Overview of System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager
Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager ConsultantsTraditional best practices for backing up storage follow the 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies of data on at least 2 different types of media with a minimum of 1 offsite copy. To make things more complex for IT administrators, most of today's servers and storage are virtualized. System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager (SCDPM 2012), Microsoft's enterprise backup system, addresses these challenges by offering comprehensive support for virtualized servers and storage, and by working seamlessly with Microsoft Azure cloud-based backup (Azure Backup). In addition, SCDPM is optimized for mission-critical Microsoft workloads including SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server and Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). SCDPM can also back up file data from servers and clients and allows full, incremental, differential and bare-metal backups for full system restoration. All of this can be managed by a single SCDPM 2012 console with self-service capability available to trusted users for specific workloads.

Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help organizations of any size to plan, implement, manage, and troubleshoot a backup solution based on System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager. Progent can help you migrate from earlier releases of SCDPM or from another backup platform, and Progent can optimize your SCDPM 2012 deployment for on premises, cloud-based, or hybrid environments. Progent can provide online or onsite consulting services and offers as-needed support to help you resolve especially challenging problems, or full project management services with ongoing consulting support. Progent can also provide Data Protection Manager upgrade expertise to help your organization upgrade efficiently from SCDPM 2012 to a modern release of System Center Data Protection Manager.

Progent's consultants can follow industry best practices to help you:

  • Define your recovery goals and establish a protection policy to meet them
  • Design an efficient multi-site network topology for Data Protection Manager that incorporates cloud resources
  • Configure Windows Server, SQL Server, Exchange, and SharePoint to take full advantage of SCDPM 2012
  • Set up Protection Groups and Storage Pools
  • Determine and allocate disk capacity for backup
  • Define custom volumes
  • Plan tape library rotation and management
  • Determine whether your organization can use cloud-based long-term backup as a compliant alternative to tape
  • Install Protection Agents on computers within and outside your firewall
  • Integrate SCDPM 2012 with other System Center 2012 components including SCOM 2012 and SCVMM 2012
  • Design a cloud-based solution for self-service client backup
  • Test and optimize backup/restore performance for critical workloads
New and Enhanced Features of System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager
SCDPM 2012, with its latest Update Rollups installed, offers critical improvements for each of its core functions of protection, recovery, monitoring, and reporting. Some of the improvements over System Center 2010 Data Protection Manager which solidify SCDPM 2012's position as a premium, enterprise-class backup/restore solution cover the areas of cloud and virtualization support, ease of management, client self service, storage optimization, performance, and Microsoft workload protection. Improvements in the latest release of System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager include:
  • Microsoft Azure Integration
    Azure Backup, the multi-tenant cloud-based backup service in Microsoft Azure, now integrates seamlessly with SCDPM 2012's on-premises backup capability to provide a centrally managed hybrid backup/restore solution. Azure Backup offers self-service backup and recovery of Windows clients, host-level VM backups for Microsoft Hyper-V, and workload-aware protection for SQL Server, SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server. You can also now run SCDPM 2012 as a virtual machine in Azure. Azure can provide the off-site storage feature required for an enterprise-class backup scheme and can be a viable replacement for tape for long-term archiving. The so-called "bottomless" capacity of Azure makes it easy to scale, and Azure's theoretical 99-year storage capability can meet any conceivable data retention policy. (Learn about Progent's Microsoft Azure planning and cloud integration consulting services.)

    System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager Consultants

    SCDPM 2012 provides custom backup/recovery for Microsoft workloads; long-term backups can be stored in the Microsoft Azure Cloud

  • Hyper-V Support
    When SCDPM 2012 is integrated with System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM 2012), VM protection continues automatically during live migration for Hyper-V hosts that have the SCDPM 2012 agent installed on them. Hyper-V protection also now includes Linux VMs, and SCDPM 2012 supports Windows and Linux VMs in standalone or clustered environments. In addition, a new configurable backup window feature significantly improves the performance of production workloads on protected VMs, and backup performance of Hyper-V over CSV 2.0 deployments is also improved.
  • Improved Exchange Support
    With Exchange Server 2013, SCDPM 2012 supports backup of servers running Exchange and databases configured in a database availability group (DAG). SCDPM 2012 can protect each node of a DAG individually with the same SCDPM 2012 server or with a different one. SCDPM 2012 can also recover a single Exchange mailbox. With SCDPM 2012's bare metal backup option, an entire Exchange database or the entire Exchange server can be recovered.
  • Improved SQL Server Support
    SCDPM 2012 R2 supports SQL Server 2014 as well as SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2008 on all major versions of Windows Server. With SQL Server deployed as an AlwaysOn availability group, DPM 2012 R2 supports Preferred Replica, Replica Only, Any Replica, and Primary options as set by the SQL Server administrator. SCDPM 2012 also supports database-level recovery for SQL Server.
  • Deduplication Support with Windows Server 2012
    DPM uses Windows Server 2012's support for data deduplication to achieve a high level of deduplication savings. This feature, in deployments that are properly architected, has been shown to reduce backup storage consumption by as much as 75%.
  • Improved Reporting
    Backup reporting capabilities have been radically expanded in SCDPM 20112, supported by a new Reporting management pack for System Center 2012 Operations Manager that offers aggregation, scalability, customization, and centralized report generation. The management pack allows SCOM to gather data from all SCDPM servers automatically and to collate and store all of the data in the SCOM data warehouse. Data for reports can be aggregated from all the SCDPM 2012 servers within a network, and SCDPM 2012 can scale up to any number of SCDPM servers and data sources. Managers can use any framework, scripting, or programming language to produce reports, including SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) or Crystal Reports.

