Summary: Microsoft Exchange Server hosts organizational databases, user mailboxes, and much of the classified data used by an organization. In case any disaster strikes the Exchange server, the entire organizational workflow can come crashing down. Thus, whether large or small, every organization that uses Exchange Server should have a Microsoft Exchange disaster recovery plan in place.
Exchange administrators struggle every day to keep the server functioning smoothly. Managing the server and planning for quick and safe disaster recovery is part of every administrator’s job. And to do this job perfectly, administrators keep monitoring the Internet for the best ways to avoid Exchange disasters or bring it back online if disasters strike.
That’s exactly what an Exchange disaster recovery plan consists of. And considering how crucial a smoothly functioning Exchange server is for any organization, it is not a wonder why most of the organizations emphasize on the importance of having a good Microsoft Exchange server disaster recovery plan in place.
In this post, we’re highlighting what disaster recovery is and how Exchange administrators can create the perfect Exchange server recovery plan.
Disaster Recovery Basics
There are several triggers that can result in the crash of an Exchange server:
- Hardware / software failures
- Virus Infections
- Abrupt system shutdown / termination
- Frequent power surges
- Damage to system files
- Human Errors
When an Exchange server crashes, the entire organization’s working comes to a halt. There is serious loss of productivity with no guarantee whatsoever of salvaging any inaccessible information. It is in such scenarios that having a plan to bounce back from such a catastrophe becomes crucial.
If an organization has proper guidelines and procedures in place which can be used for quick make up for loss of productivity and downtime and try to recover whatever crucial data it can, much of the crisis can be averted. Such guidelines and procedures form part of an Exchange Disaster Recovery Plan.
Few Examples of Exchange Disaster Recovery
In order to help you understand the Microsoft Exchange disaster recovery easily, we’ve created two sample disaster scenarios and explained how to recover from them. You can use the techniques demonstrated in these scenarios to draw learning and insights as to what you should do in similar situations.
Scenario 1: Exchange Active Directory Crashed
Before you begin restoring Exchange to an active state after this disaster, ensure that you have at least one offline copy of Exchange database. Such a database copy is usually in clean shutdown state and makes it very easy to restore. Before beginning with the restore procedure, follow these prerequisites:
- Take a backup of Active Directory System State to restore other objects, such as Contacts, Distribution Lists, etc.
- Take a backup of Exchange Server Database – both online and offline copy.
- Make a note of your domain name along with Exchange organization name and administrative group name.
Now let us begin restoring the offline copy of Exchange DB.
- Execute the following ESEUTIL command to ensure that the data is in good shape. This has to be done before restoring data to the Exchange.
Eseutil /mh “c:\Restored Offline Backup\priv1.edb”
- Now ensure that ORG name and AG is same without which you won’t be able to mount Exchange database. For this, type the following in command prompt:
C:\>find I “OU=” “C:\Restored Offline Backup\priv1.edb”
/O=<OrgName>/OU=FIRST ADMINISTRATIVE GROUP/CN=RECIPIENTS
- Once this is done, try to mount the database. Before attempting database mount, go to Mailbox Store Properties and select the checkbox that says “This Database can be overwritten by a restore”.
- Go to Exchange System Manager > Tools > Mailbox Recovery Center.
- Right click Mailbox Recovery Center and select Add Mailbox Store.
- Right click all mailboxes, except system mailbox and select Export. This opens the Export Mailbox wizard.
- Click Next and then specify a destination container.
- Select the option “Append the new definitions at the end of the file” and click on Next. This will export the file to an LDF file.
- Once the export completes successfully, open the LDF file and confirm all objects.
- Thereafter, import these objects into a new blank Active Directory by executing the following command:
C:\>ldifde -i –f C:\import.ldf
- Reconnect all the mailboxes using Mailbox Recovery Center. Right click on the mailboxes and click on Find Match. This will find the user accounts which were recently exported. Click on Reconnect to finish the wizard’s working.
Scenario 2: Exchange Server Crashed
A crashed Exchange server can be recovered using a specially created recovery database or Dial Tone Database. A recovery database is a mailbox database that allows you to mount a restored mailbox database and extract data from it as part of a recovery operation. Recovery databases enable you to recover data from a backup or copy of a database without disturbing user access to current data. The New-MailboxRestoreRequest cmdlet is used to extract data from a recovery database. After extraction, the data can be exported to a folder or merged into an existing mailbox.
A Better Approach
While the above-mentioned techniques are successful in reviving a crashed Exchange database or Active Directory, they might seem to be a bit too technical for any administrator who hasn’t faced disaster situations before. Performing these procedures not only needs the utmost caution but also proper permissions. Moreover, sometimes these Exchange server disaster recovery plans and techniques may fail to restore crashed Exchange server.
A better approach to overcome and resolve these issues is to use a reliable third-party Exchange mailbox recovery software, such as Stellar Repair for Exchange. Laced with powerful scanning and recovery algorithms, this tool quickly recovers every bit of mailbox data from EDB files and restores it to a PST file. It can also export the recovered mailboxes directly to a live Exchange server or Office 365. Such a tool can be an ideal part of any Exchange disaster recovery plan.