Ask the Expert

What is an Exchange brick-level backup?

What is an Exchange "brick-level" backup and what are "brick-level" Microsoft Exchange email files?

    Requires Free Membership to View

"Brick-level" refers to a class of backup software.

Traditional Exchange backups focus on backing up the Exchange database in such a way that does not permit granular recovery of individual email items. Most companies use this class of backup software. If individual items need to be recovered (i.e., as part of a compliance or Human Resources driven investigation, or because messages have been lost and no longer exist in the 'dumpster'), then recovery options are limited to:

Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000

  • Building a recovery Exchange environment.
  • Creating a MAPI profile to enable an Microsoft Outlook client to log into the respective mailbox(es) or using ExMerge to log on.
  • Exporting relevant content to .PSTs.
  • Importing relevant content back into the production environment or passing it on to Legal or HR for action as appropriate.

Exchange 2003

  • Using a Recovery Storage Group (RSG) to recover the relevant database.
  • Using ExMerge to recover the desired mailbox contents and merge them into the relevant production mailbox.

Brick-level backups use a different backup process in which they perform a MAPI logon to each mailbox as part of the backup process; this gives them the ability to recover individual mail items directly from backup media. It also facilitates recovery of single mail messages or mailboxes without having to build a recovery environment and without having to resort to RSGs.

One caution: Brick-level solutions are substantially slower at backing up your servers than traditional backup solutions. They also cost more and require significantly more backup media than traditional backup media.

If item-level recoverability is a requirement for your company, you may want to consider a hybrid solution instead of brick-level, namely either Quest Recovery Manager for Exchange (disclaimer: I work for Quest), Ontrack PowerControls or Mimosa NearPoint. All permit item-level recoverability using traditional backup methods without the long backup windows, licensing costs and backup media costs associated with brick-level solutions. I have seen many companies move away from brick-level recovery in favor of these solutions because their brick-level software was exceeding their nightly backup windows. 

Do you have comments on this Ask the Expert Q&A? Let us know.

Related information from


This was first published in July 2005

There are Comments. Add yours.

TIP: Want to include a code block in your comment? Use <pre> or <code> tags around the desired text. Ex: <code>insert code</code>

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
Sort by: OldestNewest

Forgot Password?

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an email containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: