What Needs Backing Up for Exchange Server 2010?To plan your Exchange Server 2010 backup strategy you should first understand where Exchange stores its configuration information and data.

Exchange Server 2010 stores information in a variety of locations and these depend on factors such as:

  • Which Exchange Server roles are installed in the environment
  • How many of each server role is deployed in the environment
  • The Active Directory topology

Let’s take a look at each of the locations in which you will find Exchange Server information and data.

Active Directory

Exchange Server 2010 is tightly integrated into Active Directory (or in the case of the Edge Transport role, Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services).

All Exchange objects including servers, recipients, groups, address lists, and many more settings are stored within Active Directory, either as attributes on an object (eg the mail attributes on a User object) or as objects within the Configuration partition of Active Directory.

This integration is beneficial because it means that some Exchange Server roles can be recovered (at least partially) using information preserved in Active Directory.

Because of this integration it is critical that Active Directory forms a part of your Exchange Server 2010 backup strategy.

System State

The System State is a collection of data on a Windows Server that includes various services and configuration information depending on its specific roles and installed features.

For an Exchange Server this includes:

  • The Registry, which holds information such as the startup mode and dependencies for Exchange services
  • The local security accounts manager database, which determines who can access and administer the Exchange server
  • The IIS metabase, which is a critical part of the Client Access Server role
  • The Cluster service configuration, which is a critical part of the Mailbox Server role when DAGs are deployed

The System State of each Exchange Server is therefore a critical part of your Exchange Server backup strategy.

File System

Although much of the Exchange Server configuration is stored in Active Directory and the System State of each server, there are also important settings stored in configuration files on the file system itself.

These settings are mostly stored within XML configuration files, and can include things such as memory usage warning thresholds or the number of mailboxes that can be moved concurrently during a migration.

The file system is also where some data is stored while in transit, such as in the Transport queue database.

This means that the file system, or at least those parts containing important Exchange information, should also be considered a critical part of your Exchange Server 2010 backup strategy.


The final pieces of the picture are the Exchange databases.  This includes both mailbox and public folder databases.

These databases contain the most important information in an Exchange Server 2010 environment, and consist of two parts:

  • The database transaction logs
  • The database files themselves

Although many of the other components of Exchange Server can be backed up with standard backup products, the databases require a proper Exchange-aware backup application that can perform VSS backups of the databases.

Because of the use of database replication for high availability of Exchange Server 2010 the database backup requirements will vary depending on how Exchange Server 2010 has been deployed in the environment.

However as a general statement, without backups of the databases there is a risk of critical email and public folder information being lost in a disaster.  This makes the databases another, if not the most important part of your Exchange Server 2010 backup strategy.

As you can see there are four critical parts of an Exchange Server 2010 backup strategy:

  • The Active Directory, or Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services
  • The System State of the Exchange Servers
  • The file system of the Exchange Servers
  • The Exchange Server databases

In the next part of the series we’ll start to dive into how to backup and restore each of the Exchange Server 2010 server roles.

Back to the full series on Exchange Server 2010 backup and recovery.

About the Author

Paul Cunningham

Paul is a former Microsoft MVP for Office Apps and Services. He works as a consultant, writer, and trainer specializing in Office 365 and Exchange Server. Paul no longer writes for Practical365.com.


  1. Elena

    Hello, I have one server with three roles (Transport, client Access and MailBox) Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 version 14.3

    Periodically, I backup database mailbox, but not configuration Exchange
    I like to backup my server because I have to change Raid battery.

    Can you see me how to backup Exchange configuration, if i backup mailbox database separately. I use the Windows Server Backup of Microsoft tools

    Thanks for you attention

  2. sankarasubramanian parameswaran

    link still not working

  3. Amit

    Hi Paul,

    Do you any suggestion on running Exchange 2010 without backup. I have one customer, which runs DAG without any backup.


    1. Avatar photo
      Paul Cunningham

      I suggest reading the TechNet documentation for “Native Data Protection”.

  4. Jeremy Bradshaw

    I read your introductory article and then this one. Now I’m looking to keep going through the series but don’t see the remaining articles. Any chance you could point me to them?

    I’m happy with my work’s database backup and recovery plan but am looking to verify / improve our system state and file system strategy.

    Thanks a lot for the many useful articles!

  5. Qhayum

    Hello Paul,


    I found this article with brief description about each step required to backup and why. This has helped me to understands more about Exchange backup.

    Thanks & Regards

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