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An affordable Exchange Server database backup software option for SMBs

Learn about affordable Exchange Server backup software called Backup Assist that's better than NTBACKUP and suitable for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Purchasing backup software for your Exchange Server can be an expensive endeavor. Per server licenses, per administrator...

licenses and mandatory maintenance contracts can further drive up the cost of backup software. Large companies can often afford to invest in a good quality, enterprise-class backup tool. But such expensive products can be overkill for small- to medium-sized organizations. This tip takes a look at Backup Assist, an affordable commercial backup add-on utility that's suitable for SMBs.


Many SMBs rely on NTBACKUP, the no-frills application that comes with Windows. Unfortunately, this solution has issues and limitations.

Although I try to test my backups regularly, I discovered that NTBACKUP couldn't restore any backups that it had recently created. NTBACKUP let me index the backup file and select files that I wanted to restore. But when I tried to begin the restore, I received an error message informing me that the backup contained incomplete data and could not be used (Figure 1).

Exchange Server NTBACKUP database backup
Figure 1. Error message received in NTBACKUP when trying to restore data..

After some research, I discovered that NTBACKUP contains a bug that can cause a file to become corrupt once the backup exceeds a certain size. I couldn't find documentation on what the size limit is, but it seems to be between 150 GB and 250 GB.

I realized that it was time to invest in an affordable commercial backup application that could also back up my Exchange Server databases. Backup Assist software is an add-on solution that can do this for a cost of $229.

NTBACKUP is designed so that any action that can be completed through the GUI can also be scripted. Backup Assist provides a useful interface to NTBACKUP's existing capabilities, facilitating backup configurations. However, I was still concerned about the initial bug in NTBACKUP, and future ramifications.

I first tried to restore a backup that was previously created with NTBACKUP. This attempt was unsuccessful, but all new backups made using the Backup Assist interface worked fine, and the bug was no longer an issue.

In addition to Backup Assist, the company offers several other add-on tools, one of which is an Exchange Mailbox add-on that costs $129. This tool lets you achieve brick-level backups of Exchange mailboxes, allowing you to restore individual or group emails, calendars, tasks and other functions. But the tool only acts as an interface for available components.

More on Exchange backup and recovery:
Tip: Sample batch file script to run NTBACKUP on Exchange

FAQ: Exchange Server backup and recovery

The Exchange Server Backup and Recovery Toolbox

10 tips in 10 minutes: Fundamentals of Exchange Server backup and recovery

Backup Assist also implements brick-level backups through the Exchange add-on using Microsoft's ExMerge tool. ExMerge is required, but Backup Assist automatically downloads and installs this tool as part of the configuration process. All backed-up, brick-level data is written to .PST files.

Generally, these .PST files are replaced with newer versions on a daily basis. However, the Create Job wizard in Backup Assist lets you archive data on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. A process called grouping also stores all .PST files under 2 GB.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). 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 Web site at www.brienposey.com.

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This was last published in January 2008

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