When SharePoint 2010 early sneak preview was first published by the product team, one of the big wow’s were the new granular content restore capabilities, available right there in Central Administration. While this is certainly an improvement compared to earlier version of SharePoint, I still cannot call this functionality “granular content restore”. Let’s walk through the steps required to restore a document from database backup with these new capabilities.

How to Restore from Unattached Content Database, Step by Step

1. Find the backup file that contains that document you need. You’ll need to know document original location so that you can match that to the content database. You will also need to find out when the document was corrupted or deleted, so that you grab the backup file from the right date. When you have all this information you can find the reuqired backup file (or probably request it from your SQL DBA or Backup operators).

2. Restore content database to a temporary location. Backup file is not enough, to use the unattached content database recovery you need the database mounted on a SQL server. This can be the same SQL instance used by SharePoint, or a different SQL box. If you restore into the same SQL instance make sure you (or your SQL DBA’s) use a different name for the restored database and don’t override the production content! Note the name of the SQL Server instance and the name of the database copy.

3. Go to SharePoint Central Administration, navigate to Backup and Restore and click the “Recover data from an unattached content database” link under Granular Backup.

4. Type the SQL Instance and temporary database names and specify what you want to do. Note that none of the available options actually allows you to restore a document, you can either create a backup of site collection or export a site or list. If you only need a single document, you’ll need to export the library in order to get it.

5. Select site collection, site and list to export. In this step you also specify the name for the export file and the export options, such as whether security and versions should be included in the export. You are ready to start the export.

Congratulations, you have completed the Unattached Content Database Recovery now! Wait, did you actually need that document? All you have is the export.cmp file, where to look next? There is no import available in the Central Administration UI. So what do you do next?

6. Start the SharePoint Management Shell, which is PowerShell with Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell snap-in already loaded. Then use the Import-SPWeb cmdlet to import the library. It is important to understand you cannot restore list or library under a different name. If a document library with the same name already exists in the destination site, import will merge contents and by default create new document versions where possible.

7. Finally, browse to the imported library and get the document you just restored. Once this is done, you can safely delete the imported document library from SharePoint, and delete the temporary database from SQL server.

Pros and Contras of Unattached Content Database Recovery

If you ever had to perform granular content restore via a recovery farm in SharePoint 2003 or SharePoint 2007, you can see the process is not very different with 2010. The big step forward is that there is no need to maintain the recovery farm for SharePoint 2010 and you don’t have to attach the temporary database to the farm. You also have the UI to do the export via Central Administration.

However, that’s where improvements end and all the limitations remain:

  • You have to know exactly which backup contains the requested data, there is no search available. If you make a mistake, it is not until the very last step in the process that you find out the document you looked for is missing after the import and you have to start it all over.
  • You must use higlhy privileged account to perfrom all operations in both SQL and SharePoint, which might not be possible in some environments. Sometimes in a large organization it would take 3 different people to perform the task.
  • There is no single UI to perform the operation from the first to the last step. You have to use SQL backup management tools, SharePoint Central Administration and PowerShell, which obviously increases time to restore.
  • Granularity is limitied. You can restore a site collection, a site or a list/library.
  • Finally, all inherited limitations of SharePoint export and import apply when restoring sites and lists from unattached content database.
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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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A new white paper on enterprise SharePoint recovery by Adam Woodruff has just become available on Quest Software web site. This is an overview of things to consider and tools available natively for SharePoint backup and recovery on a high level, primarily focused on WSS v3 and MOSS 2007. Main purpose of this paper is to help with the big picture, before you proceed to more detailed technical SharePoint backup and restore tutorials or videos.

Adam Woodruff is one of the smart people here at Quest. He’s a Solutions Architect for SharePoint team, which seems to mean “the guy who spends about 25 hours a day with customers helping to implement their SharePoint strategy.” He is also a speaker at technical events like the recent SharePoint Conference in Seattle, where he gave a session about consolidating enterprise knowledge into SharePoint. I’ve been trying to force Adam into blogging for a while now, and hope we’ll see some interesting SharePoint stuff from him soon!

Yours truly also contributed to this white paper (mostly in the chapter that maps various tools to different recovery scenarios). If you have any thoughts, corrections, or comments – please leave a comment to this post, I will really appreciate this!

