[VIDEO] A real world example of why backup is not as simple as we think.

Often we talk about the complexity involved in restoring data.

Join Barry Gill and Justin Pirie as they talk through some real issues that recently faced a Microsoft Exchange administrator.


Justin: Welcome back to the Mimecast blog. I'm here again with Barry Gill, one of our esteemed bloggers.

Now, in your last blog post you cover something really interesting which is the issues in exchange, a real exchange admin was going through trying to recover mail backups from nearly 10 years ago. And it was a really really interesting case of what you have to go through to get mail back from backups when you didn't have on your exchange server. So, can you talk us through this process that he has to go through to get their mail back?

Barry: Okay. I'll run through it very briefly because I think there's, there's some other things I would like to talk about around it. You can really read it all in the actual blog item itself. But essentially he had mail stores from 2002-2003 that he needed to restore into an exchange 2000 server. Exchange 2000 only runs on Windows server 2000. Windows server 2000 cannot run an active directory and exchange server at the same time unless you really do some really interesting tweaks to the environment. And so he ended up having to worry about - do I deploy new exchange server, new Windows 2000 server for my active directory separate that all out from my current existing infrastructure because I am afraid of things that might happen to my existing systems etc. So this is a massive amount of work that this man has had to undertake.

Now what it's got me to thinking about Justin, is really that many times organizations are faced with keeping all of this information, all of this data and they are told "make a backup of the data". And so backups get made, it gets put into tape. It gets carried away by somebody to an offside storage location. You know, somebody then comes and says "do we have copies of this information", "is this information available to us", and "can we get it back?" And everyone goes "we have got the backup so absolutely we can". And now, in this particular instance he has to worry about can he get access to Windows server 2000 installation cd's, Microsoft Exchange Server 2000 cd's, license keys for these things because they don't really like to run without any of that stuff, you know. So trying to get an active and running deployed system is not that easy.

Companies need to take technology obsolescence into consideration when planning their strategies. And not just "do we have the data", but "do we have all of the tools and resources available to access the information"

Justin: So when we are running through this. He had to find Windows 2000 server. He had to find Windows 2000 server and install it with a correct license. He then had to have another 2000 server with Exchange on it and find...

Barry: No, luckily we were able to circumvent that through finding a very old knowledge base article which showed us how to jimmy the active directory on the windows server so that we can install exchange directly on to that single machine.

Justin: And once he got the tape back from the backup site he had to find a tape drive that actually worked. He could read them?

Barry: Yes, he found one of them in the basement and spend a bit of time cleaning it up and so it didn't destroy his tape.

Justin: I mean, this just strikes me as madness. So you have got this really important data stuck on this backup tape in storage and no way to actually get at it. It's like, I guess, having your kids' first song on an 8 track with only a tape player. Isn't it? It's, you know, a format that you can barely even access. It's strikes me that people aren't really thinking about technology obsolescence through the journey of the life cycle of that technology.

Barry: Yeah, people are really thinking about keeping data. They are not thinking about keeping the applications, the operating systems, notes about the environment that this is in. You can't just deploy an AD server. You need to know what were the servers called, what was the domain naming structure? Has any of that changed since then?

Justin: And with such a transient culture in IT. I mean, this is nearly 10 years old this data. That guy was not there 10 years ago. Was he?

Barry: No.

Justin: I mean, how many IT administrators are with companies 10 years? And all that information is locked up in his head - the IT administrator that left 10 years ago - and this guy is having to recover that old data.

Barry: Well, this is a bit of Sherlock Holmes event for him trying to find everything.

Justin: So how many hours did he work this week?

Barry: So far, in this particular project it's close to 36 hours.

Justin: In 2 days or 3 days, this week?

Barry: In 2 days. Justin: Good effort. So I hope he's got a pizza to sustain him. Pizza and coke.

Barry: I hope so.

Justin: cool, well let me know how that guy gets on, best of luck to him. Cheers.