Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Adventures in backups and restores - StorageCraft Shadow Protect

After taking a new client over recently I have been working with StorageCraft's Shadow Protect backup solution for servers: http://www.storagecraft.com.au/  Initially I was just checking that the damn thing was backing stuff up to somewhere and trying to work through a multitude of other issues. Since these problems have settled down I've had more leisure to examine this product. 

The server solution has a wide range of backup capabilities - full backups, incremental backups and continuous incremental backups. The incremental backups can be performed every 15 minutes and up from there. These are keyed back to an initial full backup of the server and are a sector by sector backup. This means we can mount the backup image as the next free drive on the server. One can simply copy across the lost files and then dismount the backup. It's elegant, simple and works well. There is a very nice extension to this as well - the Granular Recovery for Exchange. When needing to recover a email, a folder or an entire mailbox, the ShadowProtect GRE makes it very easy. Simply mount the backup image of the drive with the Exchange database on it, tell GRE where it is, where the existing Exchange database is and then copy across the items you need to recover. It's awesome because of it's ease and speed, search functions and also as a means of migrating to a newer version of Exchange. The few times I've used this it absolutely blew me away with it's ease of use, speed and simplification of data recovery. 

ShadowProtect uses ShadowControl ImageManager software to help manage all the images and snapshots. It's another neat bit of kit and it's functionality is excellent.

The most impressive part of this backup solution is the ability it has to virtual boot a server from an image. You can boot it as an Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine, or as a HyperV VM. A failed physical server can be up and running in minutes as a virtual server. It will still be running backups as per the physical server and once the hardware is restored, the up to date virtual server can be restored back to the physical hardware and once again full services can be restored.

As with any software though it needs to be carefully set up and configured, with usual ongoing maintenance applied. The install I'm working on currently is a bit of a mess and there are a lot of images that need to be sorted out. As a backup solution it also ties in with the virtual environment, although this is something I'm still exploring - check StorageCraft's ShadowProtect out, it's well worth a look.

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