Disaster Recovery

Data Protection Manager 2010 migration successes and challenges

Westminster College has made significant progress in migrating its backup operations from Backup Exec to Data Protection Manager 2010. Scott Lowe discusses some of the successes and the challenges of the project.

In a September 2010 TechRepublic article, I discussed Westminster College's migration from Backup Exec to Microsoft's Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 and outlined our reasons for making the switch. We were facing four challenges:

  • Backup Exec licensing. We had been using Backup Exec for quite some time and needed to deploy additional servers and services and be able to protect some new workloads, including Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 data. We were out of licenses to protect these workloads and would have needed to upgrade the existing software as well.
  • Challenged backup window. Our backup window was starting to get a bit tight.
  • Lack of continuous protection. We were using a very traditional backup operation that relied on full backups on weekends and differential backups once per day throughout the week. This left significant opportunity for data loss in between backups.
  • Recovery time. When recovery operations needed to be performed, they could be monotonous, time-consuming tasks because we were still fully reliant on tape as our primary backup storage vehicle.

Since September 2010, we made significant progress in migrating our backup operations from Backup Exec to DPM 2010, although we still have a few workloads that reside on Backup Exec. Here's an update on our migration progress, in which I share some successes we've had, challenges we've identified and new opportunities that have arisen to improve our backup and recovery capability.

Successes

All of our critical workloads are being well protected under DPM 2010, including all of our enterprise, mission-critical database applications, Exchange 2007 and 2010, SharePoint 2010, and our file services.

I'm incredibly impressed by DPM, but I would probably feel the same way about just about any disk-based backup and recovery tool due simply to the sheer speed of recovery. Several weeks ago, we had a need to restore a backup from the previous evening of our ERP database, but we needed to restore it with a different name so that it could be modified by our ERP vendor for an implementation project that we have underway. Previously, this kind of activity would have taken an hour or two; however, we decided to give it a go with DPM.  Between the time it took to stage the recovery and actually restore that database to a new name and location, we had invested a grand total of less than 10 minutes -- for a 28 GB database.

My staff and I also learned that, although DPM doesn't come right out and say that you can rename a database during a restore, you can easily do so by telling DPM to restore the database to an alternate SQL instance and then simply choose the original instance, provide the new database name, and tell DPM to what location in the file system the databases should be restored.

Our ERP vendor was pretty surprised when we emailed them less than 15 minutes after receiving their initial request for this "play" database letting them know that their request had been completed. In the long term, this kind of turnaround time is good for us, too. Recovery time is surprisingly fast with DPM. Of course, we're recovering from disk over a 1 Gb Ethernet network in this example, so it should be faster than our previous tape-based recovery operations.

We're protecting mission-critical workloads much more often that we've ever been able to in the past. For example, we have our database applications updating the DPM replica every 15 minutes to hour, depending on workload.

Challenges

The primary challenge that we still face is protection of our SharePoint 2007-based workloads; this is the last item still being protected by Backup Exec. The only limiting factor has been troubleshooting time, which we will get over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we've redirected Backup Exec-based protection to a disk-based virtual tape library.  From there, we protect the Backup Exec data with DPM so that we're continuing to provide maximum protection to all data.

Another challenge is that we, unfortunately, have some Windows 2000-based services still in production that we had to find ways to protect.  We've been able to work around DPM's inability to directly protect Windows 2000 machines by scheduling local backups and then simply handling those backups as file objects on other servers. We're working hard to get away from these Windows 2000 services.

More about our future plans

We house our backup systems outside our data center in another campus location that is, for all intents and purposes, underground. The location is not ideal from an accessibility standpoint, so we've been exploring other options. We could host backups completely off campus -- and we will be doing so at some point -- but as our primary backup mechanism, I don't believe in hosting the service anywhere near the data center.

As the college has been working on new construction, we've worked with our developer to create what I believe is a perfect solution for the backup hosting challenge. In one of our new buildings (it's about as far away from the data center as you can get and still stay on the campus network) the developers will be constructing in the basement a concrete bunker with 12-inch thick concrete walls and a concrete ceiling.  They will also be installing a 3 hour rated fire door and standalone cooling for us.  This room will be situated in the building so that it is as far underground as possible. In fact, on the other side of the outside wall will be nothing but earth.

Summary

The more I use DPM, the more satisfied I am with the product and the decision to move to it.  It has proven to be very fast, easy to manage, and robust. Overall, it has been a great addition to our backup and recovery arsenal.

Keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

20 comments
Richard Noel
Richard Noel

Can it backup CIFS shares? Currently I'm using a trial of the Backup Exec's NDMP agent.

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

Thanks for the insight, Scott. I looked at DPM briefly a few years ago, but time contraints kept us with Backup Exec. Not that I think it is a bad thing, as I've found BE to get better with each version since 11d (only two real versions since then, but each has been better since the last). I haven't done much research in to DPM 2010, but my understanding is that DPM does support copying to tape, which is still my main avenue for getting my data offsite. I'd definitely consider DPM with offsite replication, but I was curious as to how much data you actually backup via DPM, and how well it all compresses, and does it utilize anything like de-duplication. I have a good 5.5TB of live data. Most servers get a full backup once a week with a differential nightly, but Exchange and SQL get full backups daily. Speaking of Exchange, are you utilizing "Continuous Protection" from DPM on your Exchange servers? If so, how's the perfomance on the Exchange servers; any slow-down or other negative repercussions due to CP?

NewBeeAdmin
NewBeeAdmin

I have been playing with this for few weeks now but other then few links here and there is no real white paper or any kind of guide on how it works. Any one know where i can find more info for this also will this work if i have both BE and DPM on the same server while we slowly do the migration.

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

?? How about a DPM type system that does local & remote backups at the same time with compression and deltas changes only? You you can restore via the local or the remote data as needed. The remote data can also be archived to cheaper storage off site via the same console and remounted when needed. It also has agents for popular systems where 90% don't require an installation on the target. I use a product called Asigra.

magic823
magic823

I moved our backups to DPM over a year ago from Backup Exec and have never looked back. DPM has worked wonderful and is seemless, unlike BE would have always failing and didn't support MS SQL or Exchange well. Any issues I had were fixed in the 2010 update which gave us dynamic resizing. Love it!

santeewelding
santeewelding

You guys know something -- something you see coming down the road that we don't see, don't you? Twelve inches thick?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Definitely something I will keep in mind. My only question: Is this type of backup considered archival? I was under the impression that it isn't. Also what about off-site storage?

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

The biggest challenge I had in moving to DPM was losing the "full", "incremental", etc mindset that I've always had with backup. The whole idea of continuous protection is pretty awesome. Because it's so incremental, we haven't seen a noticeable impact on our Exchange servers and we're backing up about 1500 Exchange 2007 mailboxes and about 25 Exchange 2010 mailboxes (with all of them soon to be Exchange 2010 mailboxes). We're moving slowly on the Exchange 2010 side since it's ALL virtual, so we're moving mailboxes, watching impact, moving more mailboxes, etc. We do what DPM considers a full backup once per day on Exchange and we do synchronizations every 4 hours. It's working very well for us. DPM does support copying to tape. Our DPM storage pool is about 80% full right now, although I've not really tuned our protection groups quite as much as I'd like yet. We're storing 30 days of data on tape, doing backups of more than 2TB of file server data, more than 1500 Exchange mailboxes, a dozen or so SQL databases of pretty significant size and quite a lot more. The amount of space you use in DPM will be very dependent on what you're backing up, how often you sync changes, and how long you retain it. DPM does need a lot of disk space, but the end result for us so far has been totally worth it. With more tuning, our 20 TB storage pool will be fine. I hope this helps a bit. Scott Scott

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I have it on good authority that Train Signal will soon be releasing a course on using DPM in production... it would have been done sooner, but the idiot instructor they hired seriously underestimated it at the beginning. USING it it one thing... TEACHING it is another. And now, ummm.... back to recording it ;) Scott

guip
guip

We are also planing the move from BE to DPM. How did you handle problem with the old BE tapes? Can you read and restore from BE tapes in DPM?

toadforce
toadforce

I'm confused that the article said there was a problem with Sharepoint, but perhaps I misunderstood. I would expect DPM to have no problems with Sharepoint. Otherwise it presented a good case for moving to DPM if you running Microsoft systems.

magic823
magic823

We have three sites. I just have a DPM server in each site and replicate the backups to each other. Gives me three copies automatically. DPM also supports long term backup to tape if you want.

Harry Falkenmire
Harry Falkenmire

You can back up an on premise DPM server with another offsite DPM server (really really easily and a supported scenario) or go D2D2C (Disk to Disk to Cloud) - IronMountain can cloudify an existing DPM instance. Or do both. Worth noting that DPM is an amazingly simple, cheap backup solution only for MSFT workloads (which Scott is all about, coming from a .edu). If your heterogeneous & using vSphere, Veeam Backup and Restore gives the same benefits across multiple platforms.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

The BE server is being decommissioned, but we'll keep it on hand for now. We're also using the same tape drive so, in the very unlikely event that we need to recover from BE, we'll be able to do so, although it will be a pain.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

DPM does a great job supporting SharePoint. BUT, we ran into an error condition that I simply have not had time to troubleshoot, so this is the last item still under BE. As soon as I've figured out why we've recieved the error, SharePoint 2007 will move under DPM. This is purely a time and effort issue, not a product issue. By the way, this pertains only to our SharePoint 2007 environment. Our SharePoint 2010 environment is great under DPM right now. Scott

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I've been toying with ditching tape and moving to more replicated backups like you describe, but I will admit that the prospect scares me a bit. I understand all of the pros and cons of tape, but it's sort of like a "baby blanket" :)

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I would never consider disk with only one replica... I'd need, at a minimum two. There's just something comforting about tape!! Scott

Emanuel Fernandes
Emanuel Fernandes

i've a client that had, in two days, two disks that failed in a RAID5 array...it got worse because that single array was the DPM disk array and so all the disk backups were gone. fortunally at every night there was tape backups, so it still has data backup. i think that tape + disk based solution is still the best, because disk can be used in shot term backup (much faster to backup and restore than tape, thus having more value if used for everyday backup) and tape can be used in long term backup (for archival purposes and as a second backup of the same data).

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Michael, Honestly, I'm not sure. I wish I had more of an answer than that! Scott

Editor's Picks