Oct 30, 2008

Brick Level Backups of Exchange Using ExMerge

Hey guys! I didn't think I would find time to write today, but low and behold I found a quick moment. If figured I would go ahead and write about something I am working on today which is developing a way to do a brick Level backup of one of our Exchange servers using the built-in ExMerge tool.

For those of you that don't speak Exchange, brick level backups are the backing up of individual mailboxes. This provides the fastest and easiest method of recovering an individual user's stuff in the even they accidentally deleted something important.

exmerge brick backup microsoft exchangeWell, we were using CA's Arcserve Brightstor to perform this backup, but it was taking up to 6 days to do a full brick backup of our main Exchange server. This is because the standard Exchange agent that comes with Brightstor only allows for one thread. With one lousy thread it was taking us 6 days to do a brick level backup on all of our mailboxes. This would cause our database backup jobs to fail, because the Brightstor agent could only handle one backup job at a time.

We have since abandoned the idea of brick backups, and have since gone to a daily full database backup because it is faster. The only problem with that is if you have to recover a set of emails for one user, you have to restore the entire database.

Now, we could pay for the premium agent from CA that will allow multiple threads, and multiple backup jobs at once, but the price is outrageous. Also, with the state of the housing market (Yes, I work in the real estate industry) we are running on a tight budget. I have been tasked with developing a way to create the brick level backups, without spending any money.

I am here to tell you it can be done, and I have done it! Exchange comes with a utility called ExMerge which allows you to export a users entire mailbox to a PST file. It is really straight forward on how to use it through the GUI, but many people don't realize that it has some command line options as well that allows you to write a script to ExMerge all of your mailboxes to individual PST files, and you can even set the number of threads (The default is 5).

What you do is go through the GUI, and set all of you options, then export those settings to an EXMERGE.INI file to a folder of your choosing (i.e. C:\brick). Then you write your batch file to point ExMerge to that ini. Here is an example of the commands I used:


The NUMTHREADS switch sets the number of threads. As you can see, I used 10 which allows for 10 mailboxes to be exported at once. You can obviously set it higher, or lower depending on your needs. The -D switch shows the GUI progress, otherwise ExMerge executes silently in the background. I wanted to monitor it so I could see how long this backup took to run. You may be happy to know that this backup ran in 32 hours, and was able to export 414 mailboxes successfully (260GB worth of email, attachments and other junk). Not bad when compared to 6 days with CA right?

If you want more detailed instructions on how to do this, follow the instructions I read through from the folks over at Petri here (ExMerge brick Instructions).

What is your current Exchange backup solution? Hit me up in the comments.

Looking For Exmerge for Exchange 2007? Click Here: (Brick Backups in Exchange 2007)

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