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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The importance of Recovery database in restoring Exchange 2010 data

Recovery database, introduced in Exchange Server 2010 as a replacement for recovery storage groups of the previous versions, helps in restoring Exchange databases and recovering data. It aids the recovery of data from backups or copies without hindering the client access to the Exchange. Recovery database, combined with the Windows Server backup, forms a free facility by which administrators can backup, restore, and recover Exchange data.

What is a recovery database?

Recovery database (RDB) is a database that aids recovery operations in Exchange 2010. It mounts the backup of mailbox database, extracts data from it, and thus helps in recovery operation. MS Exchange Power Shell cmdlets are used for the extraction of data. The data extracted so can be saved to a mailbox or folder.

Mailbox database vs. recovery database

A recovery database is a special type of database that resembles mailbox databases in some ways and differs from them in many other ways. Though it is named as a database, it will not be counted the as a database at the time of Exchange licensing (so when you have license for 5 databases, it means you have license for 5 mailbox databases). You can additionally have a recovery database.

Like mailbox databases, recovery database holds database and log files. It needs storage space exactly like a normal mailbox database. But there can be only one mounted recovery database per server (you can have many in the Exchange organization with this restriction in place). It supports restore operations only, and not backup operations. One cannot enable circular logging, cannot run online maintenance, and cannot apply retention policies on them. Also, RDB cannot be used for email communications; email client / user account access to RDB is blocked completely.

When can recovery database be used?

For effective recovery, it is essential that the logical information about the database and its content to be safe in the Active Directory. Then you can use recovery database:

  1. As a part of dial tone recovery (after restoring the database to same server or different server from backup)
  2. For the recovery of mailboxes from backup (after the expiry of deleted mailbox retention period)
  3. For the recovery of mailbox items (purged or deleted)
Steps involved in database recovery

The steps for database recovery using the recovery database are given in very brief:

  1. Create a recovery database  
  2. Restore or copy database and log files to the RDB folder structure
  3. Bring the database to clean shut down state, and mount the database 
  4. Finally, recover the data
Recommendations

  1. Source and target databases must be in the same AD forest
  2. For quick recovery, locate the recovery database in the fastest mailbox server
  3. Before starting, ensure that the recovery database has enough space to restore the mailbox database
Limitations of recovery using the recovery database

Recovery database has some limitations. You cannot use it to restore an entire server or multiple databases. It cannot be used in situations where AD topology rebuilding or modification is required. Using the recovery database of Exchange 2010, one cannot restore mailbox databases of previous Exchange versions.

For recovery using the RDB, one essentially requires a good backup (good thing is that one can use backups created by Windows Server Backup). However, it can recover mailbox data only; it cannot recovery public folder data. And there can be only one recovery database per server. Usage of Exchange Management Shell cmdlets for recovery operations is also a problem as there are no Exchange Management Console (EMC) equivalents.

Professional backup extraction tools

If you think that using Exchange Power Shell and cmdlets are tedious, try Lepide Exchange Recovery Manager. You can extract data from online/offline backups crated by many applications— NTBackup, VERITAS, Symantec, CA ARCserve Backup, and HP Backup (incremental/differential)—using this tool. It is a multipurpose tool that helps in Exchange recovery, EDB to PST conversion, Exchange migrations, OST restoration, and backup extraction. The advantage of this tool is that it supports all Exchange versions and Office 365. You can perform selective recovery in a very simple way too.

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