Category Archives: Networker

Best Practices for Backing Up SharePoint 2007

SharepointBackupMicrosoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is hard to backup.

You have a lot of moving parts:

  • Multiple servers with different roles
  • Various SQL databases (content, SSP, config etc)
  • Index FS
  • IIS customizations, web parts
  • Logical architecture doesn’t translate into physical components

Although Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 does offer some native tools for backup and recovery (central admin, stsadm, recycle bin), each of these tools has major limitations.   Let’s look at each one:

The first is backup and restore through the Central Administration site:

Using this tool, a backup can be performed at various levels, the highest level being the entire SharePoint farm and the lowest level being an entire content database. It should be noted that this tool does not offer a great deal of granularity and does not provide coverage at the site, subsite, or item level.

Besides only providing granularity to the content database level, one serious shortcoming with this tool is that it does not natively contain any scheduling options. Thus an administrator will need to manually kickoff the backup processes each time it needs to be run or write a customized program to perform backups.

It should also be noted that this backup tool is not very robust. Errors or corruption in the backup file will cause the restore process to fail. Thus, it is good practice to backup the backup files and to consider a more frequent backup schedule.

Another option for advanced users is the stsadm command line tools:

Just like the Central Administration backups, this offers limited granularity.  These tools are cumbersome and manual command-line processes. While they are useful for performing various administrator tasks by a skilled administrator, they do not provide a true backup solution.  One other point about Stsadm is that a restore of the config database (which has many farm setting and a lot configuration data) is not supported with stsadm – VSS based solutions are needed.

An option for single item recoveries is the Recycle Bin:

The Recycle bin does a nice job of single item capture, but one minor issue with the Recycle Bin solution is that it does not allow any granularity when it comes to restore options.

If a user deletes an entire document library, but only a single document needs to be restored, the entire document library must be restored. An additional issue, and the reason why the Recycle Bin is not considered a true backup solution, is that it only captures deletion events. Errors, data corruption, or disaster events are still possible. These problems can occur at the entire farm level or down to the individual item level, and they will not be covered by Recycle Bin.

To address this, robust backup is required, and this backup needs to provide granular coverage down to the individual item level.

I’d recommend checking out the EMC Networker and the Microsoft Module which covers SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, DPM in physical and virtual environments.   Here’s the Networker Microsoft Module home page and here’s a whitepaper on SharePoint protection with Networker.

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Symantec’s GRT = not so GReaT for Exchange

The tech industry is filled with “analysts” who will receive a buck and write exactly what a vendors asks of them.

In this installment, Symantec went to the “Tolly Group” and got them to blast EMC’s Networker for being slower than Symantec’s new feature for backing up and extracting single mail items, called GRT for short.   In their graphical depictions, they show how apples compare to watermelons.

It leaves one to wonder how much Symantec spent on that piece of marketing, and time will tell if users believe those claims. 

While Symantec offers what appears to be an interesting way to do a full backup and a brick level backup in one step,  this approach is unsupported by Microsoft.  Hmmmm, support is pretty important when you are talking about backups of a mission critical application, yes?

EMC and the Networker team do not recommend brick level backups, which are long, painful, direct MAPI scans and pulls.  Instead, they recommend using the Recovery Storage Group, as the Microsoft supported and recommended way to achieve single item restores with newer versions of Exchange such as Exchange 2007.   The Microsoft Exchange team in general is moving away from streaming backups altogether, so VSS (Volume ShadowCopy Services) and RSG recoveries are really the direction most companies will be taking – and the EMC NetWorker mailbox/message recovery solution does not have any of the long list of limitations offered in the Symantec solution.

And a really, really simple way to handle those quick “I need a piece of email back” requests is to turn up Deleted Items Retention to a larger amount.  This gives the user the ability to find their own mails that may have accidentally deleted without any administrator time lost.

A few last data points worth mentioning:

The Symantec GRT Solution

  • Exchange GRT Recoveries are only is valid for backups to disk folders.
  • Exchange GRT Recoveries are a single, TWO PASS backup. Granular backups/recoveries take longer to allow NetBackup or Backup Exec to index mailbox/public folder information
  • Support for Exchange Full Backup only
  • Microsoft Services for NFS must be installed on the Exchange server

The EMC NetWorker Solution

  • Follows the best practices of the Microsoft Exchange Team for mailbox and message recoveries
  • Allows mailbox and message recoveries from backups made to disk, tape or VTL
  • Supports mailbox and message recoveries from source-based and target deduplication backups
  • Can recover a large Exchange mailbox from the RSG in less than 8 minutes and an Exchange mail message from RSG in less than a minute

A customer had a SharePoint farm. Eee-i Eee-i O.

And on this farm they had a 2007 upgrade that needed to happen.  After a Microsoft Consulting Services review, they were told to fix up a number of issues in their current environment:

  • Get web/app/DB servers  in the right place.
  • Intranet and internet portals on shared disk spindles, they want to move to same hardware (SAN) w/dedicated spindles.
  • One content DB was 210 GB.  That DB needs to lose some weight.
  • They had 40,000 resources in a single resource group… Microsoft said they needed to change this (db size and resource #’s) because they were outside supportable boundaries. Basically, this becomes a real bear on the system, and it’s really difficult to backup that many files.

They are using a DMX3 Tier1 146GB 10K for content DB.  A DMX4 is being purchased for this environment and they will share this will other applications in the company.  No problems with the storage.

For backup they use the point product AvePoint for MOSS backup.  They use a multi-phase process to push Dev to Test to Cert to Production. Seemed OK, but then they thought a second and said.

“You know what, there is an opportunity for a better backup product to push data through the dev to production cycle.”

I asked more about this and found, like many customers, they deploy MOSS farms in stages.  The current stages of their MOSS lifecycle were:

1. Dev – Virtual everything (DB, Web, App)
2. Test – Virtual everything (DB, Web, App)
3. Cert – Virtual web, app, physical DB (same as prod)\
4. Prod – Virtual web, app, physical DB

Since EMC is known for it’s proficiency in virtualization and data protection, they thought we might have a slick product (like Replication Manager or Networker) that could assist in the movement of data along these physical and virtual tiers without having to backup and restore every time.   Well, yes we do.

Well, I told them, it’s great timing. The Networker team has not only made the product much simpler to use – the Fast Start edition of the product can be installed in under 20 minutes – they also have been working really hard on their SharePoint support.  The new Networker Module for Microsoft Applications (NMM) they offer the trifecta of Sharepoint backup and restore functionality:  network backups, VSS application consistent backups, and fine grained item-level restores.  Whitepaper here (or click the picture below).

LAN Free SharePoint Backup/Restore with Networker

LAN Free SharePoint Backup/Restore with Networker

Next step: the customer is going to test this with EMC’s Proven Solutions group, where EMC works with Microsoft to demonstrate our technologies working together.  For SharePoint, we test large and small farms in physical and virtual server environments, load them up, and see where they break.  The people doing the testing are having a blast doing cool stuff every day to push the limits of datacenter technology.  Sometimes the work they do is more Mythbusters (isn’t performance worse on virtual? BUSTED), and sometimes it’s more like CSI, which usually starts with a dead body and then a lot of time is spent trying to see what the hell happened 🙂

I do know each day is different and fun for them, so the resulting documents you see are extremely good. Unfortunately about half of it is buried behind EMC’s internet portal PowerLink, but that is being fixed…

Here’s a sample of what is available publicly at the moment: