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Backing up live mail servers

Discussion in 'Networks' started by Jakamoko, Dec 21, 2004.

  1. Jakamoko
    Honorary Member

    Jakamoko On the move again ...

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    A question for you all...

    I need to design and implement a strategy for regular backups of my mail servers, and am wondering if any of you have any techniques, or know of any s/ware used to achieve this. The problem I need to overcome is that as you can understand, the mail stores on the servers are ever changing (on average about 1-3 thousand accounts per server, all pressing "Send/Receive" at different times...)

    I can see a pretty easy solution just by having a scheduled Windows Backup run at a set time every few days, then storing to a network file server, but this will involve stopping the service on the servers for the duration, which can be lengthy, given that the mail store folders can be up to 4-5 Gb at any one time (bloody spammers !!!) and downtime has to be a minimum.

    Any known solutions or worthy suggestions most welcome, Guys :D
     
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  2. Luton Bee

    Luton Bee Kilobyte Poster

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    I don't think you can get away with using NTBackup in the "real world" Jak. Have a look at Backup Exec by veritas and Arcserve by Computer Associates.
     
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  3. Jakamoko
    Honorary Member

    Jakamoko On the move again ...

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    Sorry to appear dim, Luton, but whats wrong with using NTBackup - I mean why else have it on Windows 2k server ? Saying that, I'll look into your suggestions - thanks mate.

    Not trying to be funny - I'm genuinely interested :)
     
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  4. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    nt backup in 2000 and 2003 is actually a slimed down liscened 'lite' version of backup exec
    it has its limitatons in medium - enterprise markets, it doesnt have the capabilities of backup exec, but saying that in places that go thru tons of tapes even backup exec isnt that useful

    i think for the task at hand, its a fine example of using something thats bundled with windows effectively, adn for the right reasons, just dont expect anything too clever

    can you not have multiple mailbox stores and backup one at a time? your going to have a hard time maintaining large backups of that size
    what about windows 2003 volume shadow copy? that might be another option, but it means upgrading your OS unless your already on 2k3
     
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  5. Jakamoko
    Honorary Member

    Jakamoko On the move again ...

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    Well, it's a w2k environment only at the moment, Phoenix, and as I'm sure my boss is loathed to spend unnecessarily, it looks like NTBackup is my best option.

    I am looking at mirroring the main mail server across 2 boxes, then backing up the slave to avoid downtime, so the only chink in the armour would be that the mirror would be down for a 2-3 hour period once a week in the wee sma' hours, so that would be acceptable. The other "lesser" servers can afford some downtime, again during quiet times.

    Will look at things more later in the week and let you know :D
     
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  6. Phil
    Honorary Member

    Phil Gigabyte Poster

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    Given the cash limitations the solution you have proposed would seem to be the best option. So does that mean you are going to have staff on hand to manually break the mirror then re-mirror once the backup has completed? AFAIK Ntbackup doesn't have pre and post processing options.

    Before going live with the solution I'd advise you to do some thorough disaster recovery testing with your proposed backups. At the weekend some collegues of mine were in to do what were supposed to be run of the mill testing of our new BCP strategy with our shiney new SAN which takes snapshots of the Mail Server Database Luns. They left at 4 am Monday morning having run into a lot of unexpected problems.

    All I'm saying is make sure you cover your backside, these mailservers seem to have a nasty habit of biting you in the arse and people seem to be more and more reliant on email than ever, as illustrated by one dept head in our company demanding 99.9999999% uptime on our mailservers......... oh how we laughed :)
     
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  7. Taz69

    Taz69 Byte Poster

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    Even using Microsoft's built in backup software you should be able to back up the stores without having to dismount them. As the database will be updated during the backup a patch file is also created which records the changes made during the backup.

    If possible it would be wise to back up per storage group as the transaction log files are per storage group. If you don't get time to complete a full backup during the quiet period you might want to consider doing a full backup once a week and a differential backup during the week. If you have multiple storage groups you could rotate which storage group gets the full backup.

    Interesting idea about breaking the mirror and backing up 1 of the discs from the mirror if that is what you mean but because of how Exchange uses both database files and transaction logs I'm not sure how this would work in reality. When you do a full backup Exchange clears the transaction logs and if you are just copying 1/2 of a mirror then the transaction logs won't get cleared properly.
     
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  8. Phil
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    Phil Gigabyte Poster

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    Thats a fair point Taz, I always forget Ntbackup will happily backup exchange servers online, you get trapped into thinking you need 3rd party solutions with addons :)

    The transaction logs not getting cleared is another good point, with the SAN taking snapshots daily we have to do a normal backup once a month to clear them down.

    I could be wrong but I suspect Gav isn't using Exchange, I've no idea how other mail solutions would behave with Ntbackup.
     
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  9. Jakamoko
    Honorary Member

    Jakamoko On the move again ...

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    Thanks for the replies again, Guys.


    Firstly Phil's right - this isn't for our Exchange system (which is for internal mail only) - its for our customers' email accounts, for which I use servers running Surgemail (discussed elsewhere on these boards).

    I don't think mirroring is 100% the best answer, but I am looking at some form or another. I think that having a script that stops the Surgemail service during the night, then copies the mail stores to a n/w file share is my cheapest answer so far (most likely using ntbackup).

    And Phil - be sure I will test the ass off it first (early indications of testing look good) :D
     
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