Virtualized Exchange Servers in Distributed Configurations
As previously described, Backup Exec supports modern image-level (“agentless”) protection of VMware and Hyper-V virtual machines, including virtual machines hosting applications such as Exchange. It’s important to note that Backup Exec does not currently support image-level backups of virtualized Exchange servers in a distributed configuration. Only virtual standalone Exchange servers are supported for image-level backup and granular recovery.
In order to achieve granular recovery support of virtualized Exchange servers in a distributed configuration, such as an Exchange 2010 Database Availability Group (DAG), the virtual machines must be protected using agent-based backups, which essentially treats each virtual machine as if it were a standalone, physical system.
Note: Backup Exec does not support granular recovery of Exchange 2013 mailbox objects. This functionality is planned for a later release of Backup Exec.
Protection of Physical Exchange Servers
For physical Exchange servers, the Agent for Windows is installed locally to the Exchange server. The Agent for Windows interacts with the physical Exchange server to prepare the Exchange databases for backup and to transmit backup data to the Backup Exec server over the NDMP protocol.
Backup of Physical Exchange Servers
VSS Integration and Physical Exchange Servers
Backups of physical Exchange servers that are captured by the Agent for Windows are snapshot backups performed using Microsoft’s VSS Writers (the only exception is Exchange 2003, which does not have a VSS writer). In most cases, Backup Exec uses a VSS full backup, which ensures that Exchange is placed into a consistent state at the time of backup and also truncates transaction logs, a key element of maintaining a healthy database application over time.
The Agent for Windows can only protect Exchange components of a server after the Agent for Applications and Databases has been licensed within Backup Exec.
Granular Application Recovery of Physical Exchange Servers
In addition to preparing physical Exchange servers for backup and transmitting Exchange backup data to the Backup Exec server for storage, the Agent for Windows also plays a key role during Exchange recovery. For example, the presence of the Agent for Windows locally installed to a physical Exchange server enables the Backup Exec server to directly transmit and restore granular Exchange objects back to the production Exchange environment of an organization.
Offhost Backups of Physical Exchange Servers
Backup Exec also supports offhost backups of physical Exchange servers. Offhost backups help alleviate the processing overhead of backup operations from the physical Exchange server and transfer them to the Backup Exec server.
For more information on Backup Exec and configuring offhost backups of physical Exchange servers, refer to the Backup Exec Administrator’s Guide and the following technote: http://www.symantec.com/docs/HOWTO12231.
Granular Application Recovery of Exchange Virtual Machines
To enhance Backup Exec’s virtual machine protection and recovery capabilities, particularly when the virtual machine is hosting Exchange, the Agent for Windows should be installed into the guest virtual machine itself. In this configuration, Backup Exec can still capture snapshot-based, image-level backups of the destination virtual machine, but can then also offer dynamic application discovery capabilities and granular recovery of Exchange application components, all from a single-pass backup. In other words, even with the Agent for Windows installed to the virtual machine, the backup process remains what is known in the industry as an “agentless” backup; the presence of the Agent for Windows within the virtual machine simply allows for application metadata capture and granular recovery of application objects directly back to the original virtual machine.
Agent for Windows Enables Granular Recovery of Virtualized Exchange Servers
While Backup Exec fully supports protecting virtualized Exchange servers without installing the Agent for Windows to the virtual machine, recovery options are limited in this configuration. When the Agent for Windows is not present on the Exchange virtual machine, Backup Exec has no direct knowledge of Exchange being present on the virtual machine, and recovery options are limited to full virtual machine recovery and file/folder recovery.
Application-specific recovery features are only available when the Agent for Windows is installed to the Exchange virtual machine, which allows Backup Exec to discover the Exchange application and capture the Exchange metadata needed to enable application-specific recovery features.
VSS Integration and Virtualized Exchange Servers
When protecting virtualized Exchange servers, Backup Exec utilizes Microsoft’s VSS service to prepare the Exchange virtual machine for backup and truncation of Exchange transaction logs. For VMware environments, these VSS calls are made to the Agent for Windows on the Exchange virtual machine through interactions with the vStorage API, and involves the VSS writer on the virtual machine. The VSS writer will be either the VSS writer included with VMware Tools, or the Backup Exec VSS writer that is installed with the Agent for Windows. For Hyper-V environments, a similar process happens through interactions with the Hyper-V host via the local Agent for Windows agent installed to the Hyper-V host. The VSS writer that is used to prepare the virtual machine for backup will be either the VSS writer installed to the virtual machine along with Hyper-V Integration Services, or the Backup Exec VSS writer that is installed with the Agent for Windows.
With either VMware or Hyper-V environments, Backup Exec invokes a virtual machine-level VSS full backup, which prepares Exchange for the virtual machine snapshot event and truncates Exchange transaction logs. If the Agent for Windows is installed to the Exchange virtual machine, the VSS backup method can be changed to a VSS copy, which will not truncate log files.
For more information, refer to the following technote: http://www.symantec.com/docs/HOWTO74082.
