Just got another question about SharePoint 2010 remote BLOB storage (RBS) and its impact on the backups. The topic is already covered by so many posts and articles, I will just add a quick summary and few links to more details.

There are three simple things to remember about RBS and backups:

  • It is the RBS provider implementation that defines how backup works for externalized content. External content may or may not be included in your backups, depending on the provider you choose.
  • With the out of the box SQL 2008 R2 RBS FILESTREAM provider, externalized content is included in traditional VDI backups (“virtual backup device interface”). That is, native SQL and SharePoint backups will include both the database and the external content. Same is true for all 3rd party SQL backups that use VDI.
  • The out of the box SQL 2008 R2 RBS FILESTREAM provider does not support snapshots. Any SQL backup based on snapshots (such as Microsoft Data Protection Manager) will NOT automatically protect the external content.

If you plan to leverage RBS to reduce the size of your databases in SQL, you may have to change your backup strategy based on the above. Major questions are:

  • What is your current backup strategy, do you use snapshots or traditional backups?
  • How does the RBS provider of your choice work with the existing backup? Will external content be automatically included in backups?
  • If yes, make sure you and your SQL DBAs are aware that backup files can be MUCH larger than SQL database size
  • If not, how will you handle backup and restore of the external content? For example, if your backup is snapshot-based, you should take same time snapshots of the file system or NAS location with the external content. Make sure you test and thoroughly document all recovery scenarios in this case.

See also Plan for backup and recovery on Microsoft TechNet for other considerations.

Configuring RBS FILESTREAM for SharePoint 2010 and SQL 2008 is not a trivial task. Ghazwan Khairi recently started his SharePoint Quester videoblog, and one of his posts goes step by step through installing and configuring RBS for SharePoint 2010. This includes all script snippets and command line examples that you’ll need. Very helpful and detailed, check it out.

Finally, if you wonder why anyone may want to go into all this trouble with configuring RBS, it is worth reading Chris McNulty’s blog series on top SharePoint performance killers.

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SharePoint 2010 Service Pack 1 introduced several exciting features, including the long-waited-for site recycle bin. This allows you to restore a deleted site within 30 days (default setting that can be changed) after deletion. The functionality is available to site collection administrators and can be huge relief for organizations where users tend to spend too much effort on keeping the site hierarchies “neat” and deleting everything that seems to be “not important any more”.

However, there is a gotcha you should be aware of if you rely on this functionality. The issue is already fixed in August 2011 Cumulative Update Package, but I thought I would share the info, since I could not find any KB describing it. Here you go:

Issue. A list cannot be restored from recycle bin after the parent site is deleted and restored from SharePoint SP1 site collection recycle bin.

Details. A list or document library is deleted in a SharePoint 2010 SP1 site and is available in the user recycle bin. The parent site itself is then deleted and appears in the administrator recycle bin on the site collection level. After you restore the site from site collection administrator recycle bin, the deleted list still appears in the user recycle bin, but any attempt to restore the list fails. List contents is unavailable to users.

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Create a new site in the site collection. For example, the name is New Product Version Team Site: http://MyPortal/sites/MyProduct/NewProductVersion
  2. Create a document library in the newly created site (Project Specs) and upload several documents.
  3. Delete the newly created document library. The library appears in the user recycle bin in the New Product Version site.
  4. Delete the site. The deleted site appears in the site collection recycle bin.
  5. Restore the site from site collection recycle bin.
  6. Open the restored site and go to the user recycle bin. The document library appears there as expected.
  7. Select the document library (Project Specs) and click Restore.

Expected result: The library should be restored from Recycle Bin.

Actual result (on SharePoint 2010 Service Pack 1 without August 2011 Cumulative Update Package): Restore attempt fails with error: “A list with this name “Project Specs” already exists. To restore the list, move or rename the existing list and try again.”

In addition, deleted document library (Project Specs) unexpectedly appears in the “All Site Content” after the site restore. An attempt to open the Project Specs document library from All Site Content page fails with 404 error.

