Collaborative applications such as SharePoint are popular today, but the reality for most IT departments is that e-mail remains the center of most organizations’ workflows. Attachments and their many revisions can consume massive amounts of server and client disk storage, and legal requirements for retention can make managing storage even more complex.
For larger organizations, there are enterprise-class tools to tackle storage management and archiving for e-mail, including document archiving and management systems that connect into the enterprise e-mail system. But for small to midsize operations, these tools are too expensive and require integration that might be beyond the scope of smaller IT departments.
That’s where Symantec’s Backup Exec for Exchange Mailbox Archiving Option comes in. The add-on to Backup Exec 2010 offers an easy way to back up a small to midsize organization’s e-mail. The software manages archives and pushes them off to lower-cost storage, giving users access to archived e-mail without taking on additional software products and training additional administrators.
The main advantage of Backup Exec 2010’s archiving option for users is that they don’t have to do anything for it to work on the client side. E-mail is pulled straight from the system backup for archiving, rather than requiring another process, and is selected based on policies set by the administrator.
Once the message has been successfully archived, the software removes the e-mail message’s contents and attachments from the mail server’s storage.
That doesn’t mean that the user can’t get to the message when it’s needed, however. The message header remains in the mailbox in a folder created for archives in the Outlook client, along with a web link to Backup Exec Retrieve, Symantec’s self-service application that lets users get to both files and e-mail that have been archived.
Users can bookmark the web link and search all of their archived mail through their web browser, downloading any attachments they need from the archive as compressed .zip files. Alternatively, the administrator can use Backup Exec to restore specific e-mail messages to a user’s mailbox.
For organizations that want a single solution to all their archiving and backup needs, Backup Exec 2010 offers a single set of tools that can handle backup and recovery for any Windows platform. That means administrators need to learn only one toolset, and file and mail backup and restore functions are similar.
Backup Exec 2010 R2 also offers integrated deduplication of archived e-mail, powered by Backup Exec’s Enterprise Vault option. This can dramatically reduce the amount of storage required for e-mail archives in most organizations, particularly those that use e-mail as workflow. If the same document — or multiple revisions of it — is spread across multiple mailboxes, deduplication can consolidate those attachments in backup, while still providing granular recovery of each by the user.
There’s another big plus for organizations that have moved their Exchange mail servers to virtual servers. Backup Exec can extract e-mail for archiving from a single-pass backup of VMware and Hyper-V in combination with the software’s agents for those hypervisors. That reduces the amount of time required for backups.
The maximum number of users Symantec Backup Exec is designed to support
Backup Exec is designed to handle the needs of a small to midsized organization with three to 100 servers and a small IT staff. It’s not intended for larger organizations; for these, Symantec recommends its NetBackup product line, which uses a different (and incompatible) approach to e-mail archiving.
If you’re trying to virtualize deployment of your Outlook clients by having users access mail through Outlook Web Access, the integration with Backup Exec Retrieve isn’t automatic. You’ll have to make sure users bookmark the web address of the Backup Exec Retrieve server to access archived messages. And Backup Exec Exchange Mailbox Archiving Option isn’t available for Exchange 2010 — the current release works only with Exchange 2003 or 2007. Support for Exchange 2010 is planned for the next release of Backup Exec, which is expected to ship early next year.