Using Commvault for Exchange & Exchange Online for Items

In this third and last post on this series this week, I will go over how Commvault provides data protection and much more for items in Exchange Server or Exchange Online.

First post: Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP
Second post:  Using Commvault for Exchange Server

Protecting items

Besides the database level support, Commvault has extensive item\mailbox level backup support aka “brick-level backups”, a term coined going back before the ExMerge days. This support can be used for Exchange Server and Exchange Online (EXO). Connections are made from a “proxy client” which can be running on a Windows server\VM on-premises or in the cloud, like Microsoft Azure. The proxy client can also utilize CV’s deduplication technology to only send the unique bits across the network to the other Commvault backend servers. The backend data is then written and retained on storage targets based on the defined storage policies.

Commvault is flexible enough to meet many different organizational requirements. A key one is around item level protection and recovery, past Exchange’s Deleted Item retention setting. This setting comes into play when users or another process hard deletes items. For mailboxes in Exchange Online, item level retention is a concern for many organizations since Deleted Item retention has a max value of 30 days, as of Jan 2018. Almost every organization I’ve worked wants or needs to retain emails for years, in some cases 100 years! If using Exchange Server, O365 E3, or EXO Plan 2 license, a way to save data longer is to put mailboxes on retention hold. For some organizations, this might be a good enough solution. Although, if item level recovery is needed past the Deleted Item retention period, the recovery process requires doing a compliance search to find and copy items into a discovery mailbox, then exporting the items from that mailbox to a PST, and then imported the PST data back into the target mailbox; requiring PowerShell experience. So, this is not a very quick or simple task that can be delegated to most IT staff. In addition, using native tools alone keeps all the data in EXO, where there are no backups, just data replication, therefore no protection against intentional or accidentals data loss, item level corruption, or ransomware (Ransomware applies to O365 also).

Item level protection and easy recovery has a lot of value to many organization, to others it’s much more important to be able to carry out eDiscovery and search of their data. In this area CV truly excels, since CV can index and search files from Windows, *nix, NAS, Exchange/EXO, SharePoint/SPO, OneDrive for Business and more. When CV backups up data, it is available for both recovery and search from the same data. This provides major benefits to almost all the organizations, since CV provides cross-premises, cross-application, and cross-cloud support with a single platform.

Journaling Support

The 3rd way CV can provide data protection and help meet compliance needs for email data is via its SMTP journaling support. CV includes an SMTP listener that can receive journaled or any SMTP message. For orgs in EXO this is very import support, if they have the desire or requirement to use journaling. This is due to the fact you cannot have a journal rule in EXO have a target that is also in EXO. For such organization, Microsoft recommends having an Exchange Server on-premises as the target for this data or go with a 3rd party solution. CV’s has had journal mailbox management support for many years, which ingest data from and helps to manage Exchange journal mailboxes. CV’s direct SMTP journaling support was introduced in 2017 and it allows customers to reduce complexity, possibility eliminates the requirement of an on-premises Exchange server, or eliminate other 3rd solutions used for this.

Closing

In summary, Commvault has extensive support and benefits for Exchange via its database, mailbox, item, and message level protection, recovery, retention, and search capabilities. Commvault infrastructure can be configured to run all on-premises, all in the cloud, or as a hybrid of both. This enables an organization to backup their Office 365 and other data to Azure, for example, and for keeping their cloud data in the cloud, on-premises, or in multiple locations. Commvault provides the flexibility to meet almost any organization’s data protection, recovery, and compliance requirements without hardware, storage, or cloud vendor lock-in.

For more on what Commvault can do for Office 365 see https://www.commvault.com/solutions/by-technology/enterprise-applications/microsoft-office-365. Information on our general Microsoft support can be found at  http://microsoft.com/Commvault (one of the very few 3rd party companies to have a dedicated site on Microsoft.com) and https://commvault.com/Microsoft. In future articles, I’ll go into more detail on our Exchange support and do a similar post on CV’s SharePoint support.

Posts in this series:
1st post: Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP
2nd post: Using Commvault for Exchange Server
3rd post: Using Commvault for Exchange & Exchange Online for Items  (This post) 

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and don’t represent the views of Commvault.

Posted in Technical | 2 Comments

Using Commvault for Exchange Server

In my first post on Commvault, I provided an overview of the platform. In this post, I will cover what Commvault can do for Exchange Server databases, at a high level.

Reducing and protecting data in Exchange Server

With the basics of Commvault covered previously, let’s dig into some details about support for Microsoft Exchange. Within an Exchange DAG, mailbox databases can be replicated across multiple servers to provide high availability. The preferred architecture for Exchange calls for the usage of commodity servers and storage, including JBOD. What I have found, is that most large organization virtualize Exchange and store databases on a SAN still. Many large organizations have invested heavily in virtualization and SAN solutions and have optimized processes around them. They have become comfortable with these technologies and most workloads are pushed to use them, even if it doesn’t make for the most architecturally efficient design. In these orgs, reducing data via deletion and\or stubbing from can provide key value them.

