The following is tip #6 from "12 ways to protect your Exchange 2003 data," excerpted from Mike Daugherty's new book, Monitoring & Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, reprinted with permission of Digital Press, an imprint of Elsevier, copyright 2004. For more Information, please visit
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Your ability to recover servers and restore data depends on the quality of your backups. The problem with backups is that they may sometimes fail, and this failure may go undetected. A series of unsuccessful backups leaves you unprotected against disasters and allows the log files to consume an ever-increasing amount of disk space. Therefore, it is important that you always verify the successful completion of the backup operation and that you verify that the backup media contain usable data.
You should always examine the Backup log to verify that all scheduled backups actually completed. You can view the Backup log using the following procedure.
1. Start the Backup process from the Windows Start menu by selecting All Programs → Accessories → System Tools → Backup
2. On the Backup or Restore Wizard Welcome window, select Advanced Mode to start the Backup Utility.
Note: If you clear the Always start in wizard mode check box, you can avoid the Welcome to the Backup or Restore Wizard window in the future by going directly to the Backup Utility.
3. In the Backup Utility window, select Report from the Tools menu to display a list of the backup logs.
4. Double-click on the backup log you want to view.
5. If any errors are listed in the log, or if the backup did not complete successfully, the problem should be investigated immediately. Because the backup process accesses every page of the database, it is often the first process to discover a database corruption.
6. If the backup completes successfully, you should label the backup media and store it in a safe and secure location -- preferably an off-site location.
Just because your backup processes regularly complete without error, do not assume that your backup media actually contain usable data. Tapes do not last forever. The usable lifetime of a tape should be available from the tape manufacturer. On rare occasions, bad tapes and malfunctioning hardware can produce unusable tapes, leaving you with an unwarranted sense of protection. At least once a month, you should verify the data integrity by restoring the data to your recovery server. Recovery testing also provides your support personnel with an opportunity to become familiar with the recovery procedure.
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About the author: Mike Daugherty is Manager of the Microsoft Consulting Resource Unit for the Central Region as well as a Senior Solution Architect and Program Manager with HP Consulting and Integration Services. He travels widely, working with large Exchange installations and helping clients manage their systems. He is based in Texas.