Backup strategies for Exchange

Backup Exec incorporates online, nondisruptive Exchange database protection as part of everyday backup routines, which increases the chance of data recovery and minimizes data loss without inhibiting daily activity. Backup Exec protects Exchange data, including the individual storage group, database, mailbox, and public folder with full, copy, incremental, and differential backups.

To decide which backup methods to use, consider the following:

  • In small office environments with relatively small numbers of messages passing through the system, a daily full backup will provide good data protection and the quickest recovery. If log file growth becomes an issue, consider using incremental online backups at midday to provide an added recovery point and manage the log file growth for you automatically.

  • In large environments, incremental backups should be used to provide more frequent recovery point options throughout the day and to manage log file growth. Many shops run full backups on a weekly basis, preferring to run incremental backups throughout the week to keep backup run time to a minimum. The trade-off with this technique occurs at recovery time when you must recover from the full backup and from each incremental backup as well.

What works best for you is based on the size of your environment, the number of transactions processed each day, and the expectations of your users when a recovery is required.

Consider the following backup strategies:

  • Run Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server (CPS) jobs weekly or daily. The full backups and the replicated transaction logs provide complete recovery to any point in time of the Information Store, including the latest complete transaction log. You can also restore individual messages or folders from the CPS backup.

    When you enable recovery points to run at intervals between the full backups, you can restore individual messages or folders at a point in time when the recovery point was created. Another advantage of recovery points is that log growth is controlled because the transaction logs are truncated after each recovery point runs.


    You cannot use CPS on an Exchange server that is in an Exchange Server 2010 Database Availability Group (DAG).

  • Run full backups with the option to enable the restore of individual items selected so that you can restore individual mail messages and folders without restoring the entire database.

    Depending on your environment, run full backups as follows:

    • As frequently as possible, no less than once a day.

    • Daily with differential backups used at regular periods throughout the day.

    • Every few days (no less than weekly) with frequent incremental backups in between each full backup.

  • Run Exchange backup jobs separately from other backup jobs.

In addition to backing up Exchange storage groups or databases, you should also back up the following on a regular basis:

Table: Backup selections for Exchange configuration data

Recommended backup selections for configuration data


File system

Back up folders and drives containing files for Windows and Exchange. Usually, this is the root drive C:\ but may be different in each environment.


Back up the C:\ drive, but do not back up the virtual drive that is created by Exchange, if this virtual drive exists in your environment. It is intended only to provide Explorer access to the Exchange data, but all file system functions may not be replicated. Backup and restore operations are not recommended or supported.

Windows registry

Back up the registry by running a full backup.

System State and/or Shadow Copy Components

Select System State and run a full backup to back up the following:

  • The Internet Information Service (IIS) metabase

  • The Windows registry

See About selecting data to back up .

If the entire server must be restored, you must restore System State before restoring Exchange 2000. You must also restore both System State and Shadow Copy Components before restoring Exchange Server 2003/2007/2010.

Active Directory

To back up Active Directory, select System State on the domain controllers and run a full backup.

When there are configuration changes on the Exchange server database, such as when objects are added, modified, or deleted, back up the Active Directory on the domain controllers.


Spread multiple domain controllers throughout each domain for efficient Active Directory replication, and so that if one domain controller fails, redundancy is still provided.


Configure an Information Store backup for which the Granular Recovery Technology (GRT) option is enabled to restore individual mailboxes, mail messages, and public folders. Backing up individual Exchange mailboxes separately from the Information Store uses legacy backup methods, and is no longer required for individual mailbox recovery.

See About backing up Exchange Server 2010 Databases.

More Information

How to restore individual items by using Granular Recovery Technology

About backing up Exchange 2003/2007

How to prepare for disaster recovery of Exchange Server

Backup strategies for Exchange