A common requirement is to have a second\backup copy of data that is off-application, at different locations, and/or on different storage platforms to protect against logical corruption, catastrophic loss, vendor lock-in, administrator accidents, malicious actions, malware, and more.

Protecting databases

For data protection, which include database and individual items in Exchange, CV has VERY extensive support. For example, CV is DAG aware, so you can setup a policy so certain or all databases are always backed up from a passive copy, including support to fallback to the active copy if all passive copies are unavailable. If a SAN is used, CV can backup the databases directly from it, in an application consistent way, leveraging the SAN’s hardware snapshot technology. This is done by using the VSS calls, to ensure the databases have been quiesced correctly. Once CV gets the confirmation that the VSS call was successful, the LUN that the database(s) are on are snapped on the SAN, via the native APIs. In most cases, these LUNs are then mounted directly on a CV server and the databases are deduped against the previous data from early backups and the new unique data is sent to the CV configured storage, based on the storage policy. Using this method, databases are not streamed directly from production disk over the network from the Exchange Server to the target media. This means the backup I/O doesn’t impact the servers or users. Even if Exchange is running on a non-supported SAN or DAS, a VSS based streaming backup can be utilized.

From the backup copies, which can include the existing snapshots on the SAN, the databases can be restored back to their original location, to recovery databases, or directly to the file system. Database backups can even be browsed so individual items or entire mailboxes can be restored\exported.

In my next post, will cover what Commvault does for Exchange Server and Exchange Online for item and message level data management.

Posts in this series:
1st post: Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP 
2nd post: Using Commvault for Exchange Server (This post)
3rd post: Using Commvault for Exchange & Exchange Online for Items

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and don’t represent the views of Commvault.

Posted in Commvault, Exchange, Microsoft, O365, Technical | 2 Comments

Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP

I’ve been at Commvault (CV) for three years and have been working with Exchange for 21 years and it’s long overdue for me to write on both topics. When I was being recruited to join Commvault, I thought they “just did backup” and the recruiter did a good job of explaining the many ways Commvault does more than “just backup.” At tradeshows and when talking to customers and prospect it’s very common to hear “I didn’t know Commvault did that.” In this post, I will provide a high-level overview of what Commvault does for Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online/Office 365. In future articles, I will look at CV’s support for SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Azure, and other Microsoft solutions. CV also supports many other application and data management features. This initial post provides an overview of the Commvault product, two additional posts will go over Commvault’s support for Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online (Office 365).

The elevator pitch

Commvault is made up of data experts and they help their customers become experts with their data. CV has been doing backup and recovery for over 20 years, but goes far beyond backups.

CV provides data protection, replication, retention, eDiscovery, compliance management, and more. This is done using a single platform to provide data management across many areas. Unlike the many point solutions in this space, CV was developed internally on a single platform versus by acquiring technologies. Therefore, all modules work very well together and can be used with a single management interface.

The platform

Commvault can be utilized to protect dozens of applications, storage, and cloud solutions using their native APIs to provide application\database consistent backup and recovery; in many cases down to object level. CV can utilize many different vendor’s hardware, hypervisor, storage, and cloud offering to host the Commvault infrastructure and data. CV agents reduce data transmitted and stored by utilizing client-side and server-side data deduplication support. “Storage policies” define what data should be stored where if it should be deduplicated, encrypted, replicated to other locations, and how long it should be stored at each location. Data can be backed up from servers, databases, SANs, NAS, clusters, DAGs, clouds, VMs, etc. It can then be stored on JBOD, DAS, NAS, SAN, cloud, or tape; and each copy can have their own retention policy. Using these policies, data can be transitioned to lower cost storage as it ages based on an organization needs, comfort factor, etc.

In my next post, I will cover what Commvault does for Exchange Server, mainly Exchange databases. In the last post in this series, I’ll cover how Commvault provides data management for items and messages in Exchange or transmitted via SMTP journaling.

Posts in this series:
1st post: Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP (This post)
2nd post: Using Commvault for Exchange Server
3rd post: Using Commvault for Exchange & Exchange Online for Items

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and don’t represent the views of Commvault.

Posted in Commvault, Exchange, Microsoft, O365, Technical | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Exchange quarterly updates released

On 12/17/2017 Microsoft released the latest quarterly updates for Exchange 2010, 2013, & 2016.

