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Email Backup and Recovery: Saving Time with New Strategies and Tools

E-mail has become the lifeblood of business.  More than any other means of communication or business tool, companies rely on electronic messages – often stored on the Exchange Server – for running virtually every aspect of their organizations.  It’s safe to say that a company could not survive without e-mail.  Not only does it increase employee and business efficiency, but it is also the most cost-effective means of communication.  In today’s business, regulatory and legal environment, e-mail recovery has risen to a new level of significance that’s crucial to a company’s existence.

Mailbox Recovery Made Easy

When a production Exchange Server crashes, there is no access to e-mail until mail items are restored from previous backups.  In most situations, these backups are stored on various forms of media, such as tape or disk. Tape has been the standard in the backup industry for years for both its large storage capacity and affordability; however restoring from tape can be a lengthy process simply due to its sequential access nature. A different strategy that simplifies backup and makes recovery faster is backing up the Exchange Server to disk.  After backing up to disk, administrators should then perform a file backup of the resulting files to an offsite location. This makes recovery much easier in cases where the backup is bad or has missing parts. Backing up to disk also helps make restore times quicker because in most cases the disk backup will be readily available.

All of this assumes that the administrator can avoid building a Recovery Server to restore data. In a many recovery situations, the mailbox administrator must engage in the time-consuming, complicated and costly building of a Recovery Server.  Fortunately, there are tools that can help avoid this process and address the problem by recovering individual mail items from un-mounted EDB files on the disk backup without the need for a Recovery Server. One of the tools available, Ontrack PowerControls can copy new mail from the crashed EDB to a new sever or any alternate location to prevent loss of all new mail since the last backup. Although PowerControls has the ability to extract data from tapes, it is much quicker if the administrator can eliminate that step by having backups on disk so the restore can happen directly from the disk backups.

Tools such as PowerControls provide a number of benefits and features for users after a disaster, including:

  • Drastically slashing restore times
  • Simplifying and accelerating searching
  • Not needing to be installed prior to its first use
  • Working with any existing copy of an Exchange Server database
  • Not requiring changes to existing backup procedures and not installing on the Exchange Server

Recovering Incomplete or Corrupt Data

Although data backups are a vital part of an IT department’s standard operating procedure, every system is vulnerable to challenges.  Chief among these is the time necessary to both establish and maintain a working backup system.  Instituting a top-quality backup system often means creating a regularly scheduled backup procedure.  This includes storing the backups in an alternate facility physically separated from the original system and designating someone to transport the media as frequently as backups occur. Once in place, such systems must also be tested regularly to maintain their integrity and ensure proper working order.  Many companies simply don’t have the time or resources to perform these lengthy procedures.  Additionally, files can be missed in the backup process because the system may not update to match the company’s production systems and evolving data storage footprint, and corrupted data can be backed up and not recognized until attempting to restore.  If this occurs, the recovery process can often mean rebuilding from scratch.

But when it seems that a rebuild is necessary and mailbox recovery is no longer an option, data recovery is still possible. Another form of data recovery is to retrieve data from a corrupted source – whether that source is experiencing a software malfunction or if it has suffered severe physical trauma – by locating files on the hard drive and recreating the file structure. In contrast to rebuilding from scratch, data recovery is a fast solution offering significant time and resource savings.  As data backups only retrieve the most recent backup copy, recovery reclaims the most recent files – a significant distinction when a backup window could be several hours or longer.

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