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Kroll Ontrack offers quick-restore for SharePoint 2007

Analysts say Kroll Ontrack's PowerControls could be a low-cost alternative for companies that can't afford big backup packages and software agents.

Kroll Ontrack Inc. is best known for recovering data from physically damaged hardware, but the company also sells Ontrack PowerControls software for restoring Microsoft Exchange files. With the release of PowerControls 5.1 this week, the tool can now restore objects from native SharePoint backups to any machine without a separate recovery server.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is gaining traction as an enterprise content management and collaboration portal. From an IT perspective, however, it's a complicated application that requires even more complex backup and restore procedures.

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Microsoft includes native backup utilities for SharePoint, but restoring individual objects from those files requires a user to mount a separate recovery server to restore a full instance of SharePoint, and then extract the object. The extraction process can be time-consuming. Using the free native backup tools, SharePoint also requires each file to be restored to the same site or workgroup within the SharePoint farm.

Barry Dop, manager of Kroll Ontrack's enterprise software group, says that when it comes to restoring individual files, users face the same issues with native backups of SharePoint today that they faced with Exchange several years ago. "If you use the native backup tools, [they] create a .bak file that requires mounting to a live SQL database before you can grab the data and bring it back," says Dop. "It's a multistep process and can be very painful."

PowerControls 5.1's ExtractWizard can run on a desktop or laptop. It uses Kroll's proprietary tool to extract the data, meta data and log files associated with an object and then restore that object to any SharePoint site. The ExtractWizard can also restore the file to non-SharePoint repositories for legal review or compliance purposes. It performs only restores, and doesn't back up files.

CommVault's Simpana 7, EMC Corp.'s NetWorker 7.5 and Symantec Corp.'s Veritas NetBackup 6.5.3 enterprise backup packages offer granular restores of objects from SharePoint files. However, EMC NetWorker doesn't yet offer the ability to restore SharePoint objects to non-SharePoint locations, and Symantec's Veritas NetBackup doesn't export to different sites or outside repositories.

Moreover, advanced capabilities such as granular SharePoint backups usually require the purchase of a full backup software package, as well as specialized agents for making and restoring application-specific snapshots. By contrast, Kroll Ontrack's software is priced starting at $495 for one content database.

"If you're a shop that, for budgetary reasons, is forced to stick with the native tools for SharePoint backup, this tool can offer you a lot of functionality that otherwise wouldn't be possible," says backup expert W. Curtis Preston. However, Preston adds that he thinks full enterprise-level backup and restore products should be used when possible because of their monitoring, reporting and advanced scheduling features.

Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, points out that forensic data is often retrieved without the original backup software or source server, and Kroll Ontrack is extending that capability to application data. However, she wonders if SharePoint users will embrace Kroll Ontrack. "It would make sense that they have the capability they're claiming in this release," she says. "I just think it's a bit of a stretch [for them] to position themselves in the data protection realm."

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