Disaster Recovery

Use Data Protection Manager to ease backups and quickly restore files

Microsoft's Data Protection Manager gives you more flexibility managing your backups and recovering files when needed. Derek Schauland tells you how it works.

Backup and recovery of data in many organizations consists of getting everything written to tape on a nightly basis and shipping these tapes to a far-off location for safe keeping. Microsoft's Data Protection Manager can help ease the administrative headache that comes with traditional tape backup.

As part of the System Center family of management tools, Microsoft rolled out Data Protection Manager 2007 (DPM) to ease the task of backing up and restoring data in the enterprise. The application lives on its own server and uses snapshots (discussed in more detail here) to back up your environment. DPM has agents for many Microsoft server products, including SharePoint, SQL Server, Virtual Server, Windows Server 2003, and both Windows XP and Vista.

Once the DPM Server is installed, the configuration of the agents is quite simple: The setup wizard scours the environment to seek out the applications it can work with. Then an administrator configures the deployment of the agent to the application servers and clients that need to be backed up. Backup management is contained in a central console, which is application aware. This removes the extra steps required to perform certain types of SQL Server backup, because the DPM server handles these steps for you. Data Protection Manager is a huge step in the right direction for platform wide backup and recovery.

Backup and recovery have been around for a long time, why change now?

Backing up data to tape and storing the information off site is great for the data and helps keep the media safe, but what happens when several employees need access to a file they saved yesterday that has disappeared since last night? If the rotation of tapes happens early in the morning, it may take quite a bit of work to get the tape back to the IT staff in the data center. Then the restore process and locating the needed files begins. If the next backup has already begun, there may be a good deal of waiting as well. Depending on the size of an organization and their policies regarding the pulling of files from tape, the above might be a very tedious scenario.

With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft introduced Volume Shadow Copies, which allowed a snapshot of a particular directory, share, or server to be taken at specific intervals. This technology allows items to be quickly recovered, even by the users if the policies and training allow.

DPM takes this a bit further by allowing the DPM server to create and manage the snapshots in a central location. Also, the snapshots taken by DPM can be of Windows, file shares, applications like Exchange or SQL Server, or client systems. Keeping these items on disk allows them to be quickly restored without needing to chase down tapes from other areas.

The snapshots stored on disk can also be archived out to tape. This ensures the safety of your data by moving it off site. With fast enough WAN links, one or more DPM servers could be at alternate sites, further improving backup and recovery.

Figure A shows the Microsoft DPM diagram, illustrating how the server integrates with other servers in your environment.

Figure A

The work flow process used by DPM (Click to enlarge.)

The integration between DPM and other Microsoft applications is a crucial feature that was not as easily available in other products. SQL Server, for example, needs to be told to back up log files and to handle additional items outside the actual database files. With DPM, the agent for SQL Server knows what needs to be done. It will pose a few simple questions to help you with options, but these are handled via the wizard for the application.

New features in Service Pack 1

DPM has been available for some time, and Service Pack 1 has been released to enhance the features of the application. Some of the enhancements include the following:

  • Support for Share Point
  • Support for Hyper-V
  • Support for SQL Server 2008
  • Enhanced support for Exchange 2007

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager provides new ways to look at disaster recovery for enterprises large and small. The introduction of application- and client-aware disk-based backup can significantly improve usage time while in some environments improving the user experience as well. The easy-to-use interface is also a plus for the busy administrator. For more information and a trial of DPM, visit Microsoft.com

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

26 comments
rajeshkumar.sd
rajeshkumar.sd

I had tried using this DPM. But the major drawback with this DPM is it needs a dedicated system to work, which is a major draw back when we think about Small business companies.

info
info

Is this the best method yet? Are there any better out there?

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

Would an application aware solution for data backup make disaster recovery an easier process for your organization?

dain
dain

Can DPM run in a System Center free environment?

aaronbenson
aaronbenson

I've been using DPM for about a year now and I must say that it takes a lot more baby sitting than I had originally hoped. We have had many instances where RPC errors or various other issues have caused jobs to fail. Also it is severly lacking in its documentation/user support and nearly every major problem incures charges from MS for resolution. Overall I would say the product is better than having to manage backups of individual servers but it's not the unified and bulletproof platform that I have come to expect from Microsoft.

rajeshkumar.sd
rajeshkumar.sd

It would not be a easier process for sure.But when we think about cost its going to be very high.Instead we can use the tape itself which is far more cheaper than using DPM.

