Best practices to be followed to configure Backup in Exchange 2010/2013

Backing up the exchange server is very important thing to protect the data loss . If you aren’t running the Exchange Server Backups  then your Transaction logs will eventually fill up their storage volume

In this article we will  look at few steps that we need to look in configuring the backup in Exchange 2010/2013.

Backups are very much necessary during the case of a whole disaster, retention of datas for a period of time , performing a granular restore for the end users as well.

Choosing the Backup Media

Disk or Tape ?

Over the period of years Tape backup has been doing a great job. Cost wise also they are little bit lesser compared to the SATA storage and disk arrays which needs to be extended as users and our applications increases.
So, tape still has an advantage, particularly for larger backup volumes.
But when comparing the performance factor the disks backups wins the game.
Also Disk-based solutions will usually be better for faster recovery.

More realistically, a disk-based solution will involve copying data between two storage systems over a WAN from one site to another. If you are ready to pay for this expensive WAN links and replication then it should be fine with the disk backup.

Its always better to keep the daily and weekly backups in the disks (virtual tape library) which will help in disaster and daily restore scenarios and larger backups monthly,quarterly and annual in Tapes. Because there is no point to keep all these large data in expensive storage on data-centers  for the purpose of retention since the tapes will do the same job.

Plan for the Retention period

Planning for the retention of the data is very important. This plays a vital role in restoring the data as well as for any old data that is required for any legal cases.

Its very mandate retention needs to be followed for the following backups

Daily Backups

This decides on the single point of restoration for the end users on a specific day. Its better to have daily backup retention at-least to a period of 3 months so that granular restore for a specific date can be done.

Weekly Backups

This decides on the single point of restoration for the end users on a specific week. Its better to have this monthly backups to a retention of at-least 6 months which will help to recover emails if the first case fails.

Monthly Backups

This decides on the single point of restoration for the end users on a specific month. Its better to keep this retention atleast for a period of 1 year.

Quarterly Backups

Quarterly backups are very much important in restoring the data in case of dealing any cases , restoring emails from resigned staffs. So its better to keep this retention for 3 years.

Annual Backups

Annual Backups also does the same job of retention data for dealing with any cases . Its better to have the Annual Backups for a period of 5 Years.

Quarterly and Annual Backups can be taken in a Tape Drive and kept since they will not be used mostly and also will not involve in the disaster cases.

Setting end user Recovery Standards

Setting the scope of possible restores from the backup to the end users is very much important since they need to be aware of the possible restores.

So you need to carefully go through your backup retention periods and inform the users about the possible monthly restores. At any point of time if the users are missing out data within a month then its always advisable from the help-desk to restore them from the dumpster.

So its better you can prepare and create end user Recovery Standard scope document and hand it over to the help desk team so that they are aware of the possible restores.

Check  Mailbox server performance during the backup

This point is very much important and we need to check the performance of the mailbox servers during the backup period. Though the backup will be running on off-production hours but there are cases where your CEO   might be accessing an important  email  after working hours.

ESEUTIL will be running during backup process to verify integrity of the databases  which increases disk I\O intensive.Usually if the storage configuration is not proper then the normal disk read/write operations will increase.  There are chances if the storage is having bottleneck issues then the normal RPC read/write operations will get delayed due to which all the end users will severely experience connectivity issues.

When the backup is triggered you can go to the event viewer on the mailbox servers and look for any RPC , ESE , VSS writers, storage errors etc..,

Create a test account on any of the backup databases login to outlook,owa and activesync and measure the  performance.

If you have DAG configured in your setup and have Active/Passive combined distributed type check your active copies as well .Check if  the I/O operations are increasing on the active copies during the backup.Also you can check the event logs to see if you get anything related to them.

If you don’t see anything on them then the backup should be fine.

Note: The above steps are applicable only when you configure the backup solution for the first time on your mailbox servers.

Later you can prepare a daily check list on your backup status on all the mailbox servers to ensure the backups are completed.Daily checking of the backups is very important since the backup will truncate your old logs which will maintain space on your storage. There are many scripts written by experts on the Technet Gallery which you can schedule them and make them run through task scheduler.

Test the Backup

Testing the backup is very mandatory. As the backups has been configured its not that we are in safe side. Testing the backup is very much necessary.

There are several scenarios we can test and i have listed few of them

Check if the backup is supporting any other languages restore. For Example if i have an  end user who has French Mailbox with all emails in French and backup has been taken for him. When a restore is done for this mailbox it should be successful with all the emails both body and subject visible in French.

Take 2 users with the same UPN different SAM and see if the backup for them is restoring their contents,

Restore the Weekly backup and see the results.

Restore the monthly backup as well and see the results.

Thanks

Sathish Veerapandian

MVP – Exchange Server

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