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Developing an Exchange 2007 server role DR plan

When planning an Exchange 2007 disaster recovery strategy, knowing which server roles to back up is critical. Backing up mailbox servers and public folder servers is essential, but which server roles don't need to be backed up?

Most Exchange 2007 disaster recovery (DR) discussions center on recovering mailboxes and public folder servers. That's understandable since databases on these servers contain all of your users' data.

Even so, there's more to Exchange DR than mailbox servers. This article discusses disaster recovery as it relates to other Exchange 2007 Server roles, as well as developing a strong contingency plan in case of disaster.

The best way to protect Exchange servers is to perform a full backup of each server on a regular basis. You'll also want to test those backups frequently to ensure that they can be restored. But making frequent full backups of non-mailbox Exchange servers may not always be practical.

Backup systems have a finite capacity. Often, there are more important things to back up than Exchange Servers that don't contain any data. I don't suggest that you neglect backing up your Exchange servers; however, I do recommend that you have a contingency plan in place that allows you to return your failed server to a functional state.

The first step in developing a contingency plan is knowing what each Exchange server contains and how those components could be replaced if the server failed. Exchange 2007 servers that don't have the Mailbox Server role installed include a Windows operating system and Exchange Server binaries. Most configuration data is stored in Active Directory (AD).

It's possible to rebuild an Exchange server as long as AD is still functional. However, some server roles can't be rebuilt.

More on Exchange backup and recovery:
Five Microsoft Exchange Server backup worst practices

Exchange Server 2007 SP2 reinstates built-in backup capabilities

How a bare-metal restore affects Microsoft Outlook 2007 performance

Hub transport servers

Configuration data associated with a hub transport server is stored in Active Directory. When rebuilding a hub transport server, it's critical to remember that they contain a database that the message queues use.

Since the queues use these databases, messages don't remain in the databases for very long. Therefore, there's no real reason to back up these databases since backups would become outdated within a matter of seconds.

If a hub transport server fails -- and databases are lost -- a small amount of data will be lost. If the databases are not damaged during the failure, it may be possible to rebuild the server without any data loss.

Edge transport servers

You can rebuild an Exchange server using the configuration data stored in AD. However, this technique does not work for edge transport server because they are not domain members and do not connect to AD. An edge transport server stores configuration data locally.

Client access servers

It's possible to rebuild a client access server using configuration data stored in Active Directory. But a few issues may occur if your organization has customized Outlook Web Access. Because OWA customizations are usually made to HTML or .asp files, they are stored locally on the server. Be sure to back up any customizations that you make to your client access server or they could be lost in the event of a server rebuild.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

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This was last published in September 2009

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