Using Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services can expand and simplify collaboration within the enterprise. However, backing up and recovering SharePoint data, especially on a granular level, isn't simple. None of the three SharePoint backup tools Microsoft provides (Spsbackup, Stsadm, and Smigrate) let you recover a single file, list item, or document library. Microsoft leaves granular recovery solutions to third-party vendors.

I compare four SharePoint backup and recovery solutions: Symantec Backup Exec Agent for Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server; CommVault Galaxy Backup & Recovery; AvePoint DocAve 3.1 and SharePoint Disaster Recovery (SPDR) 1.0; and Webfox Backup Elite SC V 3.0. In evaluating these solutions, I assume that a backup plan is in place for servers and other support services, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server. I evaluate each solution's ease of use, functionality, price, and expandability. Table 1 provides a detailed, side-by-side comparison of product features.

Symantec Backup Exec Agent for Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server
Before you install Symantec Backup Exec Agent for Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, you need to install Symantec Backup Exec 10d for Windows Servers. You begin the installation of Symantec Backup Exec 10d by running the Environment Check utility. I like this tool; it revealed some missing items on my system, thus saving me from trying to complete the installation without having all the requisite resources. The straightforward, surprisingly quick installation described all my options and let me install Backup Exec on both local and remote machines.

I had Exchange, SQL Server, and Share-Point Portal Server 2003 all on the same box, so I installed agents for all of them. I know Exchange isn't part of SharePoint administration, but I wanted to see the agent anyway. The agent for SQL Server won't back up the SharePoint databases if the SharePoint Portal Server agent has been configured to back them up. This nice touch certainly could save on resources. Software compression was available for my target hard disk, as were options for staging my backups from disk to tape, and I controlled the schedule.

The First Startup Wizard walked me through the process of setting the media management defaults, verifying device and drive configurations, adding logon accounts, and setting dates for the backed-up data to be overwritten or discarded. Media sets permitted easy media management. I found Backup Exec easy to use for a first-timer, and an E-Learning course was included on a CDROM, although I didn't need to use it.

The SharePoint Portal Server agent detects the components of the farm in which it's installed and lets you add other farms to the management console. The agent identifies both SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services databases, which must be backed up together. The agent also automatically backs up the single sign-on (SSO) database and the encryption key and can manage the backup of SharePoint Portal Server 2001 databases if needed. The product backs up the config_db database, but in most cases you'd rebuild this database, not restore it. Likewise, you're likely to find rebuilding indexes easier and more reliable than restoring them.

You can restore to the same database server or a different one. The restoration process involves rebuilding the farm just as Spsbackup does, unless you're completely restoring all members of the farm from a point-in-time backup of the farm.

Backup Exec supports moving backups from disk to tape or to off-site locations, but it seems to treat this process as a separate "backup" of the backup job, requiring separate scheduling instead of treating it as a continuation of the backup process. It also supports a synthetic backup—a full backup built from a previous full backup and subsequent incremental or differential backups without using the original source files or putting overhead on the source server. Synthetic backups, however, retain only the last approved version of a document. Figure 1 shows the Backup Exec console with the Job Setup tab.

Backup Exec provides standard alerting and reporting capabilities. Alerts include notification by email, pager, or printer. Backup Exec uses Crystal Reports and can distribute reports via email and publish them in HTML or Adobe Acrobat PDF format. The reports can help identify failed jobs and skipped files.

Although this product can restore to new locations, it doesn't let you restore individual items from within the SharePoint database. If you already use Backup Exec, adding the SharePoint Portal Server agent for disaster recovery certainly makes sense as long as you realize that you'll need another solution to recover an individual document, document library, site, or site collection.

Symantec Backup Exec Agent for Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server

PROS: Easily configured backup for disaster recovery; can restore to original or other location
CONS: Full restoration only; no granular recovery of individual items; requires Symantec Backup Exec 10d for Windows Server
RATING: 2 out of 5
PRICE: $795 for Backup Exec 10d for Windows Server; $995 per farm for SharePoint agent, $295 per additional farm member for remote agent
RECOMMENDATION: If you already use Backup Exec, you can add the SharePoint agent and have a serviceable disaster recovery solution with a minimum investment in software or hardware. You'd need to buy something else for individual item recovery, however.
CONTACT: Symantec Corporation * 408-517-8000 or 800-327-2232 *

Galaxy Backup & Recovery
Installing Galaxy Backup & Recovery is straightforward, with options to install agents locally or on remote servers. The Quick Start Guide provides a checklist of information you'll need at various steps of the installation and shows snapshots of the screens you'll encounter.

The installation process involves the CommServe software, which manages the media agents and the file system agent. The media agents you need depend on the backup destination type, which determines the configuration and management of the backup media. The SharePoint agent requires the file system agent.

Galaxy includes an optional firewall configuration wizard, which I found to be useful for configuring ports through a firewall for the various remote agents and the CommServe console communications. In Internet and extranet scenarios, you commonly deploy SharePoint components in a screened subnet.

Media agents are available to support a variety of backup destinations, including SAN and NAS, and Galaxy supports Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP). I found it interesting that if your source and destination media are within the same SAN, data transport can occur solely within the SAN rather than using the network. However, I didn't have the equipment or expertise to test this capability.

Galaxy comes with an embedded SQL Server 2000 instance license and requires a named instance called COMMVAULTQINETIX for its database. If you're installing through Terminal Services or on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, you'll need to install the instance before installing the CommServe component.

If Microsoft IIS is installed, you can administer the CommServe console through an optional Web site, which you can create during installation. SQL Server Books Online (BOL) is also available through this Web site.

The console control panel provides tools and wizards for most configuration tasks. Figure 2 shows the Galaxy Backup & Restore management console. I had some difficulty configuring a local hard drive destination until I learned that Galaxy calls disk locations magnetic libraries.

After I completed the configuration and backed up my portal and standalone sites, I started exploring the recovery options, and the fun began. The Browse & Recover tool let me view the latest data and pick any point in time from my backups. I could drill down through my site structure to recover objects at any level, including individual documents. The SharePoint agent backups let you search for documents by name, version, author, title, and size.

You can restore at the original location or to another location or client. When restoring a collection of items (say, a document library), you can choose to either overwrite or skip existing items. So, if a user had deleted some but not all items in a document library, you could restore the entire library but replace only lost items. This is an excellent feature not available in other products.

With version-enabled document libraries, you can recover any version that's been backed up. Like Backup Exec, Galaxy Backup & Recovery supports synthetic backups. Since an individual document version can be restored with Galaxy, it's important to note that the synthetic backup retains only the last approved document in version-enabled document libraries, while Galaxy's standard backups retain all versions. Galaxy also supports SQL Server transaction-log backups. Managing the transaction logs permits pointin-time restorations, database restoration with transaction log replays, and log shipping to other SQL Server systems.

Galaxy Backup & Recovery offers so many backup options that you'll probably need training to take full advantage of them all. The multitude of options also increases the possibility of configuration errors and omissions. But that power provides both disaster recovery and granular recovery and earns this product my highest rating and the Editors' Choice award.

Galaxy Backup & Recovery

PROS: Includes disaster recovery, business continuity, and granular recovery capabilities
CONS: Complex setup and configuration; training is recommended
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
PRICE: $1750 per SharePoint Portal Server system, including the agent for SharePoint SQL Server databases
RECOMMENDATION: Despite the complexity of setup and configuration, Galaxy Backup & Recovery is the most complete solution for disaster recovery and granular recovery in a SharePoint environment. Highly recommended.
CONTACT: CommVault * 732-870-4000 or 888-746-3849 *

DocAve 3.1 and SPDR 1.0
AvePoint's SharePoint backup and restore solution comprises two products. DocAve backs up and restores SharePoint data, and SharePoint Disaster Recovery (SPDR) provides disaster recovery for SharePoint databases.

DocAve. Installation of DocAve was over before I realized that I'd answered all the questions. The entire process required only eight clicks, including accepting the license agreement. At the initial launch, I configured the user accounts. Configuration was simple because the product is designed from a SharePoint perspective and presents data in its SharePoint structure. The application found my SharePoint installation and also let me update its structure tree.

