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Accessing Legacy Data from Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint Backups

There you are, on the brink of technology.  You want to install and upgrade your environment to the latest and greatest version.  Or perhaps you have already upgraded and now you’re trying to figure out how to restore the legacy data.  In either case, knowing how to do it is the Holy Grail.

Most of what you have to do is dictated by your data retention policy.  If you are fortunate enough to have one, you would immediately know how long you will have to provide retention.  If you don’t have one, the time is now.  Meet with your departmental owners and legal to determine your regulatory responsibilities.

The Native Method

Whether you’re changing your backup provider or leap-frogging to the latest Microsoft platform, the challenge is the same.  For changes in backup, you will most likely have to allow the systems to coexist, allowing you to perform restores of these critical business systems.  Likewise, if the changes are in the version of Exchange or SharePoint, you will need to restore to the appropriate versions.  If native methods are your game plan, try virtualizing rather than leaving the physical systems around for these restorations.  The benefit in virtualizing these systems would be pure physical space, but also convenience when you need to perform the restore.  In the end, the systems only need to be around long enough to satisfy your data retention policy.

Using a Service Provider

If you are leaping into new backup, email, or collaboration technology and have no interest in restoring the data yourself, do your research first.  Many service providers in the market today make sure the provider can actually do what they say they can.  Engage in an RFP process and include a sample restore.  Narrow your choices based on these results and formulate a preferred partnership.  In most cases these partnerships guarantee you the best pricing and turnaround time.  While you can offload the restore in the event you need it, choose wisely.  As our parents once said, you do get what you pay for.

Software Based Solutions

While there are few options in this category, it still remains a valid option.  Certain software providers can read Exchange and SharePoint backups directly from disk or tape.  The benefit here is simple.  By reading the backups without requiring the backup software, you can decommission the old backup servers and/or system servers.  The software solution will allow you to restore the data to alternate locations as flat files.  Once restored, you can then use the software to read these flat files and simply restore the granular pieces you need.  Here I recommend kicking the tires with a proof of concept before making a purchase.

While we have briefly discussed a few options on this topic, the take-away here is choose wisely.  Explore your options and ensure whatever you choose works for your company.  The last thing anyone needs is to be looking for a solution after the fact.

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