How to Create a SharePoint Backup Strategy

When it comes to SharePoint data protection, you need to have the right backup strategy in place. It’s not as easy as Microsoft makes it look out of the box. Whether you need to back up SharePoint in the event of unexpected hardware or software failure (disaster recovery), are archiving data for legal, regulatory, or business reasons, or simply putting back something a user accidentally deleted, a good SharePoint backup strategy is the key to ensuring your data is available whenever you need to access it.

This is valid for all SharePoint versions but is even more important with SharePoint 2016. With the new MinRole architecture and hybrid capabilities, it is a bit more complicated to manage and backup farms in the latest version of SharePoint.

What do you need to back up in SharePoint?

The first step in forming a backup strategy is to knowing what to back up. Your plan should address each of these different components of SharePoint:

  • Databases
    • Content
    • Third party
  • Configurations
    • Farm
    • Web application
    • Internet Information Server
  • Customizations
    • WSPs
    • Global assembly cache
  • Binaries
    • SharePoint Hive
    • Third party
    • Log files

Depending on your reasons for backup, you probably won’t need to back up everything. You can use different techniques to back up just the right amount of data in SharePoint. Sometimes, you’ll only need to back up a single list, library, or web app. For example, when you have content in your site collections that’s being updated daily, you can schedule backups on a daily basis or even multiple times a day. You may also have lists and libraries with content that’s being constantly updated, such as incoming orders or invoices, that needs to be backed up every fifteen minutes.

For instance, you can choose to run a full farm backup weekly for disaster protection. You would back up everything including all service applications, web applications, settings, and so on. But because you (hopefully) have a change management system and are not changing farm settings on a daily basis, you don’t need to back these up on a daily basis. Also, web applications that are primarily used as a kind of archive don´t change every day, so why back up them each day? Look at your content to guide the creation of your backup schedule and goals.

Best Practices for SharePoint Backup Strategy

Minimize latency between the backup location and SQL Server

For backups, it is best to use a local disk on the database server instead of a network drive. Data can then be copied to a shared folder on the network. In case you need to use network drives, the database server will perform well on network drives with 1 millisecond or less latency between them. By design, most backup jobs consume all available I/O resources to complete the job. To avoid I/O bottlenecks, perform the main backup to a separate disk from the disk running SQL Server.

Avoid processing conflicts

Consider staggered backups so that not all databases are backed up at the same time. Also, it’s best practice not to run backup jobs during times when users require access to the system – this ensures performance is not compromised. Use a third-party tool to schedule automated backups on nights or weekends, depending when your organization’s downtime is.

Smaller content databases for faster recovery

Since smaller databases can be recovered faster, multiple content databases should be used for a web application instead of one large content database.

Use incremental backups for large databases

Incremental backups can be restored faster and more efficiently than full backups for larger databases. This is because an incremental backup just stores the changes made since the last backup. Let’s assume you have a 200GB content database. Not all of your content changes on a daily basis. The average change rate is less than 5 percent. So, instead of backing up all 200GB each day, you may only back up 10GB a day. Or, if you run multiple incremental backup jobs a day, you can back up 2GB at a time 5 times a day.

Prepare your recovery environment

A recovery environment should always be ready to test data restore. I recommend practicing a data restore from your backup on a monthly or bimonthly basis. When a real disaster happens, your team is ready with next steps instead of scrambling.

Implementing SharePoint Backup Strategy and Using Third-Party Solutions

As you can see, SharePoint backup is not an easy job, but with the right strategy and tools to support you, it can be simple. Using a third party backup tool you have a lot more flexibility to decide:

  • What to back up
  • Where to store it
  • How long to keep it

Also, when it comes to granular restores of single lists, items, or even item versions, third-party products offer a lot more options than Microsoft SharePoint does out of the box. In case you lose your complete SharePoint farm, you will notice that SharePoint native backup does not restore everything to get your farm up and running quickly. Tools like DocAve Backup and Restore are fully integrated with SharePoint and back up everything that is needed by just a few clicks. Try it for free.

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