Resolution: Luckily, the SharePoint team already fixed this issue, all you need is obtain and install SharePoint 2010  August 2011 Cumulative Update Package before trying to restore the deleted site. You can find information about August CU here for SharePoint Sever and for SharePoint Foundation. I only posted this issue description for reference, since there seems to be no description of the symptoms in Microsoft Support KB articles.

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We had a good discussion tonight with Buckeye SharePoint User Group in Columbus around how you approach backup and recovery in 2010, and how new features might or might not change your backup strategy. Here’s the slide deck from my session:

SharePoint 2010: How new features change your backup and recovery

Apparently, there’s lots of interest in SharePoint 2010 – few folks already have it running in production, some are playing with it in the labs, while others are learning. Good times, interesting to see how SharePoint landscape changes.

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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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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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Ever searched for a document or list item in SharePoint 2007 Recycle Bin with no luck? You know the document was deleted from the SharePoint site, so why does it not show up here? Here’re possible reasons for that:

  • Are you looking at the correct site? Recycle Bin in SharePoint is site-specific, a document deleted from http://myportal/sites/projects/manhattan will not appear in the top level site’s (http://myportal/sites/projects) Recycle Bin.
  • Were it you who deleted the document? Recycle Bin is not only site-specific, it is also specific for each user. Thus the Recycle Bin contents you see is limited to documents, items, lists and libraries that you’ve deleted, content deleted by other users does not show up here.
  • How long ago was it deleted?  Recycle Bin does not keep deleted items for ever. The default setting in SharePoint is to keep content in Recycle Bin for 30 days after deletion, this can be changed by the SharePoint farm administrators. When this grace period is over, items are moved to the second stage aka Site Collection Recycle Bin.

If any of the above seems to be the likely reason, the Site Collection Recycle Bin can help. To access this, you should have the site collection administrator privileges. Site Collection Recycle Bin shows all the deleted content from all sub-sites within this site collection, regardless of who deleted this data. By default it keeps the data for the same period after it was moved from the first stage Recycle Bin, or until it reaches certain percentage of the site collection’s quota.

Still there can be situations when a deleted item/document does not appear in both site and site collection Recycle Bins. The most common is when a folder or entire list or library is deleted. Recycle Bin only shows the object that has been deleted, with no ability to expand or search its contents. When looking for a document make sure you consider that possibly its parent folder or library can be showing up in the Recycle Bin instead.

Finally, there are site deletes, which are not captured by the Recycle Bin. If this is a common situation in your SharePoint, you might want to extend your deployment with the MSIT Site Delete Capture tool (available at http://governance.codeplex.com/releases/view/3830), or looks for 3rd party granular recovery tools.

Same applies to SharePoint 2007 as well as 2010, there are no changes in how you work with the Recycle Bin in SharePoint 2010.

Some useful links and resources for planning and using the Recycle Bin in SharePoint:

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Just saw this link on Mauro Cordelli’s blog: http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/2010/Sneak_Peek/Pages/default.aspx

Make sure to check this out! The site includes short video overviews of what’s new for the users, for IT pros and for developers; preliminary system requirements and advice on how to get ready; and preliminary availability dates:

Beta in 2009, general availability targeted at the first half of 2010.

Speaking about how to get ready, make sure to read Joel’s recent post on the stsadm.exe -o preupgradecheck. This command is available in stsadm.exe as of Service Pack 2 for WSS v3 and MOSS 2007, and is the first planning step on your path to the future upgrade.

If you’re interested in getting more info about SharePoint 2010, sign up for the SharePoint conference in October. Detailed agenda is not yet published for the event, but looks like there will be a healthy mix of sessions on getting most from the current versions as well as learning about the futures. See you there!

UPDATE (7/28): I also posted some thoughts around backup and recovery in SharePoint 2010 and specifically the new unattached content database feature on the SharePoint For All site.

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