Exchange disaster recovery planning

Discover the must-have components to formulating a successful Exchange disaster recovery plan.

You are reading tip #10 from "10 tips in 10 minutes: Fundamentals of Exchange Server disaster recovery," excerpted from Chapter 2 of the book The Definitive Guide to Exchange Disaster Recovery and Availability, published by Realtimepublishers.
This guide focuses on Exchange disaster recovery and availability, so it's not the appropriate place to provide a complete guide to disaster recovery planning. However, disaster recovery planning is so important that it's worth mentioning, even if only briefly. There are three components to a successful recovery plan:
  • Having a plan -- your plan must account for every possible contingency that might necessitate a recovery. At a minimum, this plan will include hardware failures, corruption or loss of your Exchange data, failure of the infrastructure components (such as Active Directory—AD—and electrical power) that Exchange requires, and interruption of physical access to your servers.

  • For each of these contingencies, you need to have a response. This response might be simple (for example, if non-critical hardware breaks, you wait for the vendor's service technician) or complicated (if your Los Angeles data center is damaged by an earthquake, you fail over its operations in your Denver data center). The point is to accurately describe the potential problems you might run into, and to have solutions identified for them.

  • Being able to follow the plan -- just having a plan is fairly useless if you don't also have the ability to put your plan into action. This action will probably require a combination of money, persuasion, education, management support, and acquisition. For every solution you identify in your disaster recovery plan, you must have the necessary mix of equipment, skills, and preparation to make it actually happen.

Every cliche' you've ever heard about the value of prior planning applies here, in spades. The best way to make sure that your disaster recovery plan includes both of the necessary components is to write down the plan and then practice it. Writing down the plan is important because it sets out everything that you think should be included -- and that makes it easier to identify what's not included but should be. Practicing the plan is important because prior testing will make it much easier for you to identify shortcomings in the plan, in your equipment or infrastructure, or in the people who have to implement it.

The third component of a successful disaster recovery plan is perhaps the most often overlooked -- keeping the plan up to date as your IT operations, staffing, and business requirements change. For example, a disaster recovery plan originally written for Exchange 5.5 doesn't take advantage of some of the best new features in Exchange Server 2003, such as recovery storage groups (RSGs). A plan that assumes restore windows of 12 hours might not work well when the actual current SLA only allows for 6 hours of downtime. Performing regular and frequent tests of your disaster recovery plan will act as an antidote to this problem by highlighting areas of the plan that need to be brought up to date.


10 tips in 10 minutes: Fundamentals of Exchange Server disaster recovery

 Home: Introduction
 Tip 1: Defining Exchange disaster recovery
 Tip 2: How Exchange backs up data
 Tip 3: Choosing a backup type for Exchange
 Tip 4: Online vs. offline Exchange Server backups
 Tip 5: Basic Exchange backup and restore
 Tip 6: Exchange vendor snapshots and point-in-time copies
 Tip 7: VSS for Exchange
 Tip 8: Exchange Server replication
 Tip 9: Exchange design choices and issues
 Tip 10: Exchange disaster recovery planning

This chapter excerpt from the free e-book The Definitive Guide to Exchange Disaster Recovery and Availability, by Paul Robichaux, is printed with permission from Realtimepublishers, Copyright 2005. Click here for the chapter download or download all available chapters here.

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