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

After seeing this product run through by Microsoft I was quite impressed and the concept is great... that prompted this post in fact.. I appreciate the comments and will be doing more research on DPM in the future based on what you all have posted here... thank you

tedj
tedj

I've used DPM for 6 months or so. Setting up was easy and restoring a SQL db to another server for a test environment is just a few clicks and waiting for the restore. One question if anyone knows, what's the proper way to maintain a SQL log file when using dpm. Used to backup and truncate regularly, but if I do this it will cause DPM to be out of synch.

BlackKris
BlackKris

We've been using DPM for approximately 9 months and after getting the inital bugs worked out, it has been pretty painless. Backups are run 4 times daily to a SAN and then twice a week to tape. Recovery is almost more or less point and click and the file is restored in seconds. Compared to Backup Exec, this product is light years ahead. Life is good.

Justin James
Justin James

There is no such thing as a general "System Center" product, so it is not a prerequisite. "System Center" is just a name Microsoft adds on to products to indicate that they are used for management. J.Ja

Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott

I read the comment, "the unified and bulletproof platform that I have come to expect from Microsoft." and I was fairly taken aback. I would "Like" to expect better, but I don't think I have ever received better from Microsoft. I would say Bulletproof and Microsoft is quite the oxymoron. I'm definitely glad I am reading these posts though. It's helpful to get both the good and not so good instead of stumbling forward with the expectation that something from Microsoft will be bulletproof only to find out later that it isn't.

Justin James
Justin James

I came very close to pulling the trigger on a DPM project, but I had too many issues with it. Complexity was a lot of it. It is a fairly complex application, which means I can look forwards to RPC errors like you mentioned, weird hiccups, etc. And, as you pointed out, the documentation is poor. The nail in the coffin for me was that it wouldn't run in a VM. Sorry, but I am not buying a whole physical machine to do my backups, nor am I putting it on my Hyper-V host or my one physical domain controller. I suppose that it is a realistic requirement in a big shop, but I'm not a big shop, I'm a small shop with all of the requirements of a big one. I support Exchange, OCS, SharePoint, TFS, System Center VMM, and more... in a company with under 20 employees. J.Ja

MakeItSo
MakeItSo

Maybe you could research why it doesn't have the simple tape references of other products. Would be nice if it displayed "hey it's week 3 - put the week 3 tape in the drive" or "backup to tape 'x' failed - put tape 'x' back in the drive and try again". And if it knows the replica is out of sync, why doesn't it run the sync job itself? Only been using it since December so maybe these are some of the kinks I've got to work out.

matthew
matthew

We use a NAS box for backup storage, but I cannot find any way to use DPM to backup to this location. What storage options do you have for backups?

aaronbenson
aaronbenson

Well, I'd call Exchange and AD pretty bulletproof or as close to it as can be expected from software. But seriously before anyone buys into DPM read up on the DPM boards over on MS's own site to see the kind of problems people are having. In the year we've had DPM implemented I'd say we've seen more than our fair share of these issues: http://www.microsoft.com/communities/newsgroups/en-us/default.aspx?pg=1&cat=&lang=&cr=&guid=&sloc=en-us&dg=microsoft.public.dataprotectionmanager&fltr=

Justin James
Justin James

Well, I'm actually doing it BOTH ways. :) Nightly, each VM individually runs Windows Backup, as if it were a physical machine, so I can restore individual items to them if needed. I recently (has not run yet, so I can't verify that it works) set up Windows Backup to backup the Hyper-V VM itself, so I have a "1 file restoration" of the entire VM. These are being done once per month, as a "panic button" backup (like, "gee, this thing is so mangled, let's roll it back 2 weeks, that's better than nothing"). To do the latter, though, used to take quite a good deal of work, since Windows Backup was not "aware" of Hyper-V out of the box. Microsoft has since released a hotfix (after applying the hotfix, you need to tweak the registry) to make WB Hyper-V aware. The details on that can be found at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/958662 Hope this helps! J.Ja

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

How did you get an entire VM to back up using just windows backup? (or are you talking about data on the VM?)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

cron and ssh is our current method for the few Unix like servers currently. I'd like to be able to put a true backup server in a few places to manage workstations though. Backula has the clients across platforms and could be scaled up to enterprise if any of the small offices suddenly became very successful.

