After recently having partnered with Vembu, they reached out if I wanