Continuous Backup for Exchange Server with DPM 2007 (Part 3)

If you missed the previous parts in this article series please read:

 

 

 

The Backup Process

 

Once the initial replication to the DPM server of the Exchange databases is made, synchronization will occur with the frequency that was configured for the short-term recovery points. The protection status of each storage group will be shown in the DPM 2007 Administrator Console (Figure 1).

 


Figure
1: Synchronizing Exchange Protection Group

 

The Exchange server we’re using has 2 storage groups: the First Storage Group is composed by 3 mailbox databases that you may recognize from a previous article I wrote, and the Second Storage Group has only the Public Folder Database (Figure 2).

 


Figure
2: Storage Groups and Mailbox Databases

 

Since this is not a production environment, all the Exchange data files (log files and databases) are located on the C: drive (Figure 3). Notice that there are more than 300 log files.

 

When an Express Full Backup occurs, all the log files are pruned after a successful synchronization, since this is actually a full online backup (Figure 4).

 


Figure
3: Exchange data files

 


Figure
4: Exchange data files after Express Full Backup

 

If you remember part 1 of this series, it has been said that the synchronization process uses the Exchange VSS Writer. If we take a closer look to the Application Event Log of the protected Exchange server, we’ll notice a couple of events related with the VSS Backup (Figure 5, Figure 6 and Figure 7).

 


Figure
5: ShadowCopy Event

 


Figure
6: Exchange VSS Writer Event

 


Figure
7: Exchange VSS Writer Event

 

How Many Recovery Points?

 

Regarding the synchronization frequency, I think that setting the minimum period (15 minutes) would be overkill. One of the marketing phrases from Microsoft is that DPM 2007 provides over 344,000 data consistent recovery points for Exchange (512 shadow copy differentials x 7 days x 24 hours x 4).

 

My advice is that you start by setting up your current backup policy, and then gradually increasing the number of recovery points. I think that 1 or 2 Express Full Backups per day, plus a synchronization frequency of 2 hours is a nice number.

 

Of course, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all, you have to take into account the volume of your data, the impact on the performance of your servers (DPM has a reduced impact, but still it has some impact) and the volume required to store the replicas.

 

If you follow these guidelines, as long as the best practice of storing Exchange databases on one volume and logs on another is respected, you can rest assured that the possibility of losing data is very low.

 

And remember, you can also create a “manual” recovery point. In DPM Administrator Console, in the Protection task area, in the Actions pane, click Create recovery point ¨C Disk (Figure 8).

 


Figure
8: Create recovery point

 

Replica Paths

 

If you open Computer Management, you can see the volumes created by the Protection Group (Figure 9), which are configured as mount points. If you right click one of them and select Change Drive Letter and Paths you can actually see the full path where those volumes are mounted to (Figure 10). This same information is also displayed if you in DPM Administrator Console, in the Protection task area, select a storage group and click the Replica Path hyperlink on the bottom pane (Figure 11).

 

Using Windows Explorer, you can browse to the location of those replicas (Figure 12), although I would not recommend that you mess with the files on those folders.

 


Figure
9: DPM Disk Allocation

 


Figure
10: Volume Drive Letter and Paths

 


Figure
11: Details of Replica Path

 


Figure
12: Browsing the Volume Mounting Point

 

Additional Considerations

 

When using DPM protection of your Exchange servers, you should be aware of the following additional considerations:

 

 

  • Performance optimizations for slow network links. After you create the protection group, you can configure additional performance settings such as network bandwidth usage throttling for each protected server and on-the-wire compression.
  • Adding mailbox databases to the server. If you create or add new mailbox databases to a protected storage group on an Exchange Server computer, these databases will be automatically added to the DPM replication and protection.
  • Adding storage groups to the server. If you create or add new storage groups on a protected Exchange Server computer, these storage groups will not be automatically added to a DPM protection group. You must modify the Protection Group to include the new storage groups.
  • Changing storage group or mailbox database file paths. If you relocate the files associated with a protected storage group or mailbox database to a new path, protection will no longer succeed and the replica will become inconsistent. You must run a consistency check on the replica to resume protection.
  • Dismounting mailbox databases. If you dismount a protected mailbox database, that protection job for that particular database will fail. The replica will be marked inconsistent when the next express full backup is run by DPM.
  • Renaming storage group and mailbox databases. If you rename a protected storage group or mailbox database, you do not have to take any special steps to ensure that protection continues.
  • Moving databases between storage groups. If you move a mailbox database from one protected storage group to another, it will continue to be protected. If you move a mailbox database from a protected storage group to a storage group that is not protected, the mailbox database will no longer be protected once a consistency check has been performed. If you move a database from a storage group that is not protected to a protected storage group, it will automatically become protected once a consistency check has been performed. In all these cases, you must run a consistency check on all protected storage groups involved in the move once the mailbox database moves are successfully finished.
  • End-user recovery. End-user recovery is not supported for protected data from Exchange Server, although it is supported for file server data. Who would want that a user was capable of restoring an Exchange production database?

 

SMTP Notifications

 

You can configure DPM 2007 to send notifications by e-mail of critical, warning, or informational alerts, and the status of instantiated recoveries. If you plan to enable this feature, you must first configure the SMTP Server.

 

Follow these procedures to subscribe to notifications:

 

 

  1. In DPM Administrator Console, on the Action menu, click Options.
  2. In the Options dialog box, on the Notifications tab, do the following:
    a. Select the types of alerts about which you want recipients to be notified.
    b. Under Recipients, type the e-mail address for each recipient to whom you want DPM to send copies of the notifications (Figure 13).

 


Figure
13: Configuring Notifications

 

 

  1. Go to the SMTP Server tab (Figure 14), type the SMTP server name, the SMTP server port, and the e-mail address you want to display. In the Authenticated SMTP server area, type a user name and password in the appropriate boxes. The User Name must be the domain user name (for example, domain\user name). The “From” address must be the SMTP address of the user.

 


Figure
14: Configuring SMTP Server

 

 

  1. To test the SMTP server settings, click Send Test E-mail, type the e-mail address where you want DPM to send the test message, and then click OK.

 

If the user you selected as the sender doesn’t have administration rights on the DPM server, you’ll get an error (Figure 15). If the SMTP server you specified is an Exchange Server 2007, you’ll probably get the error depicted on Figure 16. This is actually a bug on the current release of DPM 2007 and Microsoft is working on a fix. As a workaround specify other server, such as an IIS SMTP Server.

 


Figure
15: User rights error

 


Figure
16: Authentication error

 

Reporting

 

DPM reporting offers six standard reports that you can generate, review, and analyze. The following table lists the reports and their definitions.

 

 

 

Report Type

 

Description

 

Status Report

 

Includes status of recently run recovery point creation and recovery jobs. The report shows trends in the frequency of errors that occur and lists the number of alerts.

 

Disk Utilization Report

 

Provides a summary view of disk capacity, allocation, and usage of disk space for the DPM storage pool. The data is collected per computer and is aggregated for all computers. You can use this report to identify the costs associated with backup for various protected computers plus identify trends in disk usage to plan for capacity.

 

Protection Report

 

Provides statistics that compare recovery point availability for short-term and long-term protection. You can use this information to determine whether backup jobs have been successful and to identify gaps in backups. The data is collected per computer or protection group and is aggregated for all protection groups.

 

Recovery Report

 

Provides details about recovery times and statistics of recovery jobs for tracking recovery performance. The data is collected per computer or protection group and is aggregated for all computers.

 

Tape Management Report

 

Provides details for managing tape rotation and decommissioning tapes. The report also displays which tapes are due to be brought back from recycling. The data is collected per library and aggregated for all libraries.

 

Tape Utilization Report

 

Provides trends in tape utilization to assist in capacity planning and making decisions about allocating additional tapes.

 

Table 1: DPM Report Types

 

Figure 17 and Figure 18 show an example of a Disk Utilization report.

 


Figure
17: Disk Utilization Report – Page 1

 


Figure
18: Disk Utilization Report – Page 2

 

Summary

 

One of the benefits of using DPM 2007 I mentioned on part 1 of this series is that it doesn’t require any specialized “Backup Administrator” skills. I hope that you still find it is true, although we spent 3 parts explaining the setup, configuration and operation of DPM 2007.

 

The next and final part of this article will be dedicated to the recovery process, the most important feature of any backup solution.

 

Related Links

 

 

 

If you missed the previous parts in this article series please read:

 

 

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