Justin James
Justin James

I've never used Backula, so I can't compare. Sorry! I can compare it to using cron jobs and dump, though. :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

We have a monster-sized box (14 1TB drives in it). It doubles as our file server and our VM host (I would have liked to keep the two separate, but budget and all of that, it made sense to combine them). Those drives are in a number of different RAIDs; 3 of the RAIDs are for nearline backups: an area for nightly backups (large neough to keep 4 days' worth on hand), an area for backups of System Imagage (we irregularly make system images of desktops), and an area for backups of the VM files directly (weekly for our active VM for testing, monthly for our archived VMs for testing, and irregularly for the VMs of our servers). From there, on a nightly basis, all of the VMs simply run Windows backup, and do a FULL dump to the first backup area mentioned. Each night, the system rotates that area, again, retaining 4 days. In addition, the file server backups up to there as well nightly, as well as our physical domain controller. Because the backup in Windows 2008 is still not properly Exchange 2008 aware, my Exchange box has to shut down the Information Storage service before backing up, and start it after the backup is done. My experience has been that SQL DB's are where you do the most restores to, especially when working on a new deployment pre-production. So, I put some extra special attention there. The SQL Server makes a direct, deliberate backup (as opposed to what you get when the hole server backs up) to an area on it's own disk nightly, retained for 14 days. In addition, after the nightly backup is performed (which in turn, backs up those 14 SQL server backups), I make a copy of the most recent backup file to the backup area. This way, I have a LOT of extra redundancy, and more depth to our nearline backups for SQL Server. One a week, we plug in an external drive and copy the most recent backup, plus the system image and the VM backups offsite. We maintain 4 sets of those disks and rotate them weekly. Once a month, we retire the oldest disk and put it away for safe, long-term keeping. All of my backups are triggered by Windows scheduled tasks. On the more simple backups, the schedule task calls Windows Backup. On the more ocmplex ones (such as the SQL Server), the scheduled task calls a batch file. Creating new, standard backups is easy; I have exported one of them to an XML file (you can do this in 2008), and when I build a new VM, I just import the job definition, change the time, and it's ready to roll. I maintain a spreadsheet with the information of the times of the backups. Because everything is in separate RAIDs, and my RAID types were selected for the tasks on hand (I use RAID 10 for my main storage area, RAID 0 for my backup destinations, etc.), it goes EXTREMELY fast. A base 2008 install can do a full backup of itself in about 5 - 10 minutes, and my typical application server takes 15 minutes to do a full backup of itself. J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been considering Backula for home use and for testing as a potential solution for a few small offices. Have you any comparison between the two?

BuckRogers
BuckRogers

Have VMware ESXi running SBS 2003 using Exchange, and a Windows 2003 server as VMs running well but working on a good backup solution. Looking at setting up a Windows 2003 physical server with a TB of storage and connecting our tape drive to it. Then using snapshotting using storagecraft ShadowProtect server edition to snapshot to the storage then backing up the snapshots to tape for offsite backups. Thoughts?

aaronbenson
aaronbenson

"And if it knows the replica is out of sync, why doesn't it run the sync job itself?" There are a lot of "recovery" items that are totally missing from DPM... I really wish these options existed.

Diggory
Diggory

AFAIK MS DPM only supports local disks or SAN. It doesn't support NAS etc. We are running MS DPM here with an openfiler SAN (Intel SSR212MC2) to store our backups.

BlackKris
BlackKris

We're running this on a Dell 2900 with a Dell MD1000 fitted with 15 300GB SAS drives. You cannot make the SAN available to the server OS! When installing DPM and setting up the proteection groups, it saw the MD1000 and walked us through setting up the various "image snapshots" for both the system state and recovery points. All told it took about 4 hours to setup and install DPM and the client piece on 10 servers. That included 3 different protection groups and about another 2 hours for the tape backup install. (A Dell PowerVault 114T)

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