Protecting Exchange 2010 with EMC RecoverPoint and Replication Manager

Regular database backups of Microsoft Exchange environments are critical to maintaining the health and stability of the databases. Performing full backups of Exchange provides a database integrity checkpoint and commits transaction logs. There are many tools which can be leveraged to protect Microsoft Exchange environments, but one of the key challenges with traditional backups is the length of time that it takes to back up prior to committing the transaction logs.

Additionally, the database integrity should always be checked prior to backing up: to ensure the data being backed up is valid. This extended time often can interfere with daily activities – so it usually must be scheduled around other maintenance activities, such as daily defragmentation. What if you could eliminate the backup window time?

EMC RecoverPoint in conjunction with EMC Replication Manager can create application consistent replicas with next to zero impact, that can be used for staging to tape, direct recovery, or object level recovery with Recovery Storage Groups or third party applications. These replicas leverage Microsoft VSS technology to freeze the database, RecoverPoint bookmark technology to mark the image  time in the journal volume, and then thaw the database in a matter of less then thirty seconds – often in less than five seconds.

EMC Replication Manager is aware of all of the database server roles in the Microsoft Exchange 2010 Database Availability Group (DAG) infrastructure and can leverage any of the members (Primary, Local Replica, or Remote Replica) to be a replication source.

EMC Replication Manager automatically mounts the bookmarked replica images to a mount host running the Microsoft Exchange tools role and the EMC Replication Manager agent. The database and transaction logs are then verified using the essentials utility provided with the Microsoft Exchange tools. This ensures that the replica is a valid, recoverable copy of the database. The validation of the databases can take from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the number and size of databases and transaction log files. The key is: the load from this process does not impact the production database servers. Once the verification completes, EMC Replication Manager calls back to the production database to commit and delete the transaction logs.

Once the Microsoft Exchange database and transaction logs are validated, the files can be spun off to tape from the mount host, or depending on the retention requirement – you could eliminate tape backups of the Microsoft Exchange environment completely. Depending on the write load on the Microsoft Exchange server and how large the journal volumes for RecoverPoint are, you can maintain days or even weeks of retention/recovery images in a fairly small footprint – as compared to disk or tape based backup.

There are a number of recovery scenarios that are available from a solution based on RecoverPoint and Replication Manager. The images can be reversed synchronized to the source – this is a fast delta-based copy, but is data destructive. Alternatively, the database files could be copied from the mount host to a new drive and mounted as a recovery storage group on the Microsoft Exchange server. The database and log files can also be opened on the mount host directly with tools such as Kroll OnTrack for mailbox and message-level recovery.

Photo Credit: pinoldy