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