Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Please Backup SharePoint - A Bang From Behind

Last Friday, whilst I was parked admiring the pleasant views of Evesham and eating my slightly limp ham sandwich, I was startled by a sudden unexpected bang to my rear. A lady of 'advancing years' had unfortunately clipped the back of the car and within minutes we were exchanging insurance details and assessing the damage. As the lady was fully insured there was no need to panic as everything was covered, but I started thinking what if she had been one of those many UNINSURED drivers?

This was a reminder to me of how important it is to make sure you have your SharePoint fully (comprehensively) backed-up. So many companies fail to have a good 'quickly restorable' SharePoint backup. As I have stated in previous blogs I am a great fan of the DocAve SharePoint backup solution (not only because Office Talk are an Authorised Reseller . This is the kind of insurance policy that even gives you a courtesy car and then returns your car looking spanking new.

Disaster can strike in SharePoint, as well as at the rear of your car, at any time so it is so important to have a Backup solution in place. There are several ways of backing up MOSS or WSS and each of these protects a different part of your portal.

These backup types are as follows;

1. SQL Database Backup (Using an application like Symantec Backup Exec)
2. SharePoint Backup Agents (Using an application like SharePoint Agent for Backup Exec)
3. Basic SharePoint Backup (from SharePoint Central Administration)
4. SharePoint Designer Backup (from the Site – Administration menu)
5. Regularly Saving Sites as Site Templates (including content)
6. SharePoint Recycle Bins

For a real ‘belts and braces’ approach it is probably best to use all of the six above. Why all of the six? Because each of them allows you to restore different sections.

1. SQL Backup
A full SharePoint database backup is the approach that many take often using the popular Symantec Backup Exec and this is great for doing complete restores. So in a disaster when your server totally fails this is ideal, but for minor troubles it is a bit over the top. It would be similar to having to rebuild the whole car just because the bumper is dented.

2. SharePoint Agent
The SharePoint Agent allows the Backup Administrators to backup and restore at the Item level. So if Betty from Shipping manages to delete the all the UK Shipping addresses they can be restored fairly quickly by the Backup Administrator (usually the busy IT Department).

3. Central Administration
This backup is a feature in WSS 3.0. You can specify the items that you'd like to back up or restore. However, as part of a farm backup, this can back up the configuration database and the Central Administration content database, but will not be able to restore them. Yes, this is a serious limitation. Perhaps the most annoying part of this backup type is the fact that it can’t be scheduled. The main use of this backup is when you are about to perform a major task on SharePoint. It is similar to checking the state of your car before you make even the shortest journey.

4. SharePoint Designer
A very useful tool that has the added feature of being able to backup and restore sites. This is a must whenever you are using SharePoint Designer to make changes to sites. It is so easy to make a change that will prevent users accessing the site but a couple of minutes spent backing-up first means that you can restore it in minutes if things do go wrong. This tool has saved me and other Officetalk Consultants from angry End Users on more than one occasion. To receive an introduction course on the many features of SharePoint Designer you can email

5. Save As Site template
If you are a SharePoint Site Administrator and you don’t trust the backups that your IT Department say they are taking then you can perform your own backups. All you need is to go ‘Site Settings – Save Site As Template’ and tick ‘Include Content’. Very powerful and will keep most of the settings. Limitations here include a limit of 500MB (although there are work rounds for this from the command prompt) and that some webpart settings are not saved. It can still save a lot of heartache.

6. Recycle Bin
Simple yet one of the best improvements in WSS 3.0. The Site Recycle Bin allows users to recover their deleted files for up to 15 days. They can restore them themselves although most will still call the Helpdesk first. Administrators can change the number of days these are stored for or even turn the Recycle option off.

After reading all this you are probably even more confused about how to backup and restore SharePoint. The real answer is probably to invest in a third party solution that allows full backup and restore of every part of SharePoint from the full databases to the individual sites, lists and items. Office Talk recommend AvePoint's awarding winning DocAve software.

Click here to find out about AvePoint

DocAve offers continual real-time backup of all parts of SharePoint and because it runs on an internet browser any user with the right permissions can easily restore items or lists instantly or roll them back without the need to hassle the IT Department. This software is straight forward to install and a trial period of 14 days allows you to try before you buy. So it is worth trying out.

This weekend sees the mighty Villa travel to local rivals Wolves (who haven't beaten us since 1980). For reasons you might have read in previous blogs my family are mainly Wolves supporters so I will be sitting with them on Saturday trying not to look too delight when the Villa third goal goes in. Perhaps I need a backup plan in case we get beaten.

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