    System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager Reporting Consultants

    A sample SCDPM 2012 report enabled by the Reporting pack and the File Server Deduplication pack

  • Enhanced Management Capabilities
    SCDPM 2012 now allows you to manage multiple DPM servers under a centralized System Center 2012 Operations Manager console called the DPM Central Console. SCDPM 2012 can also be configured via PowerShell commands to raise an alert for any protection group that fails to meet an SLA. Administrators can use the DPM Central Console to view alerts consolidated from multiple SCDPM servers.
Additional Enhancements to SCDPM 2012
  • Optimized item-level recovery for SharePoint farms
  • Certificate-based authentication for computers in workgroups or untrusted domains
  • Improved usage of tapes through protection group sets
  • Parallel backups
  • Support for SMB shares
  • Support for Resilient File System (ReFS)
How Progent Can Help You with System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager
System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager is designed to work most efficiently in conjunction with other System Center components such as Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager, with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V, and with key Microsoft workloads including SQL Server, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server. Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants have in-depth experience with these technologies and with Azure-based environments, and can use this knowledge to plan and deploy a backup/restore solution built around SCDPM 2012 that can provide immediate business value. Progent also offers expert consulting services for popular versions of Linux and for VMware, making it possible to build and support a backup system for on-premises, Azure-based, or hybrid networks that incorporate a mix Microsoft and third-party products. In addition, Progent's System Center 2016 consultants can help you migrate smoothly to the latest version of System Center and SCDPM to help you manage and protect resources deployed in a hybrid cloud environment.

SCDPM 2012 can be deployed as a relatively straight-forward standalone backup solution, as part of a more complex disaster recovery strategy, or as part of an even more complex business continuity plan. Progent offers disaster recovery planning consulting and business continuity planning expertise centered around SCDPM 2012 to maximize the availability of the vital elements of your information system and your business under worst-case scenarios.

Your network infrastructure plays a crucial role in both on-premises and cloud-based backup/restore solutions, and Progent offers the online and onsite service of Cisco-certified CCIE network consultants who can help you design and troubleshoot a cost-effective network architecture that offers high performance, maximum availability, centralized management, and easy expandability. In addition, Progent's certified network security consultants can help you assess and validate the security and compliance of your Data Protection Manager ecosystem and help you remediate any vulnerabilities.

The Problem with Tape Technology for Backup
Experienced IT managers know that when it's time to go into disaster recovery mode, the tape backup system is often one of the biggest disasters. The traditional model of tape-based backup is fraught with problems. Tape is slow, unreliable, and requires meticulous management. Microsoft's reported in-house operational experience indicates a 17% failure rate for its tape devices. Basically, for a tape-based restore procedure to be successful, too many things have to go right:

  • IT managers need to have fast access to all the backup media required for a specific recovery
  • All tapes must have no unreadable spots despite the fact that, in typical situations, they have been subject to physical wear by being rewritten many times
  • Tapes must have been stored in the right environmental conditions to remain usable
  • The software catalogs managing those tapes must not be corrupted
  • Complex electromechanical tape drives must be available and working properly
The decisive disadvantage of tape as a backup-and-restore technology is that tape is slow. Tape backup typically calls for routinely scheduled system downtime, and tape-based recovery procedures can take intolerably long even when everything is working perfectly. Virtually all facets of contemporary businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on ready access to digital information, and the amount of data that companies generate to remain competitive is expanding dramatically. This growing reliance on networked data makes every minute of downtime more calamitous, while the ballooning volume of data being created adds steadily to the time required for tape-based backup and recovery.

Finally, tape-based backup and recovery regimes are logistically complex and demand substantial time and care to administer. Media has to be managed, cataloged, and stored in a way that allows for consistent backup and accurate recovery, but issues such as personnel changes, company relocations, the need to accommodate remote offices, maintaining tape-friendly temperature and humidity in the storage facility, and the hassle of validation testing all invite human error or omission and inflate IT budgets. In essence, while tape technology remains a popular and often mandated means of long-term archiving, it has become obsolete as a medium for primary backup.

Disk Drives to the Rescue
Microsoft System Center 2010 Data Protection Manager radically changed the reliability and usability aspects of backup and restore. The key innovation was that SCDPM 2010 offered an intelligent disk-to-disk based backup solution. SCDPM 2012 builds on the concept of disk-to-disk primary backup and adds key enhancements including seamless cloud-based backup and recovery based on Microsoft Azure Backup for improved disaster recovery, lower investment cost for off-site infrastructure, and simplified recovery management.

