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Understanding System Center Data Protection Manager

System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 is the recent update to the DPM 2007 product that was out for years. DPM 2010 backs up Windows-based servers in the environment, including domain controllers, Exchange servers, SharePoint servers, file servers, SQL servers, and Windows workstations. Unlike traditional backup systems that kicked off in the middle of the night to "stream" the entire content of a server to tape, DPM backs up servers incrementally all day long and, in fact, does incremental backups of critical servers like Exchange or SharePoint every 15 minutes. Because the data backups are now done incrementally throughout the day, the load on the servers is minimal and the data is no more than a few minutes behind.

At any time, the administrator can reach into a backup from just a few minutes ago and initiate a restore of the data. Additionally, components within DPM 2010 allow the end user to restore information themselves in what is called self-service recovery. As an example, if a user is working off a file share in Windows (XP SP2 or higher) and accidentally deletes or overwrites a file, that user can simply right-click the file share, choose Previous Versions, and see previous versions of the file that was deleted or overwritten and choose to self-recover the file immediately.

Also, because DPM does not use tape as the primary medium but rather hard disk storage, the recovery of data, whether it is 15 minutes old, 15 days old, or even 15 weeks old, is done in seconds. Digital data backups as a primary method of backup and recovery provide faster backup and restore times, and DPM data can secondarily be written to tape or replicated across a WAN or the Internet to be stored offsite. Third-party providers can provide DPM secondary storage "in the cloud" so that an organization can bypass tape altogether and just push critical backups to an external third-party provider for safe recovery over the Internet in the event of a local site failure.

System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 provides the ability for protection groups to be created, as shown in Figure 1.7, where file servers, Exchange servers, SharePoint servers, SQL servers, or the like have varying backup schedules to ensure the successful backup of the application in a manner specific to the application.

Figure 1.7

Figure 1.7 The System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 console.

Business Solutions Addressed by System Center Data Protection Manager

For most organizations, backup has traditionally been something that is done every night as a "set-it-and-forget-it" process as insurance that if a server catastrophically fails, the administrator can go back to a tape and perform a recovery. Unfortunately, because backup has been seen as a necessity to take tapes offsite, but not a serious method of actual recovery, most organizations who have had to go back to tape have found that the data on the tape was either not accessible (due to tape corruption) or not complete (organization was only backing up one component of a server, not all data components). DPM provides a "set-it-and-forget-it" medium for backup that is more reliable than the traditional method in that the medium is digital hard disk data, not flimsy electromagnetic tape. In addition, DPM has the intelligence of backing up not only "the server," but also backing up databases and logs together, or System State and databases together that are necessary for a successful recovery.

However, for organizations that want more than just data backed up, DPM is a component of a disaster recovery and actual business continuity strategy. By incrementally backing up data to DPM and then replicating the DPM data to other sites in real time, an organization has effectively created a process for full data recovery in a separate site. The same backup process in DPM that provides full recovery in the once-every-30-year type of scenario can be used from day to day by users themselves to self-recover deleted documents or email messages.

DPM takes an age-old process of full backups and provides day-to-day value to users to perform a simple recovery task of their own data all the way through the recovery of an entire data center in the event of a catastrophic failure.

Major Features of System Center Data Protection Manager

The System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 product has a wealth of features and functions that help an IT administrator back up, protect, and incrementally recover data on servers throughout the organization; some of the specific major features in the product are as follows:

  • Back up Microsoft-based servers—As a Microsoft backup product, DPM knows how to back up Microsoft products in a manner that Microsoft wants their applications like Exchange, SQL, or SharePoint to be backed up. DPM knows that a successful SharePoint restoral requires a clean backup of the System State, Configuration Database, and Content Database at a specific snapshot point in time and, thus, when DPM backs up SharePoint, it backs up all of the necessary files and information. DPM has the ability to back up Active Directory, Windows servers, Windows file systems, Exchange servers, SharePoint servers, SQL servers, and Windows client systems.
  • Back up file server data with self-service user recovery—DPM has the ability to back up file servers, including file permissions on the files on the system. With DPM file backup implemented, end users can self-service recover files that have been accidentally deleted or even overwritten with versions of files that have been backed up and are stored on the DPM 2010 server. This self-service function leverages the "previous versions" capability in Windows, as shown in Figure 1.8.
    Figure 1.8

    Figure 1.8 Self-service recovery of files leveraging DPM.

