I was quite surprised when someone from Microsoft told me that DPM v2 Beta 1 not only allows backups of Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint, but also supports tape libraries. This would make DPM v2 a serious competitor to backup tools like Symantec Backup Exec or CA ARCserve. It made me quite curious to try DPM v2. Microsoft's latest CDP solution certainly is an interesting backup tool. However, Beta 1 has one major shortcoming.
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Like most CDP solutions, DPM 2006 is a disk-based backup tool. DPM v2, its successor, is still disk-based, but you can indeed backup data directly to tapes. I tried it with an old Dell SDLT drive. DPM v2 had no problem storing and retrieving data from it.
Disk-based backups are becoming more and more popular. However, for long-term storage, tapes are still the better solution. With DPM v2, you can easily combine both types of storage media. You simply tell DPM that you want to use disks for short-term backup and tapes for long-term storage when you create a Protection Group, i.e., a backup job.
You can separately configure the retention ranges and the backup synchronization frequency for both types. So, for example, you could set a retention time of five days for disk-based backups and a year for tape-based backups. DPM allows a minimum synchronization frequency of 15 minutes for disk-based backups. You can run tape backups daily, but with a five-day retention range for the disk backups, you could work with weekly tape backups.
What I like about this solution is that you only have to configure one backup job for each server. With conventional backup software, you usually have separate job definitions for disk and tape backups and you have separate jobs for daily, weekly, and monthly backups. So all in all, you have six backup jobs for each server. With DPM v2, there is just one, thereby making the setup of backup jobs not only less time consuming, but helpful in keeping a better overview of your backup jobs.
I also ran backups of an Exchange 2003 Server with DPM v2. The DPM agent recognized automatically that Exchange was installed on the server. You can select each Exchange storage group separately as the backup source. DPM v2 supports restores of singular mailboxes, but you can't restore single items like individual e-mails. That means DPM v2 Beta 1 doesn't support so-called brick-level backups.
I wasn't able to restore a single mailbox to the Exchange Server. DPM always complained that the user was still connected to the mailbox, which wasn't really the case. Okay, I understand this is just beta software. I'll try this feature again when the next version is out.
Restoration of the complete database was no problem, though. DPM dismounts the Exchange storage group during the restore process. However, this only works for the latest backup. If you want to restore older backups, you have to restore the database files to a separate location and then mount them with Exchange.
Apart from the tape support and the aforementioned possibility to backup SQL Server and SharePoint, I didn't find any other big changes when compared to DPM 2006 SP1. The user interface looks pretty much the same. I didn't try any backups of SQL Server or SharePoint. I'll probably do that when the final is available.
In the introduction, I said that DPM v2 Beta1 has a major shortcoming. Like DPM 2006, it doesn't support backups of Windows system files. This, at least, is true for the Beta 1. Therefore, DPM v2 Beta 1 can't be used for disaster recovery. However, a Microsoft employee told me that Beta 2 will be able to backup the Windows system state.
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So I am looking forward to Beta 2 to see if this is really true. Beta 1 is also a bit unstable. I had to reinstall it once since the management console (MMC) wasn't able to load the DPM user interface anymore. I'll test DPM v2 more thoroughly as soon as a better version comes out.