The Manager console has panes for backup plans (i.e., backup jobs), restore jobs, and messages, as Figure 3 shows. The Main Toolbar interacts with the selected backup plan or restore job and lets you easily access management functions, such as creating new jobs and starting, pausing, and stopping jobs, from both drop-down menus and icons.

Creating a new backup plan or restore job brings up a browse window, which presents a tree view of your site. You can select the entire object level with all folders included or excluded. After you complete your selections, you can run the job manually or schedule and save the job. You can schedule jobs to run at any time. Backup jobs, once defined, can be scheduled to run either as full or incremental backups. By default, restore jobs run as soon as you save them, although you can schedule them to run later.

You can restore objects to the original location or another location. You must create the destination Virtual Server in IIS and extend it manually with SharePoint before you can apply restorations. Backing up and restoring site information at all levels is intuitive. By right-clicking an object, you can choose to include or exclude items below that level.

You can also create Pruning rules for your backup data so that you don't retain backups forever on disk. You can create these rules as a default for all backup sets or individually for each backup job. Job-level rules override default rules.

DocAve is available in two versions: site level and item level. I used the item-level version, which lets you choose to restore anything from an entire site collection down to individual documents or list items. DocAve doesn't support SharePoint Portal Server areas, just site collections embedded in the Portal content database or Windows Share-Point Services standalone site collections.

SPDR. SPDR provides disaster recovery for multiple SharePoint environments across your network. Installing SPDR is almost as simple as installing DocAve, although you need to install server and client components separately. You install the server first; it requires Windows 2000 or later. Each SPDR installation has just one SPDR server. An extra installation step appears if you need to change the communications port used for client/server communications.

You install the client on each member of your farm and on your SQL Server system. Each client should have at least 1GB of RAM and 3GB of available disk space for a temporary work area. To enable SQL Server database replication and backup, the client system needs to have available three times the disk space occupied by your SQL Server databases, because SPDR can't use remote disk space. The SQL Server client works with both SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000.

SPDR's management interface, which Figure 4 shows, is Web based, so it's accessible from any system that has an Internet connection. The interface doesn't require IIS, but comes with its own Web server, which uses default port 8080. As you click on each client, there's a slight delay while the client updates the server with requested information. You'll need to disable your pop-up blocker for the SPDR site, which operates as a pop-up window. I learned the hard way not to close the original (main) window even though nothing appears there!

SPDR provides a graphical interface to accomplish tasks, such as log shipping between SQL Server systems, that might otherwise require a DBA working with SQL Server Enterprise Manager. SPDR's main features include full (scheduled or realtime) replication of SharePoint databases to a file system or directly to a standby SQL Server system; a strong packet-level fault tolerance transfer protocol to ensure fullfidelity data replication over any network; point-and-click SQL Server replication and disaster recovery; minimal downtime during disaster recovery; and centralized administration with a Web interface to manage monitoring, replication, and management across your SharePoint enterprise.

The AvePoint solution. The combination of DocAve and SPDR makes backup and restoration of SharePoint data quick and easy with a graphical interface that eliminates the need for in-depth SQL Server training. From a pure SharePoint data recovery scenario, AvePoint's solution would make a strong runner-up for Editors' Choice.

The solution's weakness is the lack of complete disaster recovery from the file system, including custom files and binaries, system state, and IIS virtual server level. If you already have server backup and recovery solutions in place through another product, such as Backup Exec, DocAve and SPDR would be an excellent choice to support day-to-day recovery of individual Share-Point components. Combining DocAve and SPDR with Backup Exec would make daytoday tasks simple to configure and execute and would let you recover deleted documents, document libraries, or sites without having to resort to a complete recovery.

Currently, SPDR for disaster recovery and DocAve for granular recovery use different management interfaces. AvePoint plans to integrate the products in the next version, which will also permit drag and drop restoration of sites, subsites, lists, document libraries, and items.

