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Well, there are a lot of different ways of thinking of application awareness. Application awareness has actually been around for a long time. Historically, application awareness meant the ability to back up and restore Exchange Server, for example, while maintaining database integrity.
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In other words, if you don't have application awareness in place, the Exchange Server database will be in what's known as a dirty state following the backup. There is a process that has to be manually run on the Exchange Server to bring that database back to a clean state so it can be mounted, but application awareness allows that database to be backed up in a way that avoids that manual effort and allows IT staffers to focus on other tasks.
Today, many people refer to application awareness as the ability to recover data on a granular basis within that application. For example, in the case of Exchange, that might be recovering individual mailboxes or messages within a mailbox. In the case of SharePoint, it might be recovering data from a SharePoint library or recovering an individual SharePoint site or site collection.
Also, some backup products are extending granular recovery functionality to end users, allowing them to restore files themselves. This can be controlled by IT using policies that give certain permissions to end users. Users might just be able to restore files that they created, or a manager might have the ability to perform restoration of files created by their direct reports. This increases productivity for end users and IT because file restores do not require intervention from the help desk.
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