:
- Microsoft SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2014;
- Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013.
But let us focus on Exchange. To backup an Exchange database, Reflect needs to be installed on the local server as remote backups are not possible. This means that if there are multiple Exchange servers in your environment that you want to backup, you will need to install Reflect in all of them.
The Microsoft Exchange Information Store service needs to be running in order for successful database backups to function. Databases that are not mounted will still be shown in the backup wizard and may be selected for backup. However, VSS will not include any unmounted databases in the snapshot and the Exchange backup will fail as a consequence.
In terms of restoring data, Microsoft Exchange Server MAPI Client and Collaboration Data Objects must be installed on the server. These are present by default on Exchange 2003 but not in later versions.
As usual, the user running Reflect must have full access permissions for the mailbox where data is being restored to, and restoring data backed up on a particular version of Exchange cannot be restored to a newer or older version of Exchange.
Installing Reflect is very straightforward. All we need to do is download the software and run it to launch the installation wizard. In the first screen, we select either the trial or the full version and where to install it:
Next we click in Download which will start downloading the entire software package:
When the download completes, the installation itself will start automatically if we selected the Run installer directly after downloading option. Click Next to extract the installation files:
And Next again to start the installation itself:
Accept the license agreement and click Next:
If necessary, enter your license key and click Next twice:
Customize the setup if required and then click Next:
Finally click Install to start the installation process:
Once completed, click Finish:
You now should have the Reflect’s icon on your Desktop:
Double-click it to launch Reflect’s console:
The console’s layout is well organized, with different tasks such as backup and restore with their own tabs. In each screen, it is easy to find exactly what we need and how to do it.
Let us explore the console by performing a backup and restore.
Backing Up Exchange
On the main Server Plus interface, click on Backup Microsoft Exchange to launch the Microsoft Exchange Backup wizard:
A list of the local databases (or Storage Groups) will be shown. To select a database, we simply select the check box to its left. Note that while with Exchange 2010/2013 we can back up individual databases, with Exchange 2007 we must select a storage group(s), which will include its databases.
If you are backing up a server that is part of a Database Availability Group, Server Plus will only back up active databases and ignore passive copies.
By clicking in View selected component files we can see the list of files that will be part of the backup, with files grouped according to their type and when they were last modified along with their size:
Next we enter the destination Folder for the backup. Although Server Plus only backs up local databases, the backups themselves can be stored in a mapped network drive for example (but not on optical media), thus providing us with a central repository for all backups.
Clicking in Alternative locations allows us to specify additional locations for the backup in case the primary target location is not available:
Click Next to proceed to the summary page of the backup wizard, which will list all databases selected for backup together with the settings of the backup such as notifications, target locations, and so on:
If we click on Calculate, the summary page will also display the number of files to be backed up and their total size:
Clicking on Advanced Options allows us to modify the default settings for the backup, such as the compression level, password, and much more:
A useful pane is the Disk Space Management which allows us to configure how many backups or how many days of backups to keep:
We can also configure success or failure backup email notifications:
Many other options are available as we will see in the next section.
Finally, click Finish. We will be prompted if we want to save the backup settings to a definition file, which is useful to manually rerun it whenever we want or even to schedule it to run automatically:
Click OK to start the backup:
Once the backup finishes, a notification window will appear:
The Exchange Backup Summary window details all the steps taken during the backup, useful for troubleshooting or for simply verifying that everything went ok:
If the option to send a notification was selected, an email will be received once the backup completes:
The email will contain, if selected, log files regarding the backup job with the information present in the Exchange Backup Summary:
We can also check the Log section of the console, which contains similar information to the above for all backups that have been run so far:
If we check the properties of the database we just backed up, we can verify that a successful backup has indeed completed:
Exchange Backup Options
As I mentioned previously, many other options are also available. Since when we ran our backup we selected the option to save its definitions into an XML file, we can explore these by selecting the Backup Definition File tab:
We can select XML View to view all the options for this particular definition file:
We can also schedule it to run automatically by clicking the Scheduling button:
In the schedule wizard we can specify if we want a Full, Incremental or Differential backup:
How often to run the backup:
And finally when to exactly run it:
The last window of the wizard will display all the options we selected:
If we now select the Schedule Backups pane, we will see our newly created schedule task:
To modify other aspects of Exchange backups, we click on the Edit Defaults button from the Server Plus toolbar:
Which will give us access to all settings:
If we navigate to Advanced and then click on Advanced Microsoft Exchange Options, we are presented with a few more options regarding Exchange backups:
- Prune transaction logs on successful backup removes all transaction logs for storage groups/databases that were included in the backup process (not using this option will allow transaction logs to be removed by other mechanisms such as 3rd-party applications);
- Exclude log files prior to checkpoint generation from the backup will only include transaction log files that fall after the current checkpoint generation for the storage group/database being backed up. This will reduce the number of transaction logs included in a backup, while not using this option will back up all transaction logs for the storage groups/databases.
- Verify database files before the backup process forces Reflect to verify the database, checkpoint and transaction log files for page integrity.
Restoring Individual Items
A great feature of Reflect is that it allows us to restore individual emails from a backup. This is extremely useful for those scenarios where we just need to restore a few emails a user deleted, but we do not want to have to restore an entire database in order to access them.