DocAve 3.1 and SharePoint Disaster Recovery (SPDR) 1.0

PROS: Easy out-of-the-box operation
CONS: Doesn't back up file system, indexes, or system state; requires creation and extension of an IIS site before restoring data
RATING: 3 out of 5
PRICE: DocAve item-level backup starts at $2880 per site, site-level backup alone starts at $478; SDPR starts at $1000 per content database
RECOMMENDATION: SPDR and DocAve constitute a good solution for those who don't have expertise in other fields such as SQL Server. However, you'd need another backup solution for the OS, file system, custom files, indexes, binaries, system state, and the IIS metabase. DocAve and SPDR would be excellent in combination with Backup Exec.
CONTACT: AvePoint * 732-271-8688 or 800-661-6588 *

Backup Elite SC V 3.0
Backup Elite SC V 3.0 is a lightweight utility that automates Microsoft's Stsadm and Smigrate tools. Backup Elite has a SharePoint Portal Server mode and a Windows Share-Point Services mode but works only with site collections, not portal areas. Available as a download, it's easy to install. Most of the screens are informational only, and you can change the installation path.

The Administration Tool has six tabs, as Figure 5 shows. The Settings tab holds all environment settings the application needs. Using this tab, you can create a backup job for stsadmn.exe and smigrate.exe with the appropriate switches and variables. The Backup tab is for manual backups of sites and subsites. The Restore tab lets you restore, create, delete, and move sites, subsites, lists, list items, document libraries, and documents. Using the Migrate tab, you can migrate single or multiple sites with a few clicks while maintaining site users, groups, and permissions. The Tools tab lets you easily create and delete sites and subsites, and the Logs tab displays current dynamic log information and lets you retrieve details from log files.

The Settings tab is intuitive, except for the Restore Path field, which the documentation doesn't mention. Be careful what you enter here; the restoration process creates sites in this path. I put my portal path here and then later overwrote my portal.

Selecting the Date Time Stamps check box keeps you from overwriting your backup files. The Backup Sub Sites Individually check box enables granular restores of subsites but also increases the size of your backups, since you're storing backups of your subsites in addition to site collections. Backup Sub Sites Individually forces enumeration of all subsites when the product is building the command lines for running stsadm.exe. Even if you don't use this feature, any new site collections are enumerated at runtime and backed up.

You use the Schedule Tasks Wizard to automate scheduled backups. To prune old backup files, you need to select which day of the week pruning will be done from the Delete Date/Time Stamp Backup Files Every drop-down list at the bottom of the Settings tab. I found no way to disable pruning. I suppose if you want to save more than a week's worth of files, you can relocate them. When you're doing restorations, a browse option helps you find the relocated files.

Backup Elite is easy to use and helpful for managing day-to-day chores such as recovering deleted items or restructuring your sites. It would also be useful in staging a SharePoint implementation from development to test to production. In just a few minutes of playing around, I was able to restore individual files to a document library. I also copied (migrated) one top-level site collection from my portal to a subsite in another site collection.

As I mentioned earlier, however, I also destroyed my portal by configuring the Restore Path field incorrectly. The site collections still worked, but my portal disappeared. I advise running Spsbackup before playing with Backup Elite in a test environment.

I also learned that restoring a complete list or document library deletes the current object, replacing it with the old (restored) object. Backup Elite would be better (and safer) if it let you restore individual items without overwriting existing ones.

Backup Elite doesn't touch any of the file system or IIS settings. To back up those items, you need a file-system and systemstate backup product. You also need to run Spsbackup to back up your SharePoint Portal databases and areas. Restoring indexes from Spsbackup fails on anything other than a small farm. Backup Elite is obviously designed for small shops and could fill a niche there as long as other backup solutions are in place for the OS, the file system, and SQL Server.

Backup Elite SC V 3.0

PROS: Inexpensive and uses available binaries and hard drives
CONS: Limited to the capabilities of Microsoft's Stsadm and Smigrate tools; doesn't manage Spsbackup
RATING: 1 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at $499.99 for one server
RECOMMENDATION: Small shops might want to consider Backup Elite: It's easy to install, set up, and use, but you'd still need a solution for file system custom files, indexes, binaries, and the system state.
CONTACT: Webfox * 416-221-7781 or 888-932-3691 *

The Best of the 4
Each solution I tested provides unique capabilities that you might find useful, depending on your needs. (You might also consider the real-time document recovery options in the sidebar "Real-Time Document Recovery.") Of the four SharePoint backup and recovery solutions I tested, one product stands out: Galaxy Backup & Recovery. Its many backup options earned it the Editors' Choice award.