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Granular Application and System Recovery for Virtual and Physical Environments

Marty Ward

Businesses increasingly rely on application data such as Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint or data residing within virtual servers. This increased reliance has created a new demand for faster and more granular recovery of data from those systems which cannot be solved using traditional backup approaches, including snapshot capabilities provided by virtual server vendors. Granular recovery provides an innovative solution that allows IT administrators to recover both data and systems more quickly without additional complexity, cost, or time.

What Is Granular Recovery?
Granular recovery is an advanced technology that allows IT organizations to perform both file and image-level recovery from a single pass backup operation. Many backup solutions require multiple backups to recover both individual files (or folders) and an entire system (either physical or virtual). Granular recovery provides the ability to recover specific files in seconds from a single backup. This dramatically reduces the recovery time and the footprint of the backup on storage resources.

Granular recovery can also be used in a similar fashion for virtual servers by providing IT administrators with system recovery and granular file recovery options in one backup operation. With granular recovery, rather than having to restore an entire virtual machine or do a secondary redundant backup in order to recover a single file, administrators can retrieve a file directly out of a single backup and restore it back to a guest virtual machine.

What Applications Does This Technology Support?
Granular recovery can be used with Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and Active Directory as well as Microsoft Server 2008 Hyper-V and VMware ESX. The degree of granular support is an important consideration not only for virtual environments but also physical applications. For example, in Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint environments where users or IT staff frequently need to recover individual emails or folders, not an entire mailbox, granular recovery lets them recover this data in seconds.

How Has Backup and Recovery Been Done Traditionally?
Traditionally, backup and recovery procedures have been arduous, requiring multiple agents and multiple backups. For example, here is the "old school" process for recovering individual emails on an Exchange server:

  • First, a full database backup must be done to enable a full recovery of the Exchange server
  • Next, a "brick-level+ backup must also be run. This process can take up to four times longer than the initial Exchange backup
  • Finally, incremental backups of both the database and the mailbox must be done each night

The problem with this scenario? Multiple backups lead to massive storage and time consumption, which can be a nightmare to manage. Similarly, in a VMware environment, administrators would need to generate separate backups for system-level and individual file-level recovery of a single file from a virtual machine disk format (.vmdk) or (vhd) file.

Does Granular Recovery Address Disaster Recovery Issues?
Granular recovery eases disaster recovery. Backups made using this technology are transportable, which allows them to enhance recovery at both data center and disaster recovery sites. IT can store the images on local disk, removable media, or online in cloud storage.

Can Granular Recovery Be Used for E-Discovery?
Granular recovery is typically used to recover data from up to two weeks ago, while archiving solutions are designed specifically for storing, managing, and discovering data over much longer periods of time. Consequently, while granular recovery can provide better assurances that data and systems can be recovered much more quickly to help better address litigation related issues involving recent activities, archiving remains the cornerstone of an efficient, defensible, long-term discovery process.

About the Author
Marty Ward serves as senior director of product marketing for the Data Protection Group at Symantec Corp. where he is responsible for the go-to-market strategy, planning and marketing efforts for Veritas NetBackup and Symantec Backup Exec product lines. These market-leading data protection products ensure successful backup and recovery of information and systems for organizations ranging from small business to large enterprise. Marty has more than 20 years of software industry experience in marketing, product management, engineering, sales and customer support.

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