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What is Disaster Recovery in Relation To SharePoint?

* This article was written in the context of System Center Data Protection Manager 2006 (SCDPM), a technology now considered deprecated with the introduction of System Center Data Protection Manager 2007. Variations may exist. *

What is Disaster Recovery in Relation To SharePoint?
Disaster recovery in relation to SharePoint can mean many things, depending on the organization. Different enterprises use SharePoint for different purposes, ranging from implementing it solely for collaborating and communicating within virtual teams to using it solely for hooks into other server systems such as Team Foundation Server or Project Server. For whatever reason a company uses SharePoint, it is clear that there needs to be policies in place that will facilitate disaster recovery in the event that something may cause massive data loss for your portal. In essence, DR in relation to SharePoint can generally be thought of as processes, mechanisms, and policies that if data loss does occur for whatever reason that disrupts the portal to an irretrievable state it can quickly be returned to operational efficiency with little effort.
 
Why Should I Be Concerned With Disaster Recovery?
Disaster recovery can be an issue at many levels. Damage could inflict SharePoint file stores, custom development (ASP.NET 2.0 WebParts, SharePoint WebParts, or Framed Applications), design / branding efforts (master pages, manual modifications), and most importantly your stored business data. Without a disaster recovery policy and DR tools, your SharePoint environment can quickly become a central portion of business processes within an enterprise to a useless system leaving a bad taste in user’s mouth bringing SharePoint adoption to a standstill.
 
What Can I Do To Prepare for Proper Disaster Recovery?
There are several mechanisms that should be implemented in order to prepare for a disaster recovery situation. Some of which deal with implementing a proper disaster recovery policy, others are for implementing various types of software that will help to facilitate bringing your portal backup to speed if there is an event of large data loss.
 
What Types of Disaster Recovery Software Are Available?
There are several types of disaster recovery software that are based on varying types of software theories. In relation to the actually physical archiving of backup data, the three most popular are:
  1. Disk-to-Tape (DtT)
  2. Disk-to-Disk (DtD)
  3. Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape (DtDtT) 
Three of the most popular types of software are:
  1. RTR (Real Time Replication)
  2. CDP (Continuous Data Protection)
  3. DPM (Data Protection Manager)
How do I Choose the Appropriate Software for Disaster Recovery?
The software that you choose for your disaster recovery policy varies heavily on your organization. Some of the decision factors will be based on company cultural, some on functionality that you desire out of your DR bundles. As an example of cultural decisions, some shops will only implement Microsoft-centric software since it will generally build on and into other server packages and client software (as is the case with the Microsoft Operations Framework, since DPM will tie into Microsoft Operations Manager for management and reporting purposes), and is typically part of their Microsoft enterprise agreement(s). Some organizations are indifferent to the vendor, and are more concerned with varying functionality. When looking at replication or disaster recovery solutions, quick decisions are never the best ones. You have to examine each package in relation to your SharePoint environment, and possibly other systems that might be sheltered by the same solution.
 
Why is SharePoint a Difficult Product to Implement Disaster Recovery for?
SharePoint as a platform is subject to constant change, users uploading, modifying, and deleting documentation and other relevant portal assets, customizations being made to different site collections, and new portions of the portal being extended and de-extending everyday at every hour. Implementing disaster recovery for an environment that requires such an extent of synchronous backups during such intensive intervals during normal user hours is incredibly difficult. Ensuring that data is constantly intact in such a largely user adopted platform can also be problematic since the platform is almost constantly in use.
 
Is the Disaster Recovery Process a Task of a SharePoint Administrator, Network Administrator, or Users?
Protecting the assets of the portal is the responsibility of all of the above parties, and doesn’t all solely on the shoulders of just one position or person. The SharePoint administrator is typically most familiar with the status of the database and overall environment, the network administrator knows bandwidth usage and disk allocation within the network, and the users of the portal are typically the most familiar regarding specific assets within arbitrary site collections. The restore process depending on what has been lost can be the responsibility of either of the parties as well, as long as the process as it is tripped is documented, and doesn’t interfere with other SharePoint user activities.
 
What Does a Disaster Recover Policy Consistent of for SharePoint?
Here is a sample disaster recovery policy for SharePoint. It might have to be tailored to your environment more depending on what your corporate standards are, but will still be a good start. It is free to use with no copyright restrictions.
 
Is There Specific Disaster Recovery Software Exclusive To SharePoint?
There is no disaster recovery software made explicitly for SharePoint. However, such packages as Data Protection Manager are easily tailored to implement disaster recovery for a SharePoint environment, and can shelter other systems as well.
 
What Are the Prices of Disaster Recovery Software?
Disaster Recovery software can range from relatively cheap to exceedingly expensive and can depend on certain agreements with certain vendors (such as having enterprise agreements within Microsoft). It depends on what level of functionality you are seeking from the software. With real-time-replication, you can recover data within minutes of a disaster, but is not cost effective for small-to-medium (SMS&P) businesses, whereas DPM will be an hourly solution, but several thousands of dollars less and is relatively inexpensive to extend (buy more agents for) and maintain.
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