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Mauro Cardareli posted a cool way to recover a deleted site collection using STSADM.exe with addcontentdb operation. This operation was added in WSS v3 version of STSADM to help in upgrade scenarios (reattaching WSS v2 databases for upgrade) and to create brand new empty content database from command line. Nice side effect is that you can use it to attach previous version of an existing content database, and it will “move” all your site collections there.

Be careful, though: by doing this, you are reverting all site collections hosted in this database to the last good backup state. This means if you any site collections there except the one deleted, odds are some changes will be lost for other sites.

By the way, you can mitigate this risk, by using third-party tools that allow granular SharePoint restore from full SQL backup. (Usual discloser here: I work for Quest and this is one of the products I work on.) One of the beauties of this solution is you can retrieve only the objects you want from a content database backup, even if the backup was created before you install the tool.

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I recently blogged about the release candidate build of DPM 2007, and it just went RTM two days ago. One of the interesting features of the new release is support for granular recovery of SharePoint 2007 items via a staging farm environment.

The product page still has no specific datasheets or whitepapers on SharePoint protection, but there is a Protecting SharePoint with DPM webcast scheduled for November 27th. For those who cannot wait that long to learn more, 120-days trial is free and available for download (requires registration).

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Okay, it is real now: the DPM blog announced System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 Release Candidate few days ago. I am not going to talk about all cool new features of DPM 2007, there are loads of info on it’s web page (by the way, including pricing and licensing options). But one new feature I am excited about is the new document level recovery for SharePoint! And it is new in this build, actually, it was not available in Beta builds, so I cannot wait to try it live!

Unfortunately, there is not as much info available about SharePoint protection yet as for other platforms: for example, there are white papers on protecting Exchange or SQL. I would love to see similar white paper about SharePoint protection eventually, but now we have the build to explore – what are you waiting for?! Download the free 120-day trial software, try it and tell what you think about it. And here’s a great DPM installation walkthrough from Sean Earp to help – thanks Sean!

My very first observations are:

  • It does not keep data twice! Same snapshot is being used to restore entire database (or all databases within a farm) or to restore a site or just a document. Very cool, no more stressful and long site-level backups with STSADM.exe.
  • It allows browsing and searching through SharePoint contents from within the DPM Console, and selectively restore the data that you need. Way better than you could ever get from SQL backup and STSADM.
  • It requires a staging SharePoint server (all-in-one installation seems to be enough) for granular recoveries. Looks like DPM automates the good old method of re-attaching content database to a staging server, and eliminates most of the manual work this method requires from admin.
  • Document level restore only available for SharePoint Services 3.0 and MOSS 2007. You can still use DPM to protect WSS 2.0 and SPS 2003 content databases, as part of SQL protection functionality.

I will blog more about DPM and SharePoint recovery as soon as I play more with it.

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Joel Oleson just posted quite interesting thoughts on Recycle Bin. In this post, he also according to MS IT stats Recycle Bin only adds 5-10% of storage overhead. This seemed really interesting to me: I would anticipate much larger number there. So, I traced the numbers back to the original MS IT statistics post from about a month ago:

Current Global SharePoint FootPrint
15.2 Terabytes Used by databases
152,236 Site Collections

2007 Recycle Bin Feature Usage

9850 Site Collections Using Recycle bin

845 GB of storage used for feature

Looks like the 5-10% estimation comes from comparing total SharePoint data to the space occupied by data in Recycle Bins. There is only one catch: Recycle Bin is only enabled for less than 10,000 site collections out of 152,000. Well, if Recycle Bin is only enabled for some 7% of total site collections, no wonder it does not take too much space! (And why Recycle Bin is disabled for the vast majority of SharePoint instances in MS IT is another interesting question…)

So, if it is not 5%, how much storage do you want to allocate for the Recycle Bin? This is actually an easy one: by default, the second stage Recycle Bin is limited to up to 50% of the site collection quota. And the first stage is within the quota, so it actually does not add any storage requirements. This means, if you just go with defaults, you simply need to allocate additional 50% on top of what you’re planning for all site collections. If that seems too much, be sure to change the second stage settings in the web application’s General Settings. Over time it will chew up as much as you let it, so it’s a good idea to limit this from day one.

Oh, and by the way… Joel, you mentioned couple Microsoft partners who offer something beyond simple recycle bin functionality. There’s actually more, and the list keeps growing! Check this out.

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