Ask most IT Administrators in small to medium sized organizations to recover an Exchange mailbox, and you’ll get responses like, “how important is it to recover it?” and “How much of it is gone?” You might even get the slightly patronizing “Oh, well you were close to your storage quota anyway” This is IT-speak for “I don’t want to recover it” (labor intensive), “I’m not sure if I can recover it” (it didn’t work the last time they tried), or “I can’t recover it, and don’t really want to tell you that.” Trust me, I’ve been there.
The recovery process has ranged anywhere from non-existent (Exchange 4.0) to supposedly easy (according to the glossy ad of the 3rd party solution you might have purchased, but could never get to work correctly), to cautiously doable, but an incomplete solution, with later versions of Exchange. As each year passes, I’m always hoping that technology can make the process easier, without pushing through another big purchase.
I got my wish. Technology has indeed improved the process. I recently had a user mailbox’s contents vanish. Who knows what happened, but I had to get the mailbox back fast, so I had to familiarize myself with the process again. This time, since my Exchange 2007 Server is virtualized, and the Exchange databases and logs reside on guest attached volumes, I was able to take advantage of EqualLogic’s “AutoSnapshot Manager Microsoft Edition” or ASM/ME.
ASM/ME allowed me to easily recover an Exchange Storage Group, then mount it as a Recovery Storage Group (RSG). From that point I could restore just that single mailbox on top of the existing mailbox. What a refreshing discovery to see how simple the process has become. And that, it just worked. No weird errors to investigate, no tapes to fiddle with. It was a complete solution for a mailbox recovery scenario. The best part of all, was that its a function available free of charge to any EqualLogic user who is using the Host Integration Toolkit (HITKit) on their Exchange server.
Here is how you do it.
1. On the Exchange Server, open up ASM/ME, highlight the smart copy collection that you’d like to recover. I say “Collection” because I want to recover the volume that has the DB on it and the volume that has the Transaction Logs on it at the same time.
2. Select option to “Create Recover Storage Group”
3. Select the desired Storage Group
4. It will prompt for two drive letters not being used. This will represent the location of the restored volumes. So if the Exchange databases are on E: and the Transaction Logs are on F:, it might prompt you to used “G:” and “H:” respectively.
6. Close out of ASM/ME, and launch the “Database Recovery Management” in the Toolbox section of the Exchange Management Console. This leads to the “Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant in the Exchange Management Console (EMC).
7. Run through the restoration process. It will restore the selected mailbox on top of the existing mailbox.
8. Once it is complete, as the dialog above instructs, you will need to dismount and logoff the smart copy collection set with ASM/ME after the RSG is removed.
The process was fast, and worked the very first time without error. I’d still prefer to never have to recover a mailbox, but it is nice to know that now, thanks to ASM/ME and the Exchange Database Recovery Management tool, that its really easy to do.
A more detailed guide on using RSGs in Exchange:
Working with a Recovery Storage group in the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) instead of the EMC.