Two things happened almost simultaneously this morning: I got an email from someone asking what is the “good practice for backup and recovery with SharePoint 2010”, and I saw the news on release of SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide by John Ferringer and Sean McDonough.

You can guess what was my response to that question. There is no one-size-fits-all backup and recovery strategy. There are different techniques and tools available, and the choice always depends on the Restore Time and Restore Point Objectives requested by the business and the costs of implementation. And I also sent the link to the book.

I think the new SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide is a great read for SharePoint admins who need guidance on where to start with backup and recovery planning. Judging by the table of contents published by Sean I think the book keeps and highlights all the great insights you could find in the SharePoint 2007 version of this book I read and reviewed last year, and puts the material in the logical order to make it easier to read and understand. Congrats to John and Sean and the book release!

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As promised last week, we’re giving away three copies of SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide, a book by John Ferringer and Sean McDonough.

If you’re following my blog, you already know about the new SharePoint community we (Quest Software) have launched at www.SharePointForAll.com. So I want to try and use this opportunity to bring more good people to the community.

To win your free copy of the book, you need to:

  1. Join the SharePoint For All community if you’re not a registered member yet. It’s very simple, but gives you access to the forums and downloads on the site. Downloads include pre-release Beta versions of Quest management and migration tools for SharePoint, as well as freeware tools such as SharePoint Disaster Recovery Advisor.
  2. Publish a link to SharePoint for all site on your SharePoint-related blog or on a publicly available SharePoint-related forum. It can be a link to the site’s home page, or any of the downloads, or any blog post on the Quest team blog, whatever is more relevant to the topic of your post.
  3. Finally, send an email with the two links to a special email address: get-a-book@sharepoint-recovery.com. Your email should include links to your profile at SharePointForAll.com community site and to your blog/forum post, and your name/contact info.

The first three winners will get the free copy of SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide. You can see my review of the book here, and read more about it on Amazon.com.

One more note, you cannot win the book if you work for Quest. Sorry, guys – I can lend you my copy if you want to read it :-)

Once again, many thanks to the publisher, Cengage Learning, for giving me this opportunity.

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Nice people from Cengage Learning contacted me recently for a review of a book they published. The book is called SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide and was written by John L. Ferringer and Sean McDonough.

They were also very kind to send me three copies of the book for giveaway, but since you won’t believe it on April 1st anyway ;-) there’ll be a separate post soon explaining how to win your copy.

Who should read this book?

This book will be invaluable for SharePoint administrators who already have a good understanding of how data is stored in SharePoint and have some technical experience with built-in backup and recovery tools. I think it would be a difficult read for those who only have end user experience with SharePoint and are new to the platform administration. It will be overwhelming and confusing for such readers.

Why read this book?

I think that anyone who already has such experience and is tasked with preparing an overall disaster recovery plan should read this. Here’s the good stuff you will find in the book:

  • Helpful tips on what you can do with the native backup and recovery tools and how you could extend them via scripting and custom development can be found troughout the book, specifically in chapters 6-7.
  • If you are SharePoint administrator with not much experience in technologies it depends on, such as IIS and SQL Server, you’ll find quite a few insights here and get a bigger picture of what tools exist and can be used in SharePoint disaster recovery. Chapters 8 through 11 cover SQL server and Windows backup and recovery and high availability.
  • Real jewels in chapters 12 through 14 (DR Planning and Key Concepts; Design and Implementation; Testing and Maintenance) are a must-read for any technical staff responsible for SharePoint recovery. Too often we think of SharePoint just from technical perspective, these chapters help to put the technology in the right place from perspective of the overall business continuity planning.

Some suggestions for the Second Edition

Few things that I believe could be done better to make the book more straightforward for SharePoint newbies, not only administrators with good level of understanding:

  • Add an overview of how SharePoint data, configurations, and customizations are stored. A lot of this information is scattered throughout the book, but there’s no single chapter in the book to serve as a reference. Things like Joel’s SharePoint containment hierarchy could really help here.
  • Make it very clear how much technical knowledge and experience is assumed. Some sections of the book surprised me by too detailed explanations of the basics (like the default install paths with screenshots, etc.), while the very next page can mention about IP bindingsin IIS with no explanation at all.
  • Re-write or cut the chapters that cover topics that are not directly related to disaster recovery. It’s good to know about recycle bins, SharePoint Designer backups, and maybe even the options such as saving site templates with content. But none of these really fits into the disaster recovery plan discussed further on in the book, and spending almost 60 pages on them might be too much.
  • Get another round of technical review to ensure all technical details are accurate and there is no ambiguity. For example, in several places the book mentions you can restore a single site collection from a Central Administration backup. In reality, this is only true when you keep one site collection per content database. This assumption is never articulated in the book, which can be really misleading for readers who don’t have hands-on experience with Central Administration and STSADM.exe backups.

Bottom line:

SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide is a great resource for SharePoint administrators with good technical understanding of SharePoint overall architecture and built-in backup and recovery tools. From reading it you can learn how you can extend the use of the native tools with other methods, and see what other technologies such as Windows Server and SQL Server have to offer. Finally, the book allows you to take a step back and see the bigger picture of SharePoint disaster recovery from the business perspective.

So, take your time to review the ToC with John’s comments and stay tuned for the giveaway details!

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When you start planning for disaster recovery of your SharePoint farm you inevitably face the challenge of how to restore the farm configuration.

