Addressing the Multi-Faceted Problems of SharePoint Data Protection

Microsoft SharePoint presents a particularly vexing problem to companies in terms of data protection. A single instance of SharePoint, that keeps all of a company’s documents or files in a single Microsoft SQL Server database, may potentially be satisfactorily backed up using existing SQL Server data protection tools. However, if companies start to store data on external storage devices or as the number of SharePoint instances in a company begins to grow, the complexity associated with protecting SharePoint increases significantly.

One of the primary purposes of Microsoft SharePoint is to provide companies with a centralized means to manage, control and search their documents and files. Furthermore, if organizations take advantage of SharePoint 2007’s new integration with Exchange, they can also make their corporate email subject to SharePoint’s control and management. But as the number of corporate documents and files continue to grow and new applications like Exchange are brought under SharePoint’s umbrella, it begins to stress SharePoint’s underlying SQL Server database. Making this situation even more complicated, companies may use multiple instances of SharePoint to service different business units with all of these SharePoint servers using the same SQL Server database.

From a data protection perspective, there are three distinct problems that emerge:

  • First, storing more corporate documents, emails and files in SharePoint equates to SharePoint’s underlying SQL Server database growing at an ever-increasing rate. This forces SharePoint administrators to start to use external storage devices to store this data. To facilitate this, SharePoint 2007 now provides an external storage API to store data on external storage locations other than Microsoft SQL Server. But as Microsoft points out, companies cannot use the backup and recovery tools included with SharePoint Server 2007 to backup data stored on these external data sources.
  • Second, companies need to exercise caution when they protect the search content associated with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007. Search content is stored in a database and a search index which must be synchronized prior to backup.
  • Third, no explanation is given how to protect environments where there are multiple instances of SharePoint all sharing the same SQL Server database. The only foolproof way to protect these environments is to use a tool that discovers and protects all SharePoint instances so that application-consistent images of the SharePoint data are created. Without this functionality, companies have no assurance the data that they have backed up for multiple SharePoint servers is recoverable.

It is these specific SharePoint challenges that today’s release of InMage Systems Scout 4.2 addresses. Scout 4.2 now includes a wizard that automatically discovers all instances of SharePoint running in a company’s environment by using SharePoint APIs to  discover what SharePoint instances exist. Once these instances of SharePoint are discovered, it automatically creates the policies to protect all servers that are of a SharePoint installation in a company’s environment.

Since Scout natively integrates with Microsoft VSS, a company can create a consistent image of SharePoint data regardless if there is one or multiple instances of SharePoint. Because Scout agents are controlled by a central Scout server (called the CX server) it can schedule VSS snapshots to occur across one or multiple SharePoint servers at the same time. Since Scout also integrates with Exchange and SQL Server as well as offers file level agents, it can generate concurrent application consistent snapshots on SharePoint servers as well as the underlying SQL Server. Using these features, a company can protect any SharePoint installation in its environment and recover it in 30 minutes or less.

SharePoint Server is becoming the defaultway that many organizations control, manage and search their documents, emails and files. But as SharePoint assumes this increasingly important role, companies should not assume that the protection of their SharePoint servers or the underlying SQL Server database is a given because it is not. InMage Systems’ Scout changes this assumption by providing companies with a centralized wizard that simplifies the backup and recovery of multiple SharePoint servers while creating a higher level of confidence that they can recover any of their SharePoint instances anywhere in the enterprise.

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