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What are some of the options that resellers and integrators should cover with customers for email file recovery?
The first thing is to understand what exactly they're trying to recover. Is it going to be message data? Is it going to be the entire Exchange store? And what's the purpose for using that [recovered data]?
And what are some of the key factors in recovering email?
The big one is the timeframe. Typically, recovering the entire Exchange environment is going to be a very speed-pressured operation, so being able to get that information recovered, back online and ready to go in a very short period of time is going to be critical. Single-message recovery is typically probably as critical to a particular user, but to the organization as a whole doesn't have that same level of urgency that the whole system being down might have. So [in single-message recovery, speed isn't as critical as in a] full system recovery.
What are the differences between e-mail file recovery and archive?
Those terms are often used interchangeably. But, essentially, with email recovery, you're really focusing on the shorter end of that timeline: You need to get, most often, the most recent e-mail or the most recent e-mail message storage backup in place in a very quick order. Archive is really encompassing a vast array of subjects: long-term storage, typically some sort of an indexing method to be able to search and find and categorize different mail message. And in many cases now, [it encompasses] legal retention to adhere to either regulations or laws that the government has put on business. So, there's a higher legal component to the archive as well. Also, the archive process is, in many cases, nowadays, outside of the normal backup process. Resellers should really advise customers that keeping the backup of their email system for five years isn't exactly an email archive. That's where specific e-mail archive application systems come to play.
Why does all the mindshare go to archiving rather than to recovery?
I think it depends on whatever disaster happened to hit the user last. Almost every IT administrator that I speak to can tell you a horror story of spending the whole weekend trying recover the Exchange database because it got hit with a virus, or, more often than not, got corrupted. And the time to recover Exchange, in those situations, is never really factored in to the purchasing process. Very few people actually do a test of what a full system recovery might be. So, a real viable service that resellers should look at is actually going in and being that test for the customers. Say, "Look, let's pretend on our systems that your email server crashed; let's see how long it actually would take to bring the whole thing back up and be running." And then also maybe even, as a service, develop a run book by which they do that. I think that many customers will be very surprised at how long it will actually take them to recover an Exchange instance. It's much more complicated than just moving a seemingly small set of data from tape back to disk.
And are there customers who are willing to pay for that kind of testing?
Yes. We've seen many cases where they're willing to pay for that kind of testing. Now, they're not going to pay an egregious amount of money for it, but they will pay a fair rate. And then the resellers could [think in terms of just covering the cost of doing the test, to build up good will with the customer]. I would say at least in 90% of the cases we've been involved with, the email recovery goes nothing like the customer expected it to, and there's additional opportunities for the reseller to provide product to the end user.
I think it's something that has suddenly become taken for granted, that everything now works, and it really shouldn't be [taken for granted]. The importance of email is amazing. If the email system's down, people actually stop working. It's almost like the phones got disconnected. It's a critical competent of the enterprise, probably moreso than ever. And bringing that subject up, talking to the customer about what their email file recovery and archive strategies look like. I think [that's a valuable subject] that resellers should spend some time going over with their customers.
This was first published in February 2009