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SharePoint data recovery solutions

Microsoft has tried to make restoring components in SharePoint Server 2007 simple, but things do go wrong. Here are solutions to some common data restoration issues.

Restoring Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 components from a data backup is usually a fairly simple process, but things can -- and sometimes will -- go wrong.

A typical restoration consists of these five steps:

  1. Log onto the SharePoint server with administrative credentials, open the Central Administration Console and click the Restore from Backup link.
  2. Go to the console's Operations tab, and enter the path to the backup that you want to restore.
  3. Click OK, and you will see a list of all of the backups that exist in the path that you have specified. Choose the backup set that you want to restore, and click the Continue Restore Process link.
  4. Select the components that you want to restore, and click the Continue Restore Process link.
  5. Finally, specify the particulars of your restore operation. Start out by specifying the component you want to restore. The console will try to restore an entire farm by default, but you can select specific components. You will also have to enter a set of authentication credentials. Click the Start Restore Process button to launch the restore operation.

The steps shown above are pretty simple, so it seems strange to think that there are some hidden pitfalls that can cause the restore operation to go horribly wrong. The two most common problems seem to be the unavailability of the data that needs to be restored, and a loss of security permissions when the restore completes.

Component is unavailable

One of the more serious problems with restoring a SharePoint backup is that sometimes when you want to select data to be restored, you may discover that the component that you need to restore is grayed out on the console's Select Component to Restore screen. When this happens, you can usually trace the problem to one of two things. Typically, either the backup that you've selected doesn't contain the component that you want to restore, or an error occurred during the backup.

Check the backup logs to see what you need to do next. If you were restoring a differential backup, it could be that the component that you're trying to restore wasn't included in that particular backup, but does exist in an earlier backup.

Restoring to a new server

When you're configuring the restore operation, you're offered the option to choose between performing a new restore or an overwrite restore. An overwrite restore restores the backup to the original server; a new restore allows you to restore the backup to a new server, database or farm. Performing a new restore is where the most restoration-related catastrophes seem to occur.

The biggest problem with performing a new restore is the invalidation of security rules. This happens because of the way that SharePoint stores its security model within a database. The security model is matched to a particular authentication engine (usually the Active Directory, but not always). If you restore a backup to a new server, and the server doesn't have immediate access to the authentication engine that was used previously, then the security rules are invalidated.

To avoid this problem, make sure that the new server has access to the authentication engine through the same method as the old server. For example, if you're using Active Directory for authentication, then you would simply join the new server to the same domain that the old server was a member of, prior to initiating the restore.

Microsoft has tried to make restoring components in SharePoint Server 2007 simple, but things do occasionally go wrong. These are two of the more common restoration problems, but they're not the only problems that can occur. The best way of avoiding these and other potentially catastrophic restoration problems is to periodically test your backups.

Brien M. Posey is a freelance technical writer who has published thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books. He was previously a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and served as a network administrator for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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