We get asked frequently which backup solution we recommend… and the obvious answer is ForeFront Data Protection Manager 2010 which includes protection for the entire SharePoint stack (Windows, SQL, and SharePoint itself). Of course we recommend it… WE MAKE IT!.

Otherwise, Microsoft doesn’t recommend, endorse, validate, or support any 3rd party software… pretty much ever. (regardless of partner level… Silver… Gold… Platinum… Unobtainium… whatever). However, we can tell you what questions to ask of your vendor… and what question you should be thinking about.

First, remember that you’re not looking for a “backup solution”. You’re looking for a “Disaster RECOVERY” solution… so the question you should be asking is not “How does this back up”… it should be “What can this help us recover from?”. For example, doing filesystem backups of the SharePoint server is all well and good… but those indexes on the SharePoint server you backed up? Nearly useless. So clearly the fantastic backup strategy is EPIC FAIL on the recovery side… which is the whole point anyway, isn’t it?

Second, there are two key questions that you should be asking when looking for a DR solution::

  1. Does the product use Microsoft provided APIs for backup and restore processes? Specifically, is the Volume Shadowcopy Services API used for all layers of the DR solution, including Windows, SQL, and Sharepoint VSS writers?
    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc264326.aspx
    This is the ONLY METHOD that Microsoft supports for full, automated recovery of a SharePoint environment, including the configuration database and search indexes. Any method product and recovery tool that does not use these APIs is really a “rebuild-then-restore” process.
  2. Does the product perform any action that would cause the customer to fall outside of Microsoft supportability requirements? Specifically, does the product directly communicate with any SharePoint databases and/or write to those databases directly as part of any backup, restore, or management processes.
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/841057
    Directly querying, writing to, or modifying SharePoint databases in any way will cause the databases that were changed to be unsupportable, including advising the customer to restore to a DB version prior to the change that was made regardless of how old such a DB may be. Any DR solution deployed must adhere to these requirements as much as the end-user must.

Third, and last, does the DR solution meet your business and data management needs? Does it offer retention (and mandated deletion)? Offsite storage? Tape management? What is the recovery speed? What is the recovery process? Can you do a “bare metal” recovery? What CAN’T it restore?

…which brings us back to DPM… which does all of these things well. Plus, if you have a problem in your DR strategy, it’s nice to only have one vendor to talk to.

Happy RFP’ing :)