Although we will now be restoring an email, Reflect can also restore appointments, contacts, journal entries, notes and tasks.
For this example, I will permanently delete the Reports email from my Sent Items folder and then try to recover it:
To perform this type of restore, we need to select the Restore tab, go to Microsoft Exchange Restore and then click on Restore Exchange Mailboxes:
The first page of the restore wizard will let us choose the database and the Exchange backup to restore from. In this case I have only backed up one database so far, and only once, so I only get one option:
Click Next and Server Plus will mount the backup so that we can explore it:
Once the backup has mounted, the wizard will show a tree view of all the mailboxes within the chosen database. We can navigate through the tree view, and select entire mailboxes or folders to restore, or we can click on a folder to display and select individual emails. In this case, we are interested in the Reports email:
For folders with many items, we can filter the items displayed by sender, recipient, subject, date sent, or whether they have attachments:
If we are restoring emails, which is the case, we have the option to double click an email and view basic information (this option is not yet available for calendar items, contacts, notes or tasks):
We can even save any attachments the email might have:
Another useful feature is the ability to simply export email items without having to recover them to the original mailbox. With this feature, we can right click on email items, select Export... and export them as text or EML files:
Next, select the format to export the files as, its location and click Export:
However, there’s a catch with this feature. The lack of MIME headers in sent emails would create an incorrectly formed EML file, so EML files can only be generated for received emails. If we try to export a sent email to EML, we will get the following error:
And if we check the log file, we see it fails because the email has no headers:
Exporting received emails to TXT or EML format works just fine, as it does exporting sent emails to TXT.
Assuming we simply want to recover the email to its original mailbox, we select it and click Finish. The email will then be restored to its original location with any sub-folders created if necessary:
Simple as that!
Restoring Exchange Databases
Macrium Reflect Server Plus allows us to restore selected databases back to our Exchange server with the following options:
- Restore to its original database;
- Restore to a different location (and database name if desired);
- And restore the last backup or a particular point in time backup.
When restoring a database, it might be worth first verifying the integrity of the backup set to ensure it did not get corrupted, for example, and that it can indeed be restored. To do so, we select the Microsoft Exchange Restore tab under the main Restore tab and then click on Verify an Exchange Backup:
The Verify a Microsoft Exchange Backup windows appears:
Simply select the backup you intend to restore and click on Verify;
Once the verification process finishes, and if all is ok with the backup set, you will see a summary and a Successfully Verified message:
Before performing a traditional restore, Server Plus also has the ability to mount an Exchange backup, giving us file access to the backup set. To do so, click on Mount and Exchange Backup:
The Mount an Exchange Backup window appears:
Select the backup set you want to mount and click Select;
Chose a drive letter to where you wish to mount the backup to and click Mount:
Once the mount process finishes, click OK:
You will now have access to all the files included in the backup set:
When you are finished, simply go to Windows Explorer, right-click the drive where you mounted the backup to, select Macrium Reflect and then Unmount Macrium Image:
Restoring to its original location
Let us imagine that, for some reason, we completely lost database DB01 and the only way to recover it is from a backup. To do so, in the Microsoft Exchange Restore tab, we select the database we want to recover. By default the most recent backup will be selected for restore:
To select a different backup date, click on Restore from backup xx/xx/xxxx which will open a new window with all the backups available to be restored:
By clicking on View files in Exchange Backup file we can see exactly all the files that are part of this particular backup:
Click Close and then click on the Restore button on the lower right hand corner of the console:
The Restore Plan will show the backup file selected for restore together with all databases to be restored:
Click the Restore button to start restoring the database(s) back to its original location. In this case, we can see that database DB01 is dismounted and then overwritten by the backed up database, meaning that any emails sent or delivered after backup was taken will be lost:
Once completed, click OK:
Restoring to a Different Location
In this scenario, let us recover DB01 once more, but this time to a different location and with a different name. To do this, start by selecting the database to restore as we did in the previous scenario:
Click on the Restore To link, which will present us with the following dialog:
Here, select Restore to alternate location and click Next;
Now specify a name and location for the new database where we will be recovering our original database to (do not create a Recovery Database beforehand!). When specifying the Path, you will need to include a full path such as D:\DBs\DB01-Recovery.edb:
Click Next to proceed. A summary of the restore operation will be shown as before:
Click Finish to accept and then click the Restore button on the lower right hand corner of the console:
An identical Restore Plan will be displayed as before with the backup file selected for restore together with all databases to be restored:
Click Restore to start the restore process:
Using the Exchange Management Shell, we can see that Reflect created the new database. Surprisingly, it is not a Recovery Database:
Although it does seem like a “normal” database, if you run a Get-Mailbox against it, it will return no results. However, running a traditional restore as we would against a recovery database will indeed extract data from the recovered database:
If we now check the mailbox we recovered the data to, we can see that all the items from the Sent Items folder have been recovered:
Macrium Reflect v5 Server Plus is without a doubt a great product. It even has a VBScript generator that uses Windows Script Host WSH to enable administrators to handle complex backup scenarios (shame it is not PowerShell though).
However, the fact that it can only backup local databases is likely to not appeal to large organizations with multiple, sometimes dozens, of servers.
Nonetheless, an efficient and easy to use product!
MSExchange.org Rating 4.4/5