Backing up and restoring SharePoint 2010 databases, content, and configurations can be a complex endeavor. Microsoft has made some significant improvements to the native tools, including the addition of features that let administrators back up an entire farm configuration, an individual web application, an individual site collection, or even specific content. In addition, administrators can now connect to unattached content databases and restore content from them. With that said, it isn’t immediately obvious which backup and restore tools are best for which situations and how to use them. So, I’ll first shed some light on the available backup and restore tools, then concentrate on the tools with which administrators should be familiar.
Knowing Your Options
There is a wide array of options to back up a SharePoint environment:
- SQL Server tools. SharePoint content that’s stored in SQL Server databases can be backed up using SQL Server’s built-in backup and restore tools. You can initiate the backup as a one-time task or as a scheduled job. SharePoint database backups can be combined with other SharePoint backups, such as those available through SharePoint’s Central Administration site or the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell. Unlike SharePoint restore procedures, SQL Server restore procedures can’t restore item-level objects. Only complete database restores are possible.
- Central Administration tools. The Central Administration site includes several tools that can be used to backup and restore the SharePoint environment. However, not all backup and restore options are available when using the Central Administration tools.
- SharePoint 2010 Management Shell. SharePoint 2010 introduces the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell, which is built on top of Windows . By executing SharePoint-specific PowerShell commands in the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell, administrators can gain some functionality that isn’t available through the Central Administration tools.
- Recycle Bin. Originally introduced in the SharePoint 2007 wave of products, this tool is used by users and administrators. Data can be restored by users within 30 days of deletion and thereafter by site collection administrators. SharePoint 2010 SP1 added the Site Recycle Bin, which lets site collection administrators restore entire sites that have been deleted.
- AppCmd. Using the AppCmd command-line tool, administrators can back up the Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 configuration file on a Windows Server 2008 machine. The IIS 7.0 configuration file consists of web.config and applicationHost.config files. When a system failure occurs, administrators can restore the IIS 7.0 configuration from the backup file.
- Stsadm. Although available in SharePoint 2010, Stsadm has been deprecated and is provided only to support backward compatibility. PowerShell is the preferred option—and in certain situations, the only option—for managing the SharePoint 2010 environment.
- Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010. DPM 2010 is Microsoft’s enterprise backup tool. It does snapshot-level backup and restore of SharePoint content, providing for full-farm or item-level recovery. DPM is a separate component that isn’t included with SharePoint 2010.
- Third-party backup tools. Multiple vendors have backup tools for SharePoint 2010 that offer advanced functionality, such as item-level restores.
By using the SQL Server backup and restore tools and SharePoint 2010 Management Shell in addition to the backup and restore options in Central Administration, you can be fully prepared in the event of outages and other problems. The SQL Server tools and SharePoint 2010 Management Shell give SharePoint administrators more backup and restore options—particularly those related to restoring SharePoint databases, performing incremental backups, and scheduling—that aren’t available when using the Central Administration tools. So, let’s take a closer look at these three tool sets.
Using the SQL Server Tools
Fully loaded, a SharePoint 2010 environment will have about 25 databases that contain a significant amount of crucial content. (By fully loaded I mean deployed with FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint; Microsoft Office Web Apps; all service applications; and content, logging, and configuration databases.) That’s a huge number of databases to maintain and back up. To minimize the potential for lost content, it’s crucial to have a solid database backup plan.
There are many options available to back up and restore SharePoint databases. In addition to the Central Administration tools and SharePoint 2010 Management Shell, other options include using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) or