Continuous Backup for Exchange Server 2013 with DPM 2012 (Part 5)

by [Published on 5 Sept. 2013 / Last Updated on 5 Sept. 2013]

How to restore a mailbox database or a single mailbox using Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2012.

If you would like to read the other parts of this article series please go to:

Recovering Exchange 2013 Mailbox Database

DPM 2012 supports recovery of the following Exchange data:

  • An entire storage group (Exchange 2007 or lower).
  • A single mailbox database.
  • A single mailbox.

Depending on the type of information to recover, you also have some flexible restore options where to dump the data:

  • To its original location.
  • To a Recovery Storage Group / Recovery Database.
  • To a separate network folder.
  • To a tape drive.

Besides all the discrete recovery points that are available (and they can be every 15 minutes), DPM provides one more recovery capability: to recover “latest”, resulting in near zero data loss when the recovery is complete. In the event of a complete loss of the Exchange database files, one can choose “latest” which instructs DPM to first restore to the last recovery point and then roll forward the surviving transaction logs beyond that, as long as the best practice of storing Exchange databases on one volume and logs on another has been respected.

For this first recovery scenario, we’ll recover the CONTROL database using the “latest” capability. Let’s take a look at the contents of the Maxwell Smart mailbox before our simulated disaster happens (Figure 1).

Next, to simulate the complete loss of the CONTROL database, I stopped the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service and renamed the .edb file, which caused it to appear as dismounted in the Exchange Management Console (Figure 2). Please also notice the warning I got after trying to start Microsoft Exchange Information Store service (Figure 3).

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Figure 1: Maxwell Smart mailbox

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Figure 2: CONTROL database failed

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Figure 3: CONTROL database missing

To recover a Mailbox Database to its original location, follow these steps:

  1. Open DPM Administrator Console and click Recovery on the navigation bar. Browse to the mailbox database you wish to recover in the All Protected Exchange Data node. Click any bold date in the calendar, select the Latest recovery point from the Recovery time drop-down box and click Recover in the Actions pane to launch the Recovery Wizard (Figure 4).

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Figure 4: Selecting a mailbox database recovery point

  1. Review the recovery selection and click Next (Figure 5). Select Recover to original Exchange Server location and click Next (Figure 6).

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Figure 5: Review Recovery Selection

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Figure 6: Select Recovery Type

  1. On the Specific Recovery Options page, make sure Mount the databases after they are recovered is selected. If you want DPM to send a notification when the recovery process is finished, select the Send an e-mail when this recovery completes check box and enter one or more e-mail addresses (Figure 7). Click Next.

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Figure 7: Specific Recovery Options

  1. Now we must go back to the Exchange Server in order to allow the databases to be overwritten by the restore. If you miss this step, the restore will fail. Open your Exchange Administration Center, navigate to servers > databases, select the desired Exchange mailbox database and click Edit button. Go to maintenance, select the This database can be overwritten by a restore check box and click save (Figure 8).
    Back to the DPM server, on the Summary page, review your selected settings and click Recover (Figure 9). When the recovery is complete, click Close (Figure 10).

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Figure 8: CONTROL Properties

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Figure 9: Summary

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Figure 10: Recovery Status

We can now check the Maxwell Smart mailbox contents in order to verify the success of the restore operation (Figure 11).

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Figure 11: Maxwell Smart mailbox after a successful restore of the CONTROL database

Since the mailbox database recovered was part of a DAG, the passive copy shows the failed and suspended status. In order to resume normal DAG operations, select the failed database copy and click Resume on the Actions pane (Figure 12). You’ll get a pop-up window warning that the database needs to be reseeded (Figure 13). Click Yes.

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Figure 12:
Resume Database Copy

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Figure 13: Resume Mailbox Database Copy

Recovering Individual Exchange 2013 Mailbox

DPM 2012 supports the recovery of individual mailboxes, although unlike other products that do brick-level backups, to recover a mailbox, DPM must copy the entire database, because this is the recommended method that Exchange supports, as explained in Knowledge Base article 904845, "Microsoft support policy for third-party products that modify or extract Exchange database contents".

Individual mailbox recover is done to a recovery database rather than directly to the database that hosted the original mailbox. The recovery database must exist prior to attempting this recovery

If you follow some best practices, such as keeping deleted items and deleted mailboxes for a period of time, the probability that you’ll ever need to restore a single mailbox is quite low. Nevertheless if you cannot recover the needed data using these methods, here are the steps to recover a protected mailbox using DPM 2012:

  1. On the protected Exchange server, if you do not have an existing Recovery Mailbox Database, create one by using the New-MailboxDatabase cmdlet in Exchange Management Shell. Configure the recovery database to allow it to be overwritten by using the Set-MailboxDatabase cmdlet in Exchange Management Shell.

a)  New-MailboxDatabase -Recovery -Name RDB-CONTROL -Server E2K13-MBX1

b)  Set-MailboxDatabase -Identity ‘RDB-CONTROL’ -AllowFileRestore $true

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Figure 14: New-MailboxDatabase

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Figure 15: RDB-CONTROL database

  1. Open DPM Administrator Console and click Recovery on the navigation bar. Navigate to the mailbox database you wish to recover, under All Protected Exchange Data pane, to display the list of available mailboxes. Click a date in the calendar, select a recovery point from the Recovery time drop down box and click Recover in the Actions pane to launch the Recovery Wizard (Figure 16). When you select a mailbox for recovery, you cannot select Latest as the recovery point, this functionality is not available for individual mailboxes (Figure 17).

