Obviously, to properly back up SharePoint, you need to back up all databases and some files in the file system, and you need to guarantee that these various backups are synchronized. A good recovery system would also allow you to restore the entire system, all configuration and customization data, as well as all content. In addition, it should be able to restore any of the above to various points in time, including the ability to recover individual pieces of content, such as a document.
The only way it seems that you're going to do all of that reliably is to invest in a commercial backup product -- and it's likely that the backup application you're using now can handle the chore. Every major backup package has an agent for SharePoint.
Check out the companies listed below for the latest information on these products' SharePoint backup capabilities.
Backup tools with SharePoint agents
- CA ARCserve
- CommVault Systems Inc. Simpana
- EMC Corp. NetWorker
- Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. HP Data Protector
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
- Microsoft Corp. Data Protection Manager (DPM)
- Symantec Corp. Backup Exec
- Symantec NetBackup
Point solutions for SharePoint backup
- AvePoint Inc. DocAve Backup and Recovery
- Idera SharePoint Backup
- Quest Software Inc. Recovery Manager for SharePoint
The capabilities of each agent vary from one backup application to another, but they all have the same basic functionality. They're add-on agents to your backup software, much like a SQL Server or Exchange agent, that know how to talk to the SharePoint backup API. A well-written agent should only need to be told the name of the main SharePoint server, and it should be able to figure out everything from there. It should figure out the name(s) of any SharePoint farms associated with that server and back them up along with their configuration, administration and content databases, as well as back up any configuration data stored in the file system. All of this data is backed up directly to your backup system's preferred storage, be it disk, virtual tape library (VTL) or tape. Your backup application may actually be doing multiple types of backups under the covers (Microsoft SQL server, file system, etc.), but it should appear as one backup that works (or doesn't work) as a whole.
In addition to backup agents available for your favorite backup software package, there are products, such as AvePoint Inc.'s DocAve Backup and Recovery, Idera's SharePoint Backup and Quest Software Inc.'s Recovery Manager for SharePoint, that are "point solutions" designed just for SharePoint. These products are analogous to backup apps like PHD Virtual Technologies' esXpress, Veeam Software's Backup & Replication and Vizioncore Inc.'s vRanger Pro that are point backup solutions just for VMware. These are designed for firms that have a SharePoint installation, but are using a backup product that doesn't have a SharePoint agent; companies that don't like the capabilities of the agent; or organizations that can't afford the agent.
These products tend to do everything you need a SharePoint backup tool to do (they may even have more functionality than the agent offered by your backup app due to their specialized nature), but they don't integrate with your backup application. This typically means that their backups will be stored on disk; so if you want those backups to be put on your deduplication system or tape, you'll need to back them up with your other backup product.
A lot of commercial solutions use Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to solve the synchronization problem. That is, they use the SharePoint VSS writer to quiesce SharePoint and the Windows VSS Writer to quiesce the system before backing up everything. That way everything that's backed up is synchronized to the same point.
About this author: W. Curtis Preston (a.k.a. "Mr. Backup"), executive editor and independent backup expert, has been singularly focused on data backup and recovery for more than 15 years. From starting as a backup admin at a $35 billion dollar credit card company to being one of the most sought-after consultants, writers and speakers in this space, it's hard to find someone more focused on recovering lost data. He is the webmaster of BackupCentral.com, the author of hundreds of articles, and the books "Backup and Recovery" and "Using SANs and NAS."
This article was previously published in Storage magazine.