Businesses increasingly rely on SharePoint to act as the sole point of access for enterprise-wide content. Effective management, vigorous protection, diligent compliance protocols, and continuous availability are therefore crucial requirements for optimal usage as well as minimised exposure to costly downtime and data loss.

Having an established plan to address disruption to the primary SharePoint environment is ensures that interruptions to business processes are minimised. So what should a business include in an ideal SharePoint backup strategy?

Ensuring Full Fidelity of Original Data

In a collaborative environment, where the ability to search for and quickly locate relevant or up-to-date content and track content changes over time with features such as versioning is necessary for daily productivity, data only makes sense when all its associated metadata – including details such as last time of modification and name of the original author – is fully preserved.

It is of vital importance, then, that both the original data and the accompanying metadata are retained during any restoration process in order to be of value to the end user. This requires an awareness of the interdependencies of data as well as the hardware on which that data resides.

Using the native SharePoint backup features to recover a corrupted or missing document, original metadata may be lost as recovered documents are created anew, unintentionally causing a falsification of records that not only jeopardises the integrity of data, but can also have legal consequences, especially if compliance issues and service level agreements (SLAs) are not met.

Businesses therefore need to ensure that their SharePoint backup strategy preserves all accompanying metadata, by either backing up important metadata on a regular basis or by using a third-party tool that retains all of a document’s associated metadata intact during the restoration process.

Granularity of Backup

In today’s 24/7 business environment, it is essential that backup solutions can allow for the protection of content at various levels, including the item, folder, site, and site collection levels.

Many different events can cause document destructions, from human actions to viruses and hardware failure, and native SharePoint backup tools can only back up select components of the SharePoint farm, including entire databases, or specified site collections, sites, and lists or libraries with “Granular Backup” or “Export” functionality.

This requires large amounts of additional storage space, and the restoration process can be time consuming and complex, as granular restores from site or lists-level export data must be scripted.

When developing a SharePoint backup and recovery strategy, infrastructure management tools that offer granular recovery – and subsequently enable restoration of data directly into the production environment – should be considered to help to reduce interruptions to the business and simplify the restoration process.

The ability to prioritise the recovery of select business critical files in the event of IT failure means that IT managers can rank tasks according to business importance, improving efficiency across the board and minimising the effect of any IT disturbances.

Flexibility of Schedules

The most challenging business decision with regard to backup strategy is to determine backup schedules for various data types and how they relate to meeting SLAs. It is important to consider that, whilst backups with SharePoint’s native tools are taking place, users can only access content in “read only” mode and any modifications to documents during this process will not be captured.

The following SharePoint Backup Planning Criticality Matrix (fig. 1) can help businesses to determine the right backup scheduling strategy for their SharePoint environment.

Whilst the importance of a reliable backup schedule is clear, native SharePoint backup scheduling has its limitations, as it requires manual configuration to kick off the backup processes. Solutions that automate the backup process can therefore be very useful, enabling organisations to schedule a backup with minimal disruption and avoiding locking databases during the backup period.

If there are only a few important documents to backup, it is illogical to backup an entire content database. Instead, businesses will gain tangible benefit from a tool which enables granular backup and restoration functionalities, avoiding scripting to further reduce the possibility of human error.

Differentiating Storage

When developing a SharePoint backup solution, businesses should take advantage of any existing tiered storage capabilities. This will enable cost savings as less critical data can be stored on lower tiered storage. For example, data with high business importance that requires hourly backups will need to be stored in tier 1 storage in order to possess the performance benefits that more robust servers provide.

Then, data with medium business importance that require daily backups can be stored in tier 2 storage, and data which is of low importance requiring only weekly backups can be stored on tier 3 or cloud storage.

It’s also key to ensure that any content stored on tier 2, 3, or cloud storage devices – which may not specifically be in SharePoint’s SQL Server content databases if organisations are leveraging Microsoft’s external BLOB storage (EBS) or remote BLOB storage (RBS) APIs, are included in the overall organisational data protection plan.

Being able to automate storage decisions based on data importance is a valuable time saver that will also help business make vast savings on storage facilities while still ensuring availability of data.

Without a firm data protection strategy in place, organisations expose themselves to unnecessary downtime and diminished productivity. Third-party tools that alleviate pain during disaster recovery processes by protecting all SharePoint elements no matter where they reside – including customizations or solutions on SharePoint web front ends and externalized BLOBs – while enabling granular recovery can dramatically reduce the amount of downtime a company will face.