What is a configuration database? A configuration database in SharePoint is what defines your farm. It keeps all the information about other databases, servers and services that comprise the farm. It also stores info about “all Internet Information Services (IIS) Web sites or Web applications, solutions, Web Part packages, site templates, and Web application and farm settings specific to SharePoint technologies, such as default quota, blocked file types, and configuration” (from Database types and descriptions). If you want to drill into this in more detail, take a look at the database structure explained in Nidhi’s blog.

The coolest thing about configuration database in my opinion is how it serves as a central piece in WSS 3.0 architecture to allow administrators easily scale a SharePoint farm. All the global farm settings, most of IIS configuration (some details in Joel’s post here), and even solution binaries are stored in the config database and will be automatically propagated from there when you join more servers to the farm.

What’s the problem with backup/recovery of configuration database? Restoration of SharePoint configuration database is not supported by Microsoft if all you do is just take farm backup via Central Administration or with STSADM. In case of disaster recovery, you would have to manually re-create all farm settings, re-deploy any solutions and customizations, etc. A related article on TechNet gives a little insight on what causes this support limitation:

Although the configuration database and the SharePoint Central Administration Web site content database can be backed up, restoring backups of the configuration database and Central Administration content database from a farm by using the tools built in to SharePoint Products and Technologies is not supported.

This is because data in these databases may not be synchronized with data in other Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 databases. Therefore, the tools built in to SharePoint Products and Technologies do not recover these databases during a farm-level recovery.

If this data is not synchronized, users might experience various random errors.

So, is there any way I can back up and restore the config database? We were discussing this with a well-known SQL expert Charley Hanania a while ago, and came to a simple thought – if something can be backed up, it must be possible to restore it. It’s the question of understanding the risks and choosing the right tools to mitigate them. If the risk is that SharePoint farm structure information in config database would be not synchronized with other databases, you need a way to make a point-in-time backup of all databases within the farm, ensuring that none of these databases changes during the backup process. How is this possible?

  • Obviously, snapshot technologies and products that use them can achieve this functionality. For example, this allows Microsoft Data Protection Manager to back up and restore all SharePoint databases, including configuration db.
  • Another supported way to restore all databases suggested on TechNet is to take a backup when the SharePoint farm is offline. Essentially, this means all SharePoint services are stopped across all front end and application servers, and no changes are being made during the backup process. Does not seem feasible for live SharePoint environment? This is where SQL Server’s features such as log shipping or database mirroring can help. Both techniques allow you to create and maintain a copy of SQL database that is not accessed by SharePoint. So working closely with your SQL DBA you can have a “point-in-time” copy of all the farm databases and back them up.

Config db is not the only reason why you can utilize log shipping and/or database mirroring in SharePoint environment. For example, see Mike Watson’s recent presentation decks from Best Practices and SPTech conferences, where he discusses how both options apply to SharePoint environment for high availability and disaster recovery.

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I just came across a recent SharePoint Backup / Recovery Solutions blog post by Babar Batla, Principal Solutions Specialist for Microsoft. In his list, Babar has both Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2007 and Quest Recovery Manager for SharePoint (and that’s the product I am working on). So do these products compete? Not really, they can actually complement each other! So, when do you use which?

With a recent release of Recovery Manager 2.2 we enhanced it to read and restore data from snapshots made with DPM as well as few other backup formats (see our web site for details). Adding this on top of DPM you can use the same snapshots in more SharePoint restoration scenarios:

  • Granular restore with DPM is only possible for documents and sites. Recovery Manager adds restore of any SharePoint objects, from a list item or document up to a site collection (and everything in between!) – all from the backups you already have with DPM.
  • Recovery Manager also gives more flexibility when the original server farm is unavailable: you can restore SharePoint data to an alternative SharePoint location or even a file share.
  • In addition, organizations where backup operations are centralized can benefit from using tools like Rcovery Manager and DPM together, because this allows to separate platform disaster recovery task from document and site restore, and the latter can be delegated to application specific administrators.

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Couple new resources became available recently for SharePoint 2007 backup and restore, here’re the links along with few thoughts.

MOSS data protection and recovery in small and medium size deployments

This whitepaper published by Microsoft last week starts with an overview of various recovery scenarios (content recovery, site recovery, and disaster recovery). It then discusses native tools available for each scenario and all the various data that has to be backed up. Finally, it gives you step-by-step for each recovery scenario. Lots of really useful info: my favorite is the 2-page long “Components and backup tools” table, great summary of everything you need to keep in mind when creating your SharePoint backup plan!

For some reason, content recovery is described as something that only end users and site administrators have to do. I cannot completely agree here: in almost every conversation with customers I heard about IT Operations having to step in and help users find occasionally deleted or corrupted documents. So while versioning and Recycle Bin really help to minimize number of such calls, if you’re managing SharePoint be ready to answer them from time to time.

Although the whitepaper’s title says MOSS, most of the information is relevant to WSS v3 as well.

SharePoint backup and disaster recovery tutorial from TechTarget

This tutorial is focused primarily on how to ensure you’re prepared to disaster recovery of your SharePoint environment. Among other useful info, it includes a sample disaster recovery operations document, and thorough info on how SharePoint 2007 backup and restore works.

In fact, this tutorial is an excerpt from a book called Essential SharePoint 2007 and written by Scott Jamison, Mauro Cardarelli, and Susan Hanley.

Again, while the topic is MOSS 2007, WSS v3 users will surely benefit from this tutorial.

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