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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Introduction to Microsoft Data Protection Manager Integration With 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. *

Introduction to Microsoft Data Protection Manager Marriage with SharePoint
A proper SharePoint environment should encompass all aspects involved in a traditional networked computing infrastructure; particularly since SharePoint is or will become the chief repository for business information. One of the most overlooked aspects however of a SharePoint environment is that of disaster recovery and proper data restoration processes in case of an emergency to mitigate several levels of risks.
 
We don’t have a SharePoint disaster recovery plan, and aren’t really looking to spend any more additional funds on our SharePoint deployment, so would prefer to negate the requirement.
 
How many times has it been heard with enterprises implementing SharePoint?
 
SharePoint Disaster Recovery Isn’t an Option, It’s a Requirement   
Having a disaster recovery plan for your SharePoint deployment isn’t an option; it’s a necessity in order to protect precious enterprise data. Enterprises will expunge an unlimited amount of funds extending the rich functionality of SharePoint, however when it comes to actually setting up methods and procedures that are meant to enhance the security and disaster recovery of a portal, the benefits of it seem negligible.
 
This is one of the biggest fallacies that exist within implementing a communications and collaborations platform within a company. Not having mechanisms that facilitate recovery of your critical business data will not only cause your network and SharePoint administrators hesitation, but if any type of disaster occurs, you will only have remedial mechanisms to work with to bring line of business applications back to your information workers that need it.
 
There are three main things that we wish to gain out of a DPM implementation in relation to our SharePoint environment:
  1. Provide Uninterrupted and Constant Data Protection
  2. Provide Easy Mechanisms for Backup Restoration Intended for Both Users and Administrators
  3. Provide Mechanisms For Central Management For Data Protection Mechanisms
Provide Uninterrupted and Constant Data Protection  
With disk-to-tape backups, constant data protection is not possible since users are typically leveraging the portal at undetermined times and the amount of data that changes within a SharePoint portal happen at all times during the day, tapes are usually meant to run at arbitrary times within an enterprise. Exporting the data to a flat file and protecting it with DPM however a viable option is. Similarly, you can schedule the SQL backups through various clients or use the SharePoint backup utility to create scheduled backups that are stored on a file server which can then be protected with DPM.
 
Provide Easy Mechanisms for Backup Restoration Intended for Both Users and Administrators
DPM provides mechanisms that allow a user and administrator to easily restore backup files using a windows explorer like interface. These tools interact with the speed and reliability of using the DPM backup mechanisms, allowing backups to be granular restored depending on the permissions that you see fit.  Notifications and reports can also be sent to users that you deem are necessary to see such metrics.
 
Provide Mechanisms For Central Management For Data Protection Mechanisms
Interaction between DPM and Microsoft Operations Manager offer more granular control over your backup strategy and relevant servers (such as your backup file server and your DPM servers as a whole). There are inherit tools that allow you to generate DPM relevant reports, fine tune your DPM environment by examining backup metrics, and enable notifications for possible problems within your backup environment.
 
Assuming you are using SharePoint, it can also be assumed that you are also leveraging the Microsoft Operations Framework, which plays a pivotal functional within the management of aggregate IT assets and overall SharePoint operations.  It is important to realize the MOF is like the MSF (Microsoft Solutions Framework), in that it is an approach of best practices and approaches to your environment, and not an actual bundled piece of software. There are four main portions that exist within the Microsoft Operations Framework, optimizing, changing, supporting, and operating. In relation to the marriage of Data Protection Manager and SharePoint, we are concerned with two main quadrants of this, supporting and operating since we are concerned about supporting our line of business applications and communications and colorations environment and operating since we must provide our user with the environment which enables virtual teams so that process within the enterprises can remain optimal.
 
The SharePoint Backup and Restoration Process Using Data Protection Manager The DPM Backup Process 
The backup and restore process for protecting your SharePoint environment depends greatly on the data that you consider to have a low user tolerance for loss, and that which can be restored by using SharePoint media (such as SharePoint file stores). However, in an arbitrary backup process involving a backup of our SQL databases:
  1. SharePoint SQL files are exported to flat files and placed onto a protected share on the file server (support for SQL will be built in the second half of 2007)
  2. DPM will create a replica of these sources on the DPM server
  3. The changed data is sent back and forth between the file server and the DPM server
  4. DPM will also create shadow copies which allow revision control over point in time backups
This backup process will allow a user to choose which revision to restore either from the administrator or client console.
 
The DPM Restore Process
The restore process using Data Protection Manager can happen either from a user or as the DPM administrator.
  1. A SharePoint user or DPM administrator will choose a specified SQL backup to restore from a client tool that resembles the Windows Explorer interface
  2. DPM will restore the backup to the file server where it can be re-imported into the SQL database
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Introduction to Microsoft Data Protection Manager

* 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. *

Overlooked Aspects

A proper SharePoint environment should cover all aspects involved in a traditional computing environment, plus more since SharePoint can serve as the basic repository for all of your business information and business processes. One of the most overlooked aspects of a SharePoint environment however is that of disaster recovery and proper data transport planning and storage in case of an emergency, to mitigate several types of data loss risks.
 
Data Storage
In regards to data storage, there are variety of methods, tactics, and software appliances that network architects typically implement to ensure that their data integrity is sound and that in the rare case of any type of disaster, typical business operations can continue as planned. DPM can either be a new instance of this type of activity, or for an enterprise virgin to DR can be the primary player.
 
Purpose of DPM
So what is the purpose of DPM? It serves several purposes, integrating with other sister server platforms to encompass what Microsoft calls the Microsoft System Center. Other products that make up this category are Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Microsoft Systems Manager Server (SMS), however are not necessary if you are solely interested in the data backup options of DPM. The main reason that DPM is becoming more commonplace within those environments that leverage SharePoint is because of the disaster recovery options that exist within it, protecting your investment in your collaborations platform and more importantly the data within your SharePoint repositories.
 
Cost of Ownership
As your SharePoint environment becomes larger and larger, aggregating more and more business information, performing a routine with tape backup can become a costly and arduous issue. The reason to introduce DPM into your SharePoint environment is to take your central data repository, and transport this data to a central host, simplifying what is typically a large headache for systems administrators.
 
Simplifying Things
DPM is a way of simplifying things. If you are using SharePoint, then you are familiar with process reengineering to take tasks that were formally larger manual and laborious (i.e. document management and control, creating dashboards, and implementing effective collaboration environments), and moving them to platforms that allow you to automate, and increase the speed of them.
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