Improve mailbox availability with recovery storage group

Recovery storage group in Exchange 2003 saves time...what does this mean for your business? Read this tip to get the inside scoop.

In the past, you've had two choices on how to perform restorations in Exchange 2000 Server. You could use an alternate recovery forest and move the store back to a production server, which is an expensive proposition in some cases. The other alternative is taking the store offline to perform the restoration.

Exchange Server 2003 eliminates the need to perform either of these time- consuming processes with the introduction of the recovery storage group.

The recovery storage group can quickly restore mailbox stores and mailboxes with the minimum required disruption to users on the network. It exists outside of the limitation of one storage group on the Standard Edition and four storage groups on the Enterprise Edition of Exchange Server 2003. Of course, you cannot use the recovery storage group to host a production storage group. However, you can use the recovery storage group to restore mailbox stores and mailboxes as long as you meet the following requirements:

  • The storage group the mailbox store came from is located on an Exchange 2000 Server SP3 or later Exchange server.
  • The server that is hosting the recovery storage group is located in the same administrative group as the server the store is from.
  • Multiple mailbox stores from the same storage group can be restored at the same time.
  • Public folder stores cannot be restored using the recovery storage group.

When you opt to perform a restoration using the recovery storage group, the database restoration process, including the reply of all uncommitted transaction logs, is done before the target store is taken offline. When the process is complete, you need only select to mount the recovered mailbox store, bringing the newly restored copy online over the existing store. This process ensures that the mailbox store is only unavailable for a short period of time.

You can create a single recovery storage group per the Exchange Server 2003 computer, and it can be deleted or reused over and over as your situation dictates. After a successful recovery evolution with the recovery storage group, you can safely delete the recovered mailbox stores and the recovery storage group. However, as with any other store or storage group, you will need to manually delete the associated files that are left behind.

The actual process to use the recovery storage group is fairly straightforward:

  • Create a recovery storage group on the desired server, in the correct administrative group.
  • Add one or more desired mailbox stores to the recovery storage group--these are the mailbox stores that will be restored.
  • Restore the selected mailbox stores, but do not select the option to mount the store after the backup is complete.
  • Mount the restored mailbox stores from the recovery storage group.
  • Remove restored stores and the recovery storage group if desired.

One key point to using the recovery storage group that I cannot stress enough: DO NOT attempt to mount the mailbox stores until after the restoration step is successfully completed. Should you mount the stores in the recovery storage group before the restoration is completed, irreparable damage will likely occur.

Will Schmied, BSET, MCSE, MCSA, is president of Area 51 Partners, Inc., a provider of wired and wireless consulting and authoring services. As a freelance writer, Will has written for Microsoft, Pearson, Sybex, Syngress, TechTarget, CNET, msexchange.org and several other organizations. Will has also worked with Microsoft in the MCSE exam-development process. You can visit Will at his MCSE certification portal, www.mcseworld.com or at www.area51partners.com.

This was first published in March 2004

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