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Exchange Server 2003 – Disaster Recovery Preparation Checklist


The following checklist helps you prepare for disaster recovery. For step-by-step procedures for backing up and restoring Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 using the Windows Backup tool, see the Exchange Server 2003 Disaster Recovery Operations Guide.

Checklist: Disaster Recovery Preparation

Prepared by:


Completed Task


Establish a backup and restore strategy.

Choose a backup strategy that lets you meet your business requirements and service level agreements. For example, allowed downtime, allowed recovery time, and data loss tolerance.

A backup strategy includes the following:

  • Choose backup hardware

  • Choose backup application

  • Identify the things that you want to back up

  • Choose a strategy for recovering an entire server. For example, restoring the server, rebuilding the server, or using a stand-by recovery server.

  • Determine a backup schedule for each category of data that you want to help protect and the frequency of backup types (normal, incremental, differential) for each category


Ensure that you help protect the data you need.

Identify the components that can be restored by replicating data from other sources (for example, data that is stored in Active Directory® directory service), what components must be restored from backups (such as Exchange databases and transaction log files), and what data can be re-created (such as connector and server configuration).

The data you help protect can include the following:

  • Windows® operating system data

  • Domain controller data

  • IIS metabase

  • Exchange Server 2003 databases and transaction logs

  • Site Replication Service

  • Exchange connector-specific data

  • Certification authority (for servers running certification services)

  • Cluster configuration data (if you are using back-end clustering)

  • Individual mailboxes (optional)

  • Unique dynamic data – preserve any other data stored on your servers specific to your organization that would be difficult to re-create or restore. For example, this data might include custom scripts, Web forms for IIS, or any other data that you want to help protect.


Implement practices that minimize the effect of a disaster.

Consider implementing the following measures to help prevent or minimize the effect of a disaster.

  • Have your software and firmware updates available

  • Have all software disks easily available

  • Have a plan to monitor servers proactively

  • Maintain hardware records

  • Maintain software records

  • Implement fault tolerance in your organization at the hardware or software level. This would include using methods like RAID, multi-path hardware solutions, and clustering.

  • Ensure that you have sufficient hard disk capacity for your Exchange servers. You should have sufficient space on your hard disk to restore both the database and the log files. For more information about disk capacity planning, see the Hard Disk Space Considerations section in Best Practices for Configuring Exchange Back-End Storage.

  • Use high quality media

  • Plan schedules for archiving your backup media

  • Archive the backup media in a secure location, for example, a fire-proof safe or at another location (offsite storage)

  • Train your staff on disaster recovery procedures

  • Monitor the health of the Exchange store. For example, monitor the event log for the occurrence of 1221 events to determine the amount of white space available in a database. If the available white space equals 30 percent of the size of the database, you might want to consider offline defragmentation of Exchange databases.

  • Document and test your recovery procedures

  • Verify the integrity of your backups – ensure that they occur without error

  • Perform disaster recovery simulation drills

  • Keep spare hardware available

  • Put your transaction log files and database files on separate physical drives

  • Distribute your users across multiple mailbox stores

  • Consider creating archival servers to store mailboxes that have not been accessed for a pre-determined number of days. This keeps an inactive mailbox from using resources and possibly growing uncontrollably.

  • Put mission-critical mailboxes all in one database for quick restoration, if your business requires it. You can also back up the mailboxes individually (brick-level backups) with third-party backup software.

  • Configure deleted item retention for your users

  • Configure deleted mailbox retention at the mailbox level

  • Implement practices to minimize Exchange database restore times.

  • Ensure that your insurance policy is sufficient


Schedule your maintenance processes and backup operations to run at different times.

This type of schedule increases the efficiency of defragmentation and backup processes.


Ensure that the online maintenance process is completed successfully.

For example:

Event: 1221

Source: MSExchangeIS Private

Type: Information

Category: General

Description: The database has nnn megabytes of free space after online defragmentation has terminated.

Event: 1221

Source: MSExchangeIS Public

Type: Information

Category: General

Description: The database has nnn megabytes of free space after online defragmentation has terminated.


Practice restoring from backup in a test environment.