How to back up Microsoft Exchange Part Three

Can you live without email? Thought not! That's why part three of our Exchange protection guide considers continuous availability.

PREVIOUSLY: VSS and backing up from older Exchanges

Asynchronous replication software is one way to ensure Microsoft Exchange remains continuously available in the event the primary Exchange server goes offline. New features in asynchronous replication software products provide direct integration with Exchange to allow Exchange server failovers to occur in seconds or minutes with minimal or no disruption to enterprise users and even without administrator intervention.o:p>

EMC's RepliStor software gives admins a couple of different ways to deliver continuous availability. One is to configure two servers in the same domain at the same site with the same software and logical configuration, but to use unique hostnames on the production and standby servers. RepliStor is then installed on both servers and replicates and synchronizes the data between the production and standby servers. When a failure occurs on the primary server (an interruption of more than 120 seconds of the heartbeat between the two servers), RepliStor initiates the failover and starts Exchange services on the target server.

For offsite recoveries where servers may be in different domains, admins may configure RepliStor to work with Microsoft's VSS framework. RepliStor still replicates the primary Exchange database to the remote site, but it only initiates and retains snapshots on the standby server using Microsoft's VSS provider that Replistor calls through its built-in scheduler and snapshot policy manager. Exchange failovers are performed manually with admins selecting the most recent good point-in-time snapshot and then applying database and transaction logs to roll forward to the most current point-in-time.

CA's XOsoft WANSyncHA goes one step further and lets admins choose whether they want failovers at another site to occur automatically or if they want to be notified so the failover sequence can be initiated manually. Though automatic failover is a nice-to-have, there are many reasons servers at two different sites may lose communication, but these issues don't mean the production Exchange server is down and that the remote site should take over.

XOsoft WANSyncHA uses continuous data protection (CDP) to replicate data, remains aware of the state of the Exchange database during replication and supports cross-network failover. The use of CDP permits automated recovery up to the point of failure of the primary Exchange server.

Because XOsoft WANSyncHA remains aware of the state of the Exchange database, it constantly introduces checkpoints into its replication process that allow the remote copy to maintain consistency with the Exchange database so it can do a near-real time recovery without using a snapshot and replaying transaction logs. Should a recovery need to occur at the remote site, XOsoft WANSyncHA promotes the standby Exchange server to primary Exchange server and manipulates the DNS lookup table to route client requests to the secondary Exchange site.

The one downside with software-based asynchronous replication is that it requires the installation of an agent on the Exchange server, which some organizations may want to avoid. In that case, a hardware appliance that provides asynchronous replication, such as Teneros Inc.'s Application Continuity Appliance (ACA) for Microsoft Exchange, may be a better fit.

Teneros ACA for Microsoft Exchange is installed into the same network where the Exchange server resides. After it receives the Exchange IP address and appropriate security permissions, it creates an exact replica of the Exchange mail store and then goes into standby mode, monitoring the status of Exchange while continuously replicating the Exchange database. If an Exchange failure occurs, Teneros ACA takes over for the Exchange server in a few seconds and provides users with uninterrupted access to their email services.

NEXT: Archiving Exchange

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