The basic idea is simple. You configure an SCDPM 2012 server with sufficient disk storage to hold a complete replica of all the data you want to protect from your servers and workstations along with space for the historical changes you want to keep. For a 30-day history this may require somewhere in the range of 1.5 to two times the protected data space. The actual disk capacity needed is highly dependent on how often your data changes. Since disks are inexpensive and getting more affordable all the time, storage costs are relatively trivial for most IT organizations.

What is more significant is that an SCDPM 2012 server can be built with highly fault-tolerant components such as redundant power supplies and ample redundant cooling. By configuring high-availability storage arrays, reliability is far higher than with tape-based systems.

Microsoft leveraged key Windows technologies to make System Center Data Protection Manager the backup-and-restore solution of choice for Windows environments. The foundation of SCDPM is the use of Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) for creating and maintaining extremely compact differentials. It does this both on the protected server for efficiently replicating change differentials over the network to the SCDPM server, and also on the SCDPM server itself for efficiently storing the historical snapshots, or recovery points, used to recover data.

You can gain almost continuous data protection by replicating data from your protected servers as often as every 15 minutes. This means that if you have a failure on your server, in the worst case you can restore it to the last 15 minutes. This is far beyond the practical capability of tape-based backup systems. Basically, the SCDPM server always has a complete and up-to-date replica of all protected data. SCDPM takes further advantage of disk technology by storing the data in a Windows format file system that you can directly navigate with Windows Explorer. SCDPM actually creates separate disk volumes for each protected server.

Thanks to support for disk-to-disk restoration, SCDPM can reduce network recovery time from hours to minutes and make administrative tasks far more intuitive than with tape-based solutions.

The New Standard in Fault-tolerant Data Backup and Restore
SCDPM offers significantly more granular control over your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) than tape-based systems. On the SCDPM server, you can take snapshots for historical restorations based on a schedule that matches a variety of protection requirements. For example, you can schedule daily, twice a day, three times a day, hourly, or 15 minute snapshots, and you can define a separate snapshot schedule for each protected server or share. Your accounting server, for instance, may require frequent snapshots so you can recover to a specific moment in the day, while other servers may be fine with daily snapshots. The bottom line is that Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager is flexible enough to handle almost any environment.

The obvious question with disk-to-disk backup is what happens if a natural disaster or other catastrophic event such as fire or theft wipes out all your local servers including your SCDPM server? One way to prepare for this is to back up your SCDPM server to a separate SCDPM server at a Colocation Site. Colocation facilities are affordable, offer geographic dispersion, and provide high levels of redundancy for power, Internet connectivity, and environmental controls. With SCDPM 2012, you can integrate SCDPM with Azure Backup, Microsoft's cloud-based protection platform. This can provide the off-site storage and high-availability infrastructure needed for advanced disaster recovery without the CAPEX requirements and management headaches associated with a conventional off-site datacenter. This solution can also be a practical alternative to using tape for long-term backups because it leverages the effectively "bottomless" capacity and nominal 99-year storage capability of Azure Backup. (Tape backup may still be required to meet regulatory requirements.)

An important feature of SCDPM that supports off-site backup is the ability to perform highly efficient over-the-wire compression for all transferred data. This can easily result in about a 5-1 compression ratio and theoretically can go as high as 10-1. Once the initial replica is established, backups are further streamlined by the fact that SCDPM sends only differentials and utilizes inherently fast hard disk technology. As a result, SCDPM-based backup works well with the WAN bandwidth typically utilized by any business.

For your original data replica, which can't take advantage of differentials, a time-saving technique for small businesses is to create the replica manually. For example, in the case that you add a new large server to be protected and your SCDPM server is in a colocation facility, you can simply copy all the data from the new server to a USB hard drive, bring the hard drive to the colocation facility, and upload the data directly. You can then perform a consistency check that will quickly and intelligently update anything that has changed with the data set since you made the manual copy. From that point, you are backed up and ready for any emergency.

System Center Data Protection Manager also supports bandwidth throttling so you can keep bandwidth use low during the business day and crank it up to use all the available bandwidth in the middle of the night. SCDPM has the speed and versatility to match your performance needs and to adapt easily as your business evolves.

Tape-based archiving is efficiently supported by SCDPM. There is an option for performing tape backups via the SCDPM server for off-site tape protection, which may be required for regulatory or compliance. Another powerful feature of SCDPM is that tape backups copy the replica data set residing on the SCDPM server and therefore don't needlessly consume WAN bandwidth. SCDPM also gives you the option to have a second SCDPM server configured to back up the primary SCDPM server's data so you can have a local SCDPM server as well as an off-site backup SCDPM server in order to improve fault tolerance and optimize recovery speed.

To find out more about Progent's support for Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager, phone 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.

Progent's Consulting Services for Microsoft-based Technology
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants have the depth and breadth of expertise to serve as your one-stop source for advanced consulting and troubleshooting support for Microsoft platforms. Progent can assist businesses of any size to plan, implement, administer, and repair deployments of Microsoft technology by delivering services that include:

If you need immediate online support from a certified network expert, see Progent's Remote Consulting and Technical Support.

Find out more details about Progent's Consulting and Support Services for Microsoft .NET Server Technology.

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