Slinger's Thoughts

June 28, 2013

Milton’s Job – Who is responsible for maintaining and managing backups

Filed under: Disaster Recovery, SharePoint — slingeronline @ 9:30 am

A while back a user I follow on twitter, Wendy Neal (@SharePointWendy), asked a question about who is responsible for backing up SharePoint.  Not something so existential as it needing to be “Dave, from Accounting,” but more of a roles type discussion. Is it the SharePoint Administrator’s role, the Server admin? She, Sean McDonough (@SPMcdonough), and I had a brief little discussion about it.  Granted it was mostly Sean and Wendy. This is because Sean is Sean (one of the authors of the SharePoint Disaster Recovery Guides).  It does bear repeating though, since the question was asked, and it fits nicely into my series of Blog posts on SharePoint Disaster Recovery.

So who is responsible?  If you don’t know this, then it is time to start asking some serious questions of the department that owns your company’s SharePoint installation.  The person responsible might turn out to be you.  It also might be “no one” which loosely translates into “you.”  The official answer is of course, “It depends.”  What aspect of your disaster recovery plan are you trying to cover?  In most larger organizations, the responsibility will be shared among several individuals;

  • Hardware – Hardware should be the responsibility of the server administrators.  This would be in the case of total catastrophic failures, so that you can restore from bare metal. 
  • Databases – SharePoint runs on many Databases. While digging into them is not recommend, or supported, entire databases can be backed up and restored with no ill effects other than some minor restore pains.
  • Content – SharePoint content pretty much falls to the SharePoint administrator. Granted cooperation with the Server and Database Administrators is a necessity, but ultimately, if a user cannot find or access their content, or something goes wrong with SharePoint, the end users are going to look to the SharePoint Administrator to both blame, and to solve their problems. 

If you are a SharePoint Administrator, congratulations!

Short Version; You are now responsible for ensuring content is safe and secure for your end users.  Fortunately, it isn’t that difficult to do, and I hope my last several blog posts have helped.

Long Version; For any world class disaster recovery scenario to work, all of the administrators need to work together to ensure that your disaster recovery plan can account for any level of disaster that may strike your farm.  If your database administrator has set up mirroring as a disaster recovery and/or high availability strategy, you need to make sure that your SharePoint farm is aware of it and configure it appropriately. Your database administrator also needs to know that some SharePoint databases don’t do mirroring well, if you have those particular service applications in your farm. Your server administrator needs to understand that SharePoint isn’t simply a piece of software that resides on a single machine, but is rather a complex combination of several servers that make up the whole farm. Not all Web Front Ends are the same, and your application servers, and WFEs are not interchangeable for DR purposes.  Taking a snapshot of one WFE in a farm that has ten probably isn’t going to help much after a disaster strikes, simply because of the subtle differences between them.  Granted, a WFE is probably easier to restore to a farm than an application server, but your server administrator needs to know this.  There is a good chance that the server admin and the db admin aren’t certain of the magic that makes a SharePoint farm work smoothly.  They may want to make changes that Microsoft has suggested is a bad idea, which incidentally, is a bad idea. As a SharePoint Admin, it is your responsibility to make sure that they are aware of this.  So why Milton?  Sometimes getting a server admin, or a db admin to understand what you are trying to tell them is difficult, especially with a technology that is as potentially complex as SharePoint.  There are times when you might feel like Milton from the movie Office Space, and no one is listening to you.  Do what you can with the tools you have, such as Central Administration, until you can get what you need.  You might also notice that when I laid out the different areas of a DR strategy, I used the word “should” a lot. Just because a particular admin “should” do something, doesn’t mean that they actually are.  It is probably not a bad idea for you to ensure that these things are happening.


1 Comment »

  1. Jay this is a great post and I agree with your assessment. I think especially for disaster recovery scenarios that it should be everyone’s responsibility (server admin, DBA, SharePoint Admin) and all working together to ensure a successful recovery in the event of a disaster. And I love your reference to Milton – “Sometimes getting a server admin, or a db admin to understand what you are trying to tell them is difficult, especially with a technology that is as potentially complex as SharePoint.” Totally agree and this happens to be exactly why the question came up in the first place :-)

    Comment by Wendy Neal — July 1, 2013 @ 9:16 am

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