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Figure 16: Selecting a mailbox recovery point

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Figure 17: Select Recovery Type

  1. Review the recovery selection and click Next (Figure 18). Select Recover mailbox to an Exchange server database to recover the mailbox to its original server, or select Copy to a network folder to copy the database files to a separate folder location. Click Next (Figure 19).

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Figure 18: Review Recovery Options

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Figure 19: Select Recovery Type

  1. On the Specify Destination window, specify the location to write the recovered mailbox database to (The Recovery Mailbox created in step 1), and click Next (Figure 20).

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Figure 20: Specify Destination

  1. On the Specify Recovery Options, choose whether you want to use Network bandwidth usage throttling and SAN based recovery using hardware snapshots if available and applicable. Specify if you want DPM to send an e-mail message when the recovery process is finished and click Next (Figure 21).
  2. On the Summary page, review your selected settings and click Recover (Figure 22). When the recovery is complete, click Close (Figure 23).

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Figure 21: Specify Recovery Options

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Figure 22: Summary

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Figure 23: Recovery Status

  1. After the recovery process finishes, we still don’t have the required mailbox restored. What we have is the mailbox database where the mailbox belongs to restored to the Recovery Mailbox. The final step to restore the mailbox is to run a PowerShell cmdlet:

a)  New-MailboxRestoreRequest –SourceDatabase ’RDB-CONTROL’ –SourceStoreMailbox ‘Maxwell Smart’ –TargetMailbox MaxwellS@contoso.com –TargetRootFolder Recovery -SkipMerging StorageProviderForSource

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Figure 24: Recovery Storage Group files

Note:
The reason we add “-SkipMerging StorageProviderForSource” to the command is because there would be an error without it (Figure 25). The workaround is explained on the Release Notes for Exchange 2013.

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Figure 25: Error while trying to recover mailbox

If we now open the Maxwell Smart mailbox, all its contents until 3:15 PM are located beneath the Recovery folder (Figure 26).

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Figure 26: Maxwell Smart mailbox after restore

After you complete the restore, the Recovery Mailbox can be dismounted and deleted, using the following PowerShell cmdlet:

  • Remove-MailboxDatabase -Identity ‘RDB-CONTROL’

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Figure 27: Remove-MailboxDatabase

Best Practices

Before concluding this series of articles, I’d like to highlight some best practices for operating a DPM deployment.

  • When protecting DAGs, it is not necessary to select the active mailbox databases for protection by DPM. DPM is database role agnostic and can be configured to protect a server that hosts a collection of active or passive mailbox databases.
  • You should configure at least one Full Backup per day. The Full Backup backs up the mailbox database and log files and then truncates the log files. When protecting more than one copy of an Exchange mailbox database (such as when you are protecting multiple members of a database availability group) you should configure one node for full backups and the rest as copy backups. Copy backups do not truncate log files.
  • If Exchange is implemented with inexpensive SATA/JBOD disks, protect at least two copies of each mailbox database.
  • Regarding the synchronization frequency, setting the minimum period (15 minutes) would probably be overkill. Start by setting up your current backup policy, and then gradually increasing the number of recovery points. I think that 1 or 2 Express Full Backups per day, plus a synchronization frequency of 2 hours is a nice number. Of course, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all, you have to take into account the volume of your data, the impact on the performance of your servers (DPM has a reduced impact, but still it has some impact) and the volume required to store the replicas.

Conclusion

Data Protection Manager 2012 provides fully integrated data protection for Microsoft Exchange 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013. When using DPM 2012 you can have confidence that:

  • DPM can be used to reliably and quickly back up Exchange production servers at frequent intervals without a strong impact on performance.
  • DPM replicas and recovery points allow organizations to reliably restore Exchange data not only in its most recently backed up state, but in any state that was captured in recovery points.
  • Exchange mailbox data can be restored not just to the original Exchange server, but to other protected servers and arbitrary file locations.
  • DPM can leverage Windows Azure Recovery services, with all the benefits recognized to enterprise cloud storage.

By using combined disk-to-disk, disk-to-tape and disk-to-cloud technologies, DPM helps to ensure that an Exchange infrastructure is better protected and always available

Related Links

If you would like to read the other parts of this article series please go to:

The Author — Rui Silva

Rui Silva avatar

Rui Silva specializes in Unified Communications and Enterprise Cloud solutions, using Microsoft technologies, with a proven track record of 15+ years experience working with some of the biggest companies in Portugal and Western Europe. Rui can often be found in the cloud or on-premises contributing to the Technical Community through blogging, writing articles or with a presence in the social networks.

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