freshidea - Fotolia
Exchange administrators need a reliable means to back up and recover emails and other data from the messaging platform in an emergency.
Exchange comes in a few flavors, and administrators need a slightly different approach to back up each one. Organizations can deploy Exchange Server on premises or in the cloud with a service provider, and Office 365 provides another alternative through the Exchange Online offering.
It used to be a challenge to find decent offerings for on-premises Exchange backups, but now there are multiple products available to cover Exchange backup needs. The Exchange backup options outlined below show the diversity of choices available to best suit a particular Exchange deployment.
Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange
Veeam consistently ranks as a top Exchange backup option. Recovery takes only a few clicks; use Explorer to find the individual item in question -- whether it's an entire mailbox or a single email -- and restore it to the PST file. Veeam tailors services for organizations in a range of sizes.
Veeam Explorer supports Exchange 2010, 2013 and 2016, and Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 is an option for Office 365 users. Shops license Veeam either by the number of physical CPU sockets on a managed server, or the number of VMs managed for their cloud-based setup.
Acronis Backup Advanced for Exchange
Acronis aims its Backup Advanced for Exchange at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Similar to Veeam, it takes only a few clicks in Acronis Backup Advanced to restore individual emails or the full Exchange configuration. However, unlike Veeam, Acronis licenses on a yearly subscription or lifetime purchase basis, which might be a better fit for some organizations.
Backup Advanced for Exchange is part of Acronis Backup Advanced, which also manages VM backups for Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Oracle VM Server and KVM, as well as Microsoft's SQL databases, SharePoint servers and Active Directory, Citrix XenServer and more.
Quest Rapid Recovery ZeroIMPACT recovery
ZeroIMPACT recovery for Exchange is a feature of Rapid Recovery, Quest's Recovery suite. For Exchange, Quest's goal is to minimize impact on the end user while it runs background tasks such as a backup or Exchange Server restoration.
Rapid Recovery tests backups nightly to ensure data is recoverable. If a user wants access to a particular file during the restoration process, Live Recovery moves that file to the top of the queue. Quest Rapid Recovery can also archive data to popular cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Simple Storage Server.
BackupAssist is designed for the all-Windows SMB. Again, similar to Veeam, Acronis and others, BackupAssist lets admins individually restore emails, mailboxes and entire Exchange Server databases, as well as Hyper-V VMs, Microsoft SQL servers and bare-metal Windows Server 2016 hosts.
The BackupAssist base license covers general backup and recovery features, but the company also offers add-ons for certain needs, such as its Exchange Granular add-on, which can help administrators recover an email that had been deleted accidentally. This licensing model is handy for admins who strictly manage Exchange Server backups and don't want to pay for the ability to back up Hyper-V hosts or SQL Server, if they have other backup products in place.
NovaStor NovaBACKUP Business Essentials
NovaBACKUP provides granular restoration capabilities for Microsoft Exchange. In addition, NovaBACKUP can back up VMs and hosts for Windows Server and Hyper-V, as well as VMware vSphere 6 to local devices and storage, or cloud-based services such as Dropbox, OneDrive and more.
NovaBACKUP Business Essentials can do all of the above for $299.95 annually or $25 per month, prices that severely undercut the competition. It supports all versions of Exchange up to 2016.
CodeTwo Backup for Exchange
CodeTwo is a strong option for admins who just want to back up the Exchange Server. CodeTwo offers the same granular restoration capabilities as the competition.
Admins can set retention policies and configure regular backups similar to VM snapshots: take an archive of the full set of data and then record only the changes thereafter. CodeTwo Backup for Exchange can be installed on nearly all modern versions of Windows and works with Exchange 2010, 2013, 2016 and with Office 365 subscriptions that have Exchange Online, or the Exchange Online stand-alone plan.
CodeTwo is licensed on a per-mailbox basis. There is a minimum of 10 mailboxes per purchase, which puts the entry price at $100 per year. This is a strong Exchange backup option for a small shop of 25 or fewer people.
Data Protection Manager
Microsoft offers its own backup product called Data Protection Manager (DPM), which is part of the System Center suite. It's a popular choice in all-Microsoft shops in large part because of how Microsoft license bundles works.
Of the Microsoft backup offerings, DPM is the one best suited to back up on-premises Exchange Server installations. DPM features what Microsoft calls "application-aware backup" so the application knows which data to back up, such as multiple Exchange instances, and has the ability to protect various Exchange deployments. DPM can restore a mailbox, the Exchange Server database and the entire Exchange Server if a bare-metal backup has been performed.
System Center follows the same per-core licensing model as Windows Server, so your cost might vary depending on the machine that runs System Center. For a server with two CPUs and eight cores per CPU, System Center Standard Edition is $1,323 while the Datacenter Edition costs $3,607.
No excuses now
We've come a long way from when administrators once had to battle with backup products that were difficult to implement and use.
Almost all Exchange backup options offer per-mailbox and even per-message granularity. That was an expensive extra feature a decade ago, but now it's table stakes. This removes a significant barrier for regular use of e-mail backup options and should also remove any excuses that might remain to not invest in proper Exchange-aware backup software.
The software is more straightforward and reliable, and small businesses have more Exchange backup options for different licensing schemes. Competition means backup product vendors support the latest versions of Exchange almost as soon as they hit the market.
Remember: if your data doesn't exist in at least two places, then it simply does not exist.
What third-party tools help back up and protect Office 365?
Learn weaknesses of Office 365 backup
Top cloud-to-cloud backup myths