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The only way it seems that you're going to do all of that reliably is to invest in a commercial backup product -- and it's likely that the backup application you're using now can handle the chore. Every major backup package has an agent for SharePoint.

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Sampler: Backup products for Microsoft SharePoint

Check out the companies listed below for the latest information on these products' SharePoint backup capabilities.

Backup products with SharePoint agents
CA • ARCserve
CommVault Systems Inc. • Simpana
EMC Corp. • NetWorker
Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. • HP Data Protector
IBM • Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
Microsoft Corp. • Data Protection Manager (DPM)
Symantec Corp. • Backup Exec
Symantec • NetBackup

Point solutions for SharePoint backup
AvePoint Inc. • DocAve Backup and Recovery
Idera • SharePoint Backup
Quest Software Inc. • Recovery Manager for SharePoint

The capabilities of each agent vary from one backup application to another, but they all have the same basic functionality. They're add-on agents to your backup software, much like a SQL Server or Exchange agent, that know how to talk to the SharePoint backup API. A well-written agent should only need to be told the name of the main SharePoint server, and it should be able to figure out everything from there. It should figure out the name(s) of any SharePoint farms associated with that server and back them up along with their configuration, administration and content databases, as well as back up any configuration data stored in the file system. All of this data is backed up directly to your backup system's preferred storage, be it disk, virtual tape library (VTL) or tape. Your backup application may actually be doing multiple types of backups under the covers (Microsoft SQL server, file system, etc.), but it should appear as one backup that works (or doesn't work) as a whole.

In addition to backup agents available for your favorite backup software package, there are products, such as AvePoint Inc.'s DocAve Backup and Recovery, Idera's SharePoint Backup and Quest Software Inc.'s Recovery Manager for SharePoint, that are "point solutions" designed just for SharePoint. These products are analogous to backup apps like PHD Virtual Technologies' esXpress, Veeam Software's Backup & Replication and Vizioncore Inc.'s vRanger Pro that are point backup solutions just for VMware. These are designed for firms that have a SharePoint installation, but are using a backup product that doesn't have a SharePoint agent; companies that don't like the capabilities of the agent; or organizations that can't afford the agent. These products tend to do everything you need a SharePoint backup product to do (they may even have more functionality than the agent offered by your backup app due to their specialized nature), but they don't integrate with your backup application. This typically means that their backups will be stored on disk; so if you want those backups to be put on your deduplication system or tape, you'll need to back them up with your other backup product.

A lot of commercial solutions use Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to solve the synchronization problem. That is, they use the SharePoint VSS writer to quiesce SharePoint and the Windows VSS Writer to quiesce the system before backing up everything. That way everything that's backed up is synchronized to the same point.

BIO: W. Curtis Preston is an executive editor in TechTarget's Storage Media Group and an independent backup expert. Curtis has worked extensively with data deduplication and other data-reduction systems.

This was first published in June 2010

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