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Exchange Server 2007 SP2 reinstates built-in backup capabilities

A VSS-based plug-in, allowing customers to take Exchange-aware VSS backups onto Windows Server 2008, will be included in Exchange Server 2007 SP2. See what this announcement means for Exchange administrators, as well as some pros and cons in this tip.

I was excited to check out the new integration between Exchange Server 2007 SP1 and Windows Server 2008, so I spent some time on the setup. The clustering (failover) features in Windows Server 2008 impressed me until I attempted to back up Exchange Server using Windows 2008's built-in backup utilities. It seems that no backup method was available for Exchange Server.

Previous versions of Exchange -- even Exchange 5.5 on an NT 4.0 Server -- has offered support when backing up Exchange. Windows Server 2000 and 2003 running Exchange 2007 also offered backup support. Although I didn't think it was the best backup solution, it was functional and free. So the fact that it was missing in Exchange 2007 on Windows Server 2008 raised some questions. Was something incompatible? Was Microsoft attempting to push people toward purchasing System Center Disaster Recovery Manager by removing built-in backup capabilities?

At TechEd 2009, the announcement was made that a VSS-based plug-in for Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 will be included in Exchange 2007 SP2 (coming Q3 2009). This plug-in lets customers take Exchange-aware VSS backups on Windows Server 2008. This plug-in offers certain capabilities in Exchange Server 2007 SP2.

  • A plug-in that enables Windows Server Backup to create Exchange-aware VSS backups.

    Note: Whether or not you have this plug-in, you still cannot perform ESE streaming backups.

  • This is a local solution, so you cannot perform remote VSS backups. However, there are other ways to manage your Windows Servers, including a Remote Desktop connection or a Terminal Service connection.
  • You can only perform full backups since logs will truncate after the full backup is performed.
  • The backup includes the entire volume. If you want to back up a storage group or database, you have to back up the entire volume that contains that storage group or database. This doesn't mean that you have to restore the entire volume to restore your Exchange data. You can restore only Exchange data. You must restore all backed up storage groups and databases simultaneously -- you cannot pick and choose.
  • You can only back up the active copy of an active/passive high-availability solution.
  • You can restore the data to its original location or to an alternate location. Although this doesn't support the Recovery Storage Group (RSG) solution, you can restore data to an alternate location and then move it into an RSG.
  • You will be able to back up to a local drive or network share.

Being able to perform any type of Exchange 2007 backup without purchasing a third-party solution will be a key factor for administrators upgrading to Windows Server 2008. There, they can take advantage of failover clustering enhancements, which are worthwhile in Exchange environments requiring high availability.

Smaller shops will also appreciate a free plug-in that restores backup ability, even if it's a bit limited. Anticipation for SP2 will be high -- if only for this plug-in. However, many wonder whether or not Exchange 2010 will have the same built-in capabilities.

Exchange 2010 has an entirely new storage structure that may not be an issue because the new backup solution uses volume-based VSS backups. But it' still unknown if the plug-in will perform backup and restores smoothly for Exchange 2010 on Windows Server 2008.

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J. Peter Bruzzese
J. Peter Bruzzese (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Messaging) has been working with Exchange Server for more than 10 years. His latest book Exchange 2007 SP1 How-To published by Sam's Publishing was released in January 2009. He speaks about Exchange at various conferences including TechMentor and TEC. His website includes 150 free training videos on Microsoft Exchange. You can reach him at

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