Exchange Server

Restoring Exchange Mailbox Data Using the Recovery Storage Group, Part 1

Recovery storage groups were first introduced in Exchange Server 2003.  At the time, the idea behind them was that you could restore Exchange database into the recovery storage group, and then use ExMerge to merge the data from the recovery storage group into the production database.  In Service Pack 1, Microsoft improve the process so that you no longer have to use ExMerge.

If you’ve looked through the Exchange Management Console in Exchange Server 2007, it might at first appear that the recovery storage group feature is gone.  However, Exchange Server 2007 not only still offers this feature, recovery storage groups have been improved over the Exchange 2003 implementation.  In this article series, I will walk you through the process of using recovery storage groups in Exchange Server 2007.

By far the biggest improvement to the recovery storage group feature is the fact that you can restore data from a different server.  Suppose for instance that you had in Exchange Server that suffered a catastrophic failure, and that you had a backup of the stores, but not a full system state backup. In Exchange 2003, you could rebuild the server from scratch, and there were even some techniques that you could use to get the data back, but the recovery process tended to be a bit tricky. In Exchange 2007 though, you could rebuild the server and then use recovery storage groups to restore the mailbox data even though from Exchange Server’s point of view the data came from a different server.

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Before I move on, I need to tell you that there were are some restrictions that you need to be aware of.  First off, the server on which the data originated must have belonged to the same Active Directory forest as the server that you’re using to recover the data.

Another restriction that you need to be aware of is that you can only use recovery storage groups to recover mailbox data.  You can not use a recovery storage group to recover public folder data.

Finally, even though Exchange Server 2007 allows you to create up to 50 different stores per server, you are limited to creating one recovery storage group.  However, you can restore multiple databases to the recovery storage group, so long as those databases all originally belonged to a common storage group (because databases within a storage group share a common set of transaction logs).

Creating a Recovery Storage Group

To create a recovery storage group, open the Exchange Management Console, and then select the Toolbox container.  Now, double-click on the Database Recovery Management option.  When you do, Exchange will launch the Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant.

This wizard’s initial screen prompts you to enter a name for the activity that you are performing.  You can call the activity anything that you want.  You must also verify the name of the Exchange Server that the activity is being performed on, and provide the name of a domain controller.  In this particular case, the name of the Exchange Server that you provide should be the server that you want to create the recovery storage group on.

Click Next, and you’ll be taken to a screen that asks you to select the task that you want to perform.  Choose the option to create a recovery storage group.  You will now be taken to a screen that asks you which storage group you want to link to the recovery storage group.  Keep in mind that only databases from the link storage group can be mounted into the recovery storage group.

Click Next, and you’ll be taken to a screen that asks you to provide a name for the recovery storage group.  The default name is simply Recovery Storage Group, and that should be sufficient for most situations.  Now, click the Create the Recovery Storage Group link, and the recovery storage group will be created.

Now it’s time to restore a database into the recovery storage group that we have just created.  The procedure varies depending on which backup application you are going to be using.  For the purposes of this article series, I will use the version of NTBACKUP that comes with Windows Server 2003.

Open NTBACKUP, and then select the Restore and Manage Media tab.  Now, expand of the media containing the backup that you want to restore, choose your target storage group, and click the Start Restore button.

If you take a look at Figure A, you will notice that the restore operation is set to restore the database to its original location, and that there is no way to change this option.  However, this does not mean that the current production database will be overwritten by the restored database.  There are two reasons for this.  First, we have not configured Exchange to allow the database to be overwritten.  Second, the production database is still mounted.  Because of these factors, the backup will be restored to the recovery storage group.

Figure A

You must select the database that you want to restore, and click the Start Restore button.

Upon clicking the Start Restore button, you will see the screen that is shown in Figure B. This screen prompts you to verify the name of the server to which the database will be restored, and to specify a temporary location for log files and patch files.  After doing so, verify that the Last Restore Set check box is selected, and that the Mail Database After Restore check box is not selected.  Click OK and the restoration process will begin.

Figure B

You must specify a temporary location for log files and patch files.

Conclusion

In this article, I’ve shown you how to create a recovery storage group, and how to restore a database to it.  In Part Two, I will continue the discussion by showing you how to Mount the database, and how to begin recovering data.

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