This week a significant update for Commvault was released within Feature Release 11.22 that will be of help to every customer protecting Exchange Online with Commvault, Point-In-Time Mailbox Recovery. This capability is not provided by Microsoft natively and they have said that “Point in time restoration of mailbox items is out of scope for the Exchange Online service”. This lack of a native capability has meant 3rd Party developers have had to work very hard into developing a fast, scalable and indexed backup mailbox solution. The technology backbone Commvault chose was a logical one – Apache Lucene SOLR which has long been used for File/Email Content Indexing, System Monitoring and other Analytics features. For many small-mid sized organisations using just one Index Server and Access Node, the performance when using Feature Release 11.20+ Modern Authentication is excellent, with download throughput figures of up to 2TB/day not uncommon.
However, despite the feature rich nature of the Commvault Exchange Mailbox Agent there was no true point-in-time restore technology. The biggest technical challenge to overcome, was that previously, the only way Commvault could perform a Point-In-Time recovery was to restore the SOLR Index Backup and replay it into a New Instance (or Instances) of an Index Server. Commvault Support have had this process down pat to help out the customers who may have been understandably daunted by this procedure, but there had to be a better way right? Well thankfully, the process of manually creating Index Servers and replaying the Index Backups will soon be no more.
Feature Release 11.22, which at the time of writing is in “Technical Preview” (General Availability status will be in February 2021) has solved this problem by changing the way the SOLR Index does the “Sharding” process. What is Sharding, and why do it? Well, it’s Lucene SOLR’s way of Scaling Out and your point-in-time results are cached into a new SOLR Core. Commvault now creates an Exchange Mailbox Recovery Point from just the User Mailbox you want to restore and the data is sharded off into a new SOLR core that will stay around for 30 days or until you delete the recovery point.
Now at the time of writing, the Point-In-Time recovery still restores messages deleted by the user. The Restore Mailbox Messages UI does give you the option to Include/Exclude Deleted messages, but in my testing that does not work yet. Also, during my testing if mail messages were backed up in one folder to then be backed up after the email was moved into a different folder, then the mailbox restore would restore both messages. These were the results in my test lab and test O365 environment, so your mileage may vary in your favour; however I’d probably recommend holding out for now with this new Commvault Agent as it is still under Technical Preview classification. I can confirm that Commvault is correctly recording the common Message Identifiers in the Indexes each time an email message has been moved, so we can be confident that this will be resolved without having to re-back up the data protected under this client.
Here is are some samples of how point in time recovery is performed. Note: this new feature is exclusively in the HTML5 Commvault Command Center.
First you will need at least some backups before your test.
Once the backup is complete, click the Client name.
Click on the Mailbox you want to restore.
A calendar full of all the recovery points will be visible for each day after you click on the date. In this instance I have chosen the backup at 5:33PM (Job Id 21) and clicked Create recovery point
Confirm the Recovery Point creation.
Locate the Recovery Points by clicking on the Recovery Points tab for the client, then tick the mailbox and click Restore > Restore Mailbox (chosen here) or Restore Messages
For in-place restores, all the messages protected up until this recovery point will be restored in place. Note: whilst at the time of writing, Deleted and Moved messages will be restored as copies of the original message; you will not get a double up of the message if it exists in the same folder.
Or, Restore the data to another Mailbox and Folder. Note: Commvault out of Mailbox Restores will recover all the messages into sub-folders underneath the folder you specify.