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Robobak adds remote Exchange feature for faster backups

Data Protection Suite's new integration with a Microsoft API means faster incremental backups of email databases for remote offices and service provider customers.

Robobak added a feature to speed remote backups of Microsoft Exchange and updated the restore and network monitoring capabilities of its Data Protection Suite for remote and branch offices this week.

Robobak's Data Protection Suite 9 takes a different approach to backups for Exchange than most of its competitors. Robobak's Thin Backup Option for Exchange uses a feature of Microsoft's Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) API that presents a list of changed blocks within the Exchange Data Store. Previously, Robobak used its own Executive Client management server to do crawl the entire database searching for changes, using up CPU cycles on the server it was backing up.

Microsoft's ESE API has been available since the release of Exchange 2007. However, Symantec and other backup vendors have chosen instead to focus on Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) for incremental backups. VSS has recently been standardized so that it supports all major Windows applications.

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Taneja Group analyst Eric Burgener said ESE is more appealing to applications focusing specifically on Exchange and remote offices, while VSS offers standardized support across several applications that might be backed up in a large data center.

"In a centralized environment with higher bandwidth, VSS doesn't need development to support each application," Burgener said. "The advantage of Robobak's approach is most important for ROBO [remote office/branch office] environments with limited bandwidth and resources between sites, since it delivers only changes." Using VSS snapshots among remote offices would require pulling full snapshots over the wire, Burgener said.

The update will not change the amount of blocks sent over a WAN for Robobak customers because Robobak already used global data deduplication. But it could effectively allow users at remote offices or customers of service providers running Robobak to back up larger Exchange data stores than they could with the previous version of the software. "Changes to the database are presented in minutes instead of hours," said Robobak CEO Ron Roberts. "It allows larger databases to be backed up in the same window."

Service provider DataInsure's chief technology officer R.J. Riemensnider said the new feature will save a substantial amount of time spent backing up and can broaden the potential scale of its operation. "You're looking at about 10% of the time to back up Exchange databases compared with the previous version," Riemensnider said.

Similar performance efficiencies have also been introduced in the restore process from the central backup repository, Robobak claimed. Previously, the repository was indexed through SQL only when a restore request was initiated. Now, that indexing is done at and after ingest into the system so restores of particular files are closer to instantaneous.

Robobak is offering network connection monitoring within its software for the first time within this release. The connection monitoring console will allow users to monitor up to thousands of endpoints connected to the WAN in real time.

For its next release, Riemensnider said he'd like to see Robobak offer an end-user GUI for direct file-level restores. "Today they support [direct restores], but it's convoluted -- you have to restore the mailbox to a .pst and then move it back to Outlook," he said. "It would be nice if it could be restored directly to the mailbox."

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