Exchange 2010 SP3 RU19 Info | Download KB4035162
Exchange 2013 CU19 Info| Download KB4037224
Exchange 2016 CU8 Info | Download KB4035145

There aren’t any major changes in these CUs, but here are a couple of items to call out:

  1. .NET Framework 4.7.1 support in Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016.
    • Install CU19 or CU8 BEFORE you install .NET 4.71
    • .NET 4.7.1 will be REQUIRED with the planned June 2018 CUs, so plan on installing it after you install these CUs or the ones in March
  2. Support for Hybrid Modern Authentication (HMA) for BOTH 2013 & 2016
  3. These CUs will not overwrite TLS settings like previous CUs would

For a bit more info see this EHLO blog post: Released: December 2017 Quarterly Exchange Updates

Posted in Exchange, Microsoft, Technical | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Ignite 2017 – Key Sessions for Exchange

This year, which was around by 20th TechEd\Ignite, I was working the Commvault booth Mon-Thur and didn’t get to any sessions. As the field expert for most things Microsoft for Commvault (I cover AD, Exchange, SharePoint, Office 365 fully and Azure some), being in the booth to answer questions on what Commvault does for Microsoft solutions, which is a lot (microsoft.com/Commvault), at a Microsoft show was a must. But this also meant I didn’t get to attend any sessions.

So below are some link that lists some key one for Exchange Admins.

  1. By the Exchange Team https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange
  2. By “Super Tekboy” aka Gareth Gudger https://supertekboy.com/2017
  3. Find all the online sessions here also: https://myignite.microsoft.com/sessions
  4. For Tony Redmond’s reflections on Ignite https://www.petri.com/author/tony-redmond

Know of others such list? Comment and I’ll add them, if they are focused on  Exchange/EXO.

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FIXED in iOS 11.0.1: DO NOT Upgrade to iOS 11, if using Apple Mail & Exchange Online or Outlook.com

9/26: iOS 11.0.1 has been released and fixes the issue with ActiveSync with Exchange 2016\Exchange Online. See Apple article HT208136: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208136

HTTP/2 will now work on your Exchange 2016, running on Windows Server 2016, and with EXO.

1st heard of here http://www.essential.exchange/2017/09/26/ios-11-0-1-released-eas-on-ios-fixed/, by Michael B. Smith.

Apple released iOS 11 on 9/19/2017 and AGAIN they failed to test the largest email system in the world, Office 365\Exchange Online, with their email client. Apple has had a history of issues with Exchange since iOS 2.0 and with multiple iOS version have broken feature in Apple Mail on initial release.

So, if using an iOS device, do not upgrade to iOS11 yet, if your mailbox is hosted on O365\Exchange Online, Outlook.com, or if your organization is running Exchange 2016 on Windows 2016. The common factor here is that that Office 365\Exchange Online and Outlook.com all use Exchange 2016 running on Windows 2016.

The issue is that the native Apple Mail client in iOS 11 does not support HTTPS/2 TLS protocol, which is used by Exchange 2016. It seems, that Apple Mail can receive messages, but fails to send\reply to them. The Apple Mail App uses Exchange ActiveSync and when it connects to Exchange 2016, Exchange uses HTTPS/2 TLS by default, but Mail App doesn’t negotiate down to HTTP/1.1 and the connection fails.

In Office 365, you should see this alert MC119954:
MC119954

If your organization is running Exchange 2016 on Windows 2016, you can disable HTTP/2 on the server. To do this see this Microsoft article: How to deploy custom cipher suite ordering in Windows Server 2016, which just has this RegKey setting:

To enable and disable HTTP/2, follow these steps:

  1. Start regedit (Registry Editor).
  2. Move to this subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP\Parameters
  3. Set DWORD type value EnableHttp2Tls to one the following:
    1. Set to 0 to disable HTTP/2
    2. Set to 1 to enable HTTP/2
  4. Restart the computer.

If your mailbox is hosted on Outlook.com or Exchange On-line and you have already updated to iOS11 your only option, currently, is to change email clients. I HIGHLY recommend Microsoft’s Outlook App (download here).

Other articles on this issue:

Posted in Apple, Exchange, Microsoft, O365, Technical | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

FREE Microsoft eBooks! Lots of them!!!

Came across this today and had to share with others: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/mssmallbiz/2017/07/11/largest-free-microsoft-ebook-giveaway-im-giving-away-millions-of-free-microsoft-ebooks-again-including-windows-10-office-365-office-2016-power-bi-azure-windows-8-1-office-2013-sharepo/

12 that cover parts of Office 365
16 that cover or touch on SharePoint
12 for PowerShell

And many others for Office 2013, 2016, and other office products and many on server products. Sadly there are ZERO on Exchange 😦

 

Posted in Microsoft, O365, Outlook, SharePoint, Technical | Leave a comment