SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Strategy and Tools

When I discuss DR with customers, either because it's part of an architecture design and deployment or because it's a one-off question, there are usually gaps with their current strategy and tool set.  With SharePoint 2007, there are new tools such as the recycle bin and differential backups but these tools need to be a part of a much larger DR strategy.  Your DR strategy needs to include plans to 1) recover accidental deletion content, 2) achieve full-fidelity backup and restore and 3) high availability of your farm. This blog post will focus on the content recovery aspects of a DR solution, specifically focussing on the recycle bin technology.  Customer discussions have revealed some confusion here and my intent is hopefully clarify and to also capture potential enhancement options as one considers other products or tools to enhance the SharePoint story.

Recycle Bin

By now, most SharePoint users have heard of the new Recycle Bin.  Some SharePoint 2003 customers deployed an open-source recycle bin or implemented their own solution to impart this capability.  The recycle bin is designed to simplify the restoration process for the end user and alleviate the time and effort required by an administrator to restore critical content.  Therefore, the addition of the recycle bin to the OOTB functionality of SharePoint 2007 is a welcome enhancement for the recovery of accidentally deleted content.  This is a 2-stage strategy so let's take a look at some details.

Key Points

The first stage of the recycle bin is the user or site-level recycle bin.  Deletion of a site object by a user sends the object to the site-level recycle bin.  The deleted object can be recovered by the user if they possess the appropriate permissions.  Recovered objects are restored to their original location.  The user can also choose to delete the object from the first stage which sends the object to the second stage recycle bin.  First stage content is part of the site collection quota.

The second stage recycle bin is the administrator or site collection-level recycle bin.  This recycle bin is accessible by the top-level site administrator.  Object restoration returns the object to its original location.  First stage objects are also visible to the administrator.  The second stage's content does NOT contribute to the site collection's quota, and the second stage's capacity is adjustable.

The retention time (in days) for objects is configurable (30 days by default), after which the deleted objects are permanently deleted.

The recycle bin is configured at the Web Application (formerly virtual server) level.  Therefore the recycle bin can only be enabled or disabled for all site collections in the Web Application.  For example, any changes to the retention time will apply to all site-level recycle bins for that given Web Application.  If a Web Application has multiple site collections, each will contain a second stage recycle bin.

Lists, folders, document libraries and documents can be recovered.  Accidently deleted sites cannot be recovered using this approach.  SharePoint 2007 does provide a site (aka Web) delete event which can be "trapped" and .NET code launched to backup the site for example.  If you're interested check out the SDK for example code.

Enhancement Opportunities for Content Recovery

The following have been suggested by more than one customer:

  • More granular restoration control.  For example, restoring an individual document from a deleted document library.  With the above recycle bin technology, if you delete a document library, you must restore the whole library.
  • Enabling and configuring a recycle bin at the site level and/or site collection level, rather than just at the Web Application level.  Ideally, why not have farm, site collection, and site level control......
  • Site restoration by the site owner.
  • Automatic notification of the administrator when object deletion occurs.
  • Ability to request adminstrator intervention by the user (users don't always know their administrator)

Obviously, content recovery is only one aspect of the DR story, but a very important one since accidental deletion of content occurs much more often than losing hardware or losing a whole farm.  We will discuss other aspects of the overall DR story in future blogs.