New Disaster Recovery Features In SharePoint 2010

Excerpted from “New Features in SharePoint 2010: A Disaster Recovery Love Story” by Sean McDonough and John Ferringer

The widespread adoption and use of SharePoint 2010 forces organizations to place a great deal additional importance on the availability and protection of the valuable content they place in their SharePoint environments-an undertaking not to be taken lightly. The good news is that throughout its numerous releases, SharePoint has provided many tools and features to aid organizations’ disaster recovery (DR) efforts of that valuable content.

With the 2010 release, DR for SharePoint stands poised to become even easier thanks to several new capabilities and enhancements.  Here are a few of those enhancements:

PowerShell Cmdlets – PowerShell is a scripting language and command line shell intended for both interactive administration and the automated execution of scripts. PowerShell is especially relevant to SharePoint DR, as you can use SharePoint 2010’s built-in backup cmdlets to script-out and automate backups for your farm.

With SharePoint 2007, you could use PowerShell as a more efficient replacement for other scripting languages such as VBScript, but you still had to call STSADM.exe when you wanted to run common administrative tasks against SharePoint. With SharePoint 2010, STSADM.exe is still around, but largely redundant, since all of its backup and restore operations have been duplicated as PowerShell cmdlets. SharePoint 2010’s PowerShell cmdlets also offer several advantages over STSADM.exe, like full object-orientation for deeper scripting options, better performance, and enhanced functionality.

Configuration-Only Backups – SharePoint 2010’s configuration-only backups are a significant improvement over a frustrating limitation of SharePoint 2007: the inability to capture the configuration state of the farm in a portable manner. Configuration-only backups allow you to record important information about your SharePoint farm in a consistent and repeatable fashion, making it much easier to create a baseline image of your farm’s state. These backups are not, however, all encompassing. Configuration only backups don’t make an exact copy of a farm’s settings; they capture just a portion of its settings and configuration.

SQL Server Database Snapshots – Database snapshots are fixed, read-only views of existing databases running within a live SQL Server database instance. When a snapshot is created, SQL Server creates a sparse file in its file system. As changes are made to the database after the snapshot is taken, SQL Server updates the sparse file with the content of the database prior to when the change was made. Combining the contents of the live database with the contents of the sparse file yields the snapshot, and this allows the snapshot to remain consistent to a point in time even as normal read and write activities continue to change the live database.

Unattached Content Database Recovery – In practical terms, SharePoint 2010’s ability to use unattached content databases for recovery purposes removes the need for you to maintain a recovery farm purely for item-level restores. As an alternative, you now have the ability to make items within a content database available for export without actually formally joining or attaching the content database to the farm. This means that while the site collections in the unattached content database are not available for your end users to access through a web browser, the objects in those site collections can be retrieved by a farm administrator via SharePoint’s content export functionality. The contents of an unattached content database can be accessed through the Central Administration site’s export functionality, using the Export-SPWeb PowerShell cmdlet, or programmatically via the SharePoint object model.

SQL Server Database Mirroring – With database mirroring, you set up a “principal” server to send some or all of the databases hosted in it to a second “mirror” server. Then, SQL Server automatically copies the principal’s transaction logs to the mirror to keep the databases in the mirror up to date with the databases in the principal. Database mirroring is one of three commonly used HA solutions for SQL Server (the other options being log shipping and database clustering). Mirroring offers a significant advantage over transaction log shipping, because you can add a third server to the mix as a “witness,” which automatically fails over client database connections from the principal to the mirror when the principal become unavailable.

What Can You Do With These New Features? The widespread adoption and use of SharePoint 2010 means content availability and protection is more important than ever.  This whitepaper covers the major new Disaster Recovery capabilities in SharePoint 2010. For more information about how these new features fit into the overall SharePoint DR picture and a discussion of when these additions make sense for your organization, see the full text of our whitepaper at

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