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Domino backups getting easier but still challenging

Backing up Lotus Domino is a lot easier with the versions R5 and R6. However, there are still a number of challenges to making effective backups of Domino servers, listed here.

The good news about backing up Lotus Domino is that it has gotten a lot easier with the versions R5 and R6. The bad news is that there are still a number of challenges to making effective backups of Domino servers.

Lotus Domino has a number of special considerations when it comes to doing backups. Many of these arise from the rather peculiar nature of Domino itself. A Domino server has hundreds, or even thousands of fairly small databases, which makes it more like a file server in some important respects. This is further complicated because Domino makes use of linked databases, and because it supports cross-server database replication and multiple server clustering. It doesn't help that the databases aren't restricted to a specific server or path.

Furthermore, not all the critical data that needs to be backed up is in the databases. In addition to the mail and application databases, there are several other classes of files that must be backed up to be certain of a successful restore. These are the ID files in the Domino/Data directory, the Names.NSF in Domino/Data directory, the Notes.INI file, Sharedmail.NSF (if you use the shared mail feature), all .NTF template files and the keyfile (.KYR). Whatever backup method you choose has to back up these files as well as the databases.

With R5, Domino got transaction logging, which made it easier to do backups without shutting the system down, as well as enhancing reliability and speeding restores. Transaction logging comes in two flavors. The default is circular logging, which supports up to a 4 GB transaction log file. Circular logging doesn't need any addition supporting software, but the log file is overwritten when it fills up. Among other things, this means that incremental and differential backups aren't supported. Even though circular logging is the default method, Lotus recommends using archive logging instead.

Archive logging writes to a log whose size is limited only by the size of the volume. This method requires third-party software support to manage the transaction logs. Otherwise the logs could hit the volume size limit and crash the Domino server.

A number of companies offer backup software which will handle Domino backups. IBM, Lotus' parent, for example, has several products available, including BDRM (http://www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/iseries/service/brms/domino.htm) Veritas Backup Exec for Windows Servers also has extensive Domino support, as do products from a number of other vendors.

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Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.


This was last published in May 2004

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