Exchange Server 2010: Data Protection and Availability

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Any loss of stored e-mails and other information can not only result in affecting employee productivity but can also result in compliance failure and inability to enforce claims through discovery of relevant documents. Data protection is thus critical in the Exchange environment. Server 2010 has introduced Data Availability Groups (DAG) to ensure high availability of data.

A DAG is a group of up to 16 mailbox servers hosting a set of databases. Any server in this group can maintain a copy of a mailbox database from any other server in the group. A DAG thus enables up to 16 copies of databases to be maintained, and also has automated facility to recover data in case of server or database failure.

Another feature, Role Based Access Control allows specifying the administrative tasks that administrators and end-users do with the mailboxes. Users can be allowed to administer their own mailboxes to the extent specified. RBAC does away with some of the problems associated with Access Control Lists (ACLs) that were maintained by administrators under Server 2007.

In essence, RBAC determines what senders and recipients of mail can do. Data can thus be protected from unauthorized use. With the new granularity provided by RBAC, this task can also be delegated to some extent to the users, matching their role in the organization.

Increased Data Availability

A key function of DAG is to enhance the data availability experience of mailbox users. In addition to the automated data recovery feature mentioned above, it is also possible now to continue making e-mail available to users even during switchovers and failovers, which usually involve shutting the service down for the duration.

Because the database copies are maintained in different servers (instead of being mirrored on the same server), the copies continue to be available even in case of a server failure. The same scenario is repeated if the administrator shuts down a particular server for maintenance. Copies of mailboxes on those servers will be available on other servers.

When a failed server is restored, it will synchronize the database copies it maintains with the originals. This will include updating its own “original” from the latest “copy” on another server.

The concept can be extended to cover multiple sites as when copies of databases on the servers in one site are maintained on a server at the other site. What this can mean is that even in the case of serious disaster incident at one of the sites, data will be safe because copies are available at the remote site.

The Disaster Recovery role in Exchange Server 2010 is discussed in detail at: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd876902.aspx.

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