  • Back up Microsoft Exchange databases—DPM also has built-in intelligence to back up Exchange servers, including Exchange Server 2003, Exchange Server 2007, and Exchange Server 2010, and not just the databases but also the log files and associated information necessary to allow for a successful recovery of a single Exchange database or an entire Exchange server. Additionally, DPM can back up a passive node of an Exchange cluster, or in Exchange 2010, DPM can back up a replica copy of the Exchange data (not the primary active database), thus allowing a backup to proceed in the middle of the day with absolutely no impact on users. The recovery process of Exchange leverages the recovery storage group/recovery database concept in Exchange, where the data can automatically be recovered to a live running Exchange server that then allows the administrator to mount the database and selectively recover a single mailbox or even a single mail message directly into a user's mailbox.
  • Back up SharePoint data, including recovery straight to the source data location—As mentioned as an example in the Windows Server backup bullet, DPM is intelligent enough to know to back up all components of a SharePoint environment for the ability to successfully restore the SharePoint server. DPM can back up SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 with the added benefit of SharePoint 2010 backups that it can do a restoral directly to a live working SharePoint 2010 server. This is more a feature of SharePoint 2010 that allows for the recovery straight to a running SharePoint 2010 production server that did not exist in SharePoint 2007. SharePoint 2007 requires data to be restored to a replica of the SharePoint 2007 production environment and then data extracted from that replica farm and inserted into the production SharePoint 2007 environment. SharePoint 2010 can have data restored right into a production document library or list, or even the full recovery of a site. DPM 2010 has the ability of facilitating the successful recovery process into a live SharePoint 2010 environment.
  • Back up SQL data, including automatic backup of databases added to the SQL server—DPM 2010 can back up and recover SQL servers in a production environment. DPM 2010 backups of SQL servers not only allow for the backup of a specific targeted server, but an option can be triggered so that when additional databases or instances are added to a server, DPM automatically adds those additions to the backup group. In the past, if an administrator did not update their tape backup software to specifically back up a new database, the new database would never be backed up. DPM can be set to dynamically back up new databases added to a server. Additionally, once data has been backed up using DPM, the administrator can go into the Recovery tab of the DPM 2010 console and choose files, documents, databases, or entire servers from any specific backup and initiate a restoral of the information. The information from the recovery page of the console is shown in Figure 1.9.
    Figure 1.9

    Figure 1.9 Recovery page from the DPM 2010 console.

  • Backup of Hyper-V physical servers, including direct VHD recovery—DPM 2010 has the ability to back up Hyper-V host servers, including the ability to selectively recover a specific Hyper-V guest session from that server-based backup. This provides an administrator the ability to target a server or series of Hyper-V host servers and then selectively choose to recover specific guest session instances.
  • Long-term storage of data to tape—Although DPM provides the initial backup of information digitally to hard disk media, data on the DPM server can then secondarily be written to tape for long-term storage. Data written to tape can be used to recover a single backup instance or can be used to recover an entire DPM server itself.
  • Long-term storage of data pushed to the cloud—Lastly, DPM 2010 data can be replicated offsite, whether that is replicating data to another DPM server in another organization-owned or managed data center, or replicating the DPM data to a third-party hosted storage provider. By replicating DPM data offsite over a WAN or Internet connection, an organization might not even need to ever have tapes or manage tapes again.

Background on System Center Data Protection Manager

System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 has gone through several revisions in just the past three to four years at Microsoft. Microsoft has done a good job updating the product to support more and more of what organizations want in a backup and recovery product. Each successive update of DPM has brought along major feature improvements; some of the major revisions and history of the product are as follows:

  • Data Protection Manager 2006—DPM was released in 2005 as DPM 2006 and provided the backup of basic Windows Active Directory and file servers. Because it only backed up file servers and not critical business applications like Exchange or SQL, DPM 2006 did not have a lot of organizations jump on and adopt the product.
  • Data Protection Manager 2007—At the end of 2007, Microsoft shipped DPM 2007 that finally supported the backup and recovery of Exchange Server 2003, Exchange Server 2007, SQL Server 2000, and SQL Server 2005. This was significant as DPM could now be used to back up real applications in the enterprise.
  • Data Protection Manager 2007 SP1—Early in 2009, Microsoft released SP1 of DPM 2007 that provided full support for backing up Exchange Server 2007 Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR) clusters, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 servers with intelligent backup and recovery of entire SharePoint states, support for backing up Hyper-V virtualized environments, and the ability to back up to the cloud with initial companies like Iron Mountain providing host offsite cloud services.
  • Data Protection Manager 2010—Most recently, the release of DPM 2010 provided the backup of entire Hyper-V Live Migration and Cluster Share Volume (CSV) backups and recoveries, backup of Windows client systems, and the ability to back up the latest Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2010 environments.

What to Expect in the System Center Data Protection Manager Chapters

In this book, two chapters are dedicated to the System Center Data Protection Manager product. These chapters are as follows:

  • Chapter 10, "Data Protection Manager 2010 Design, Planning, Implementation, and Administration"—This chapter covers the architectural design, server sizing, server placement, and planning of the deployment of System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 in the enterprise. The chapter provides modeling information on how much hard disk storage is needed to back up servers as well as best practices on the retention period of data (whether data should be backed up every 15 minutes, every hour, or every day and whether data should be stored for three days, a week, a month, or a year).
  • Chapter 11, "Using Data Protection Manager 2010 to Protect File Systems, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint"—This chapter provides information on how an administrator would use DPM 2010 to specifically protect and recover key applications and workloads such as file systems, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint.

System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 with its support for doing 15-minute incremental backups of key business applications along with the ability to have self-service of information by end users themselves has vaulted DPM as a valuable tool for an organization to have in its business continuity and data-recovery strategy. Jump to Chapters 10 and 11 of this book for specific information and deployment and configuration guidance on how DPM can be best leveraged in your enterprise.

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