Feature

Exchange protection goes real-time

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MICROSOFT EXCHANGE administrators are finding that the traditional approach to protecting Microsoft Exchange servers-- clustering and nightly backups--simply doesn't cut the mustard.

Dan Horton is a systems administrator at Information Manufacturing Corp. (IMC), a government contractor in Rocket Center, WV, that performs electronic document processing. His Exchange server crashed once, and he worked into the night repairing the storage groups before being able to apply incremental backup tapes. "We were down for a good 10 to 12 hours," he recalls.

Eager to avoid a repeat scenario, IMC set out to find a way to recover to a more recent point in time than the previous night's incremental backup. The firm chose Storactive's LiveServ for Exchange "because it was the only solution that gave you an up-to-the-minute restore time," says Horton.

Storactive was acquired last month by Atempo, whose flagship product is the Time Navigator backup software suite. The acquisition reflects VP of global marketing Steve Terlizzi's opinion that, especially when it comes to Exchange, "we're in the middle of a shift away from scheduled capture to real-time capture" of information.

Performing incremental backups isn't worth the effort, says Mark Phillippi, VP of product management at Unitrends in Columbia, SC. "If you try to do incrementals during the day, you're pretty much backing the whole thing up anyway because the thing changes so much,"

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he says. Last month, Unitrends announced Continuous Exchange Protection (CEP), a software add-on for Unitrends' disk-based Data Protection Unit (DPU) that captures Exchange transactions in real-time and copies them to a proprietary database on the DPU.

If fast restore is what you're after, LSI Logic now offers Replication Express, or REx, for use with its arrays and IBM's DS4000 family. REx integrates with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and lets administrators take up to four full snapshot-based backups of the Exchange environment per day, and incremental backups every hour. Then, when the Exchange server goes down, explains Gary Wright, LSI Logic's director of services, solutions and alliances, "just do your LUN swapping, mount your database and [you're] ready to go." The recovery set itself doesn't need to be copied before recovery can start, says Wright.

--Alex Barrett

This was first published in April 2006

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