Granular Recovery for the Enterprise MS Exchange Environment

Exchange email and backup administrators are continually faced with the problem
of trying to backup and recover Exchange data in a reasonable amount of time,
whether that is to meet a shortening backup window or satisfy new recovery time
objectives that call for faster disaster recovery and business continuity.
Currently, there are oodles of different backup and recovery applications out
there that claim a more simplified approach when performing backup and recovery
in a Microsoft Exchange environment. However, most of them use the same basic
approach when performing Exchange level data protection.

general, the approach most backup applications take when protecting Microsoft Exchange
is to do two backups of the Exchange database to capture the level of
information that companies desire. It first performs an application level
backup of the Exchange server that captures all of the data in Exchange’s
databases for full recoveries of an Exchange database. It then does a
brick-level (MAPI) backup of the mailboxes themselves to provide message and
folder level recovery. However there are numerous problems with performing Exchange
backups in this fashion, including:

  • It doubles the number of backups recorded.
    Each backup (the Exchange level backup and the brick level backup) require
    a separate pass through the Exchange database to protect the data. This
    results in two entries in the backup catalog with backups that may occur
    at different times.
  • Longer backup windows. Because
    the backup software has to make two passes through the Exchange database,
    it increases the overhead on the Exchange server and can add inordinate
    amounts of time to the backup window.
  • Wasted storage
    Since you are backing up the same data twice, you
    are doubling the amount of storage (disk or tape) that you need.

counter this problem, Symantec has for some time used Granular Recovery
Technology (GRT) inside of Backup Exec to backup and recover Exchange
environment. However it has now added GRT to its enterprise Veritas NetBackup software
beginning with its 6.5.3 release. GRT offers significant advantages to
customers who use either Backup Exec or NetBackup to protect Exchange environments
by completely removing many of the redundancies involved in traditional
Exchange based backups environments.

instead of requiring two separate Exchange backup jobs (the mailbox backup and
the database backup), GRT captures information about the mail message, the mail
folder, and the mailbox levels of Exchange in a single pass backup through the
Exchange database. By incorporating GRT into both Backup Exec and NetBackup,
administrators can perform either system-wide or granular recoveries of the
Exchange database by picking from a list of objects inside Exchange that they
wish to recover without first having to recover or dump the Exchange database
to an alternate location to do so.

by using GRT, companies remove the need to create specific secondary, brick-level
backups of Exchange mailboxes. This introduces new efficiencies into their Exchange
backups which include:

  • Reduce the
    storage infrastructure needed for Exchange backup.
    Performing only one backup of the Exchange
    environment can cut in half the costs of tape or disk that may be in use
    in your environment
  • Reduce the
    overhead on the infrastructure needed to process the Exchange backup.
    Since GRT only requires one backup, the resource
    utilization in the infrastructure required to perform the backup process is
    greatly reduced.
  • Drastically
    reduce the backup and recovery window for Exchange.
    Provide a more attainable RTO and RPO as well as
    ensure that a single backup can recover something as small as a mail
    message or the entire Exchange system in case of system failure or

GRT for Exchange addresses long-standing concerns of how to properly and
efficiently backup but more importantly recover Exchange environments. Unique
features like being able to take a single pass backup of the Exchange database
ensures that not only will you save time in your backup and recovery windows
but also cut costs significantly for your backup infrastructure. The GRT will
also reduce the amount of effort it takes to recover single mail messages so you
can provide higher and faster levels of service for your company.

Symantec extending its GRT functionality across its entire backup and recovery
portfolio, I would encourage existing NetBackup customers to upgrade and take
advantage of this new capability, especially if Exchange data protection is
part of your job responsibility. Or, conversely, if you are thinking of
pursuing a backup replacement project, take a hard look at your corporate data
protection needs and, if they include Exchange, give some serious consideration
to Backup Exec or NetBackup as potential candidates for your data recovery

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