Uniquely Named Mailbox
To enable key features related to the protection and recovery of Exchange servers, such as granular recovery of Exchange objects, Backup Exec must have access to a uniquely named mailbox within the Exchange infrastructure. Access to this mailbox enables Backup Exec to interact with Exchange and important components within the Exchange Information Store. In order to enable granular recovery of Exchange objects, you must use the appropriate Exchange Server management utility to assign the user account to the Exchange Organization Administrators role (Exchange 2007) or the Exchange Organization Management role (Exchange 2010/2013).
The uniquely named mailbox cannot be hidden in the Exchange Global Address List.
For more information about this mailbox and associated requirements, refer to the Backup Exec Administrator’s Guide or the following technote:
- Ensuring Exchange mailbox name is unique http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH24691.
Exchange Management Tools
You must install the Exchange Management Tools on the Backup Exec server. The management tools on the Backup Exec server must be the same version or later as the management tools that are on the Exchange Server. For more information about installing the Exchange Management Tools, refer to your Microsoft Exchange documentation.
Protection of Virtualized Exchange Servers
For virtualized Exchange servers, Backup Exec interacts with the Exchange server through the virtual host, either through software APIs provided by the virtual infrastructure (VMware), or through the Agent for Windows installed to the virtual host (Hyper-V). For virtualized Exchange servers, Backup Exec fully supports what is generally known as “agentless” backup, both for VMware as well as Hyper-V environments.
Backup of Virtualized Exchange Servers
For additional information on requirements for protecting Exchange environments using Backup Exec, refer to the Backup Exec Administrator’s Guide and the following technotes:
- General Exchange protection requirements: http://www.symantec.com/business/support/index?page=content&id=HOWTO24128
- Exchange granular recovery requirements: http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH51740
Note: “Licensing Backup Exec in Exchange Environments” provides more information about the Agent for Applications and Databases licensing.
We have become a species of information addicts – the “information explosion” is affecting the everyday lives of office workers. What is crystal clear is that we are all suffering from a 21st century ailment – Information Overload – and it is taking over our personal lives, working lives, and our businesses.
Businesses need to protect a broad range of information, generated in a plethora of ways, through multiple applications used by billions of individuals around the world. Organisations not only need to protect their information and IT infrastructure, but need to be aware of how the infrastructure facilitates the sharing and use of the information used by the organisation between, not just connections among colleagues, but linking businesses, from businesses to consumers, as well as between consumers themselves. In other words, all the collaborative environments, and the movement of data while in use.
Accessing work information out of hours, compulsively checking emails, texts and social media and hoarding endless emails and multiple versions of the same file are all symptoms of information overload. But the technology enabling us to be more productive (fantastic mobile devices and faster connectivity) together with the mismanagement of information is actually counter-productive.
Email is Business Critical
Email has become an indispensable way of communicating and transferring data in the modern electronic age. In the year 2010, it was estimated that almost 300 billion emails were sent each day, and around 90 trillion emails were sent every year. Considering the rate at which data continues to increase year-over-year, the number of emails sent today is likely significantly greater. Email is used for many forms of communication, including business critical communications for companies of all sizes.
Companies rely heavily upon email systems to conduct day-to-day business operations, and any significant period where access to email is lost is considered to be highly intolerable.
All email solutions used by modern businesses are based upon a server infrastructure hosting an email software system. Whether hosted locally on physical or virtualized servers, hosted by a partner, or hosted in the cloud, these email software systems support the incredible amount of email transmissions that happen every day, and can be implemented in many different sizes and configurations. Perhaps the most common and popular email system used in the industry today is Microsoft Exchange.
Because Microsoft Exchange plays such a critical role in the ability for organizations to conduct day-to-day business, it’s equally critical that companies employ protection solutions that enable them to quickly and easily recover their Exchange system should a data loss or disaster event occur. Backup and recovery solutions of the highest value will offer features that enable the following:
- Functionality designed specifically for Microsoft Exchange
- Protection of Exchange while it remains online and functional
- Ability to protect physical Exchange servers as well as virtualized Exchange systems
- Support for highly available Exchange configurations
- Adherence to Microsoft best practices for Exchange backup and recovery
- Optimization of secondary (backup) storage using data deduplication technology
- Support for local as well as offsite storage of backup data
- Multiple levels of recovery from a single-pass backup
Symantec Backup Exec
For many years, the Symantec Backup Exec product family has offered market-leading solutions for the protection of Microsoft Exchange, and solves each of the key problems mentioned above. The Agent for Applications and Databases offers purpose-built functionality to ensure Microsoft Exchange is properly protected against disaster and to help partners and customers quickly and easily perform any level of Exchange recovery, whether it’s bare metal recovery of a physical Exchange server, granular recovery of an individual Exchange email, or anything in between.
Key benefits of Backup Exec include the ability to:
- Reduce business downtime
- Eliminate complexity
- Spend less time managing backups
- Ensure critical information on virtual or physical systems is always protected
- Restore data in seconds
- Reduce storage and management costs
- Optimise network utilisation
- Eliminate redundant additional backup jobs
- Provide granular recovery of data for applications and databases
Deduplication Methods – Client-side Deduplication
With Backup Exec 2012 SP2, exciting possibilities for remote office protection are available. The concept of client-side deduplication – where the remote system is responsible for deduplication calculations and where backup data is sent over the network in its deduplicated form – can make the process of protecting remote offices a much more streamlined experience. Remote offices can be challenging to protect effectively; WAN environments may only utilize a fraction of the bandwidth available to a LAN backup. Backups over the WAN can be a challenge to set up, as well as to complete. Some environments include backup servers that are not as powerful as the application servers they are protecting – often, the SQL server or the Exchange server in the environment is the most powerful machine available in terms of processor speed or disk throughput. Where appropriate, why not leverage some of this remote computing power to achieve faster backups? Both of these situations are problems where client-side deduplication can offer a comprehensive solution to the data protection challenges brought on by the environment.
Generally, remote office backup strategies have two basic architectures. First, there are remote offices which do not have local storage, and where backup data is sent directly over the LAN or WAN to the central data center for storage. Second, there are remote offices that employ local storage and then “forward” that locally stored backup data to the central data center for protection. Both of these configurations can use the Backup Exec 2012 SP2 Deduplication Option to streamline and improve backup and recovery for remote offices.
Client-side deduplication is the act of skipping redundant data blocks at the backup source before transmitting the backup stream to the Backup Exec server. Data from the source system is refined into smaller deduplication blocks, and only the unique blocks (that is, the data the Backup Exec server doesn’t yet contain) are sent to the Backup Exec server’s deduplication disk storage device.
A deduplication disk storage device is special type of disk storage configured by Backup Exec where all deduplication data blocks are stored. With the client-side deduplication method, the majority of the processing necessary for deduplication is done on the remote system rather than as the data arrives at the Backup Exec server. Client-side deduplication is the default deduplication method Symantec recommends for several reasons:
Client-side deduplication enables greater scalability by spreading processor usage out across all clients running backups, enabling the Backup Exec server to process more concurrent backups.
Reduced Network Data Transfers
Client-side deduplication minimizes network data transfers as only unique data blocks – not yet stored by the Backup Exec server – are transferred. Most environments – either LAN or WAN environments – can benefit from less data being sent across the network.
Each Backup Exec Agent for Windows and Agent for Linux has the built-in capability to perform client-side deduplication calculations. Note that all deduplication operations require the Deduplication Option to be licensed on the Backup Exec server.
|Backup Exec 2012 SP2 Agent||Client Deduplication Support|
|Agent for Windows||Yes|
|Agent for Linux||Yes|
|Agent for Mac||No|
|Agent for Applications and Databases||Yes|
|Agent for VMware and Hyper-V (VMware)||No*|
|Agent for VMware and Hyper-V (Hyper-V)||Yes**|
|*While it is possible to utilize client-side deduplication when protecting VMware virtual machines, this configuration requires that backups be processed by locally installed agents within the virtual machines themselves (the Agent for Windows or the Agent for Linux). This configuration bypasses the optimized, image-level backup capabilities of the Agent for VMware and Hyper-V in VMware environments. For these reasons, using client-side deduplication in VMware environments is generally not recommended. Backup Exec server-side deduplication is usually optimal.|
|**Client-side deduplication can be used when protecting Hyper-V environments using the Agent for VMware and Hyper-V. In this configuration, optimized, image-level backups of virtual machines are captured and deduplicated through the Backup Exec Agent for Windows installed locally to the Hyper-V host. It is not necessary to install an individual agent into each Hyper-V virtual machine in order to realize client-side deduplication in Hyper-V environments.|
Symantec recently carried out its annual IT Disaster Recovery survey of 1,000 or so IT managers across 15 countries. Now, there are a bunch of really interesting facts and it’s well worth a read, but the staggering revelation I think is that the number of applications that IT managers consider mission-critical has jumped 20% in the last year.
We all know that apps like email have crept up on us and become really important to business over the last few years. But what I think is interesting is that at some point in the last 10 years IT has ceased to support the business and become the business! What do I mean – if the lights go out the business stops. The IT Disaster Recovery survey shows that on average 56% of applications are now considered mission-critical. Such a rapid increase may well pose considerable difficulties for, not just high availability but things we take for granted like Backup.
This is particularly true for those organisations who have implemented server virtualisation projects. It is dead easy to deploy virtual machines, but quite as simple to make sure they are backed up properly. I feel particularly sorry for those poor sods using either different backup solutions for backing up virtualised infrastructures or those who do not have an agent for virtualised environments. It must be a nightmare typing to write scripts for each virtual machine! Thank goodness we have Backup Exec!
If you don’t know there is an offer on the Backup Exec Virtual Agent currently – runs to the end of June 2009, so if you upgrade to the latest Backup Exec 12.5 virtual agents and Save Up to 35% off !
Virtualisation is the major factor causing organisations to re-evaluate their disaster recovery plans today. A major challenge is deploying and maintaining the different tools for backup that are needed for their physical and virtual environments–indicating a need for tools that work across multiple operating systems and virtualisation technologies. The top challenge when backing up virtual systems involves resource constraints, which highlights the need for simplified and automated backup solutions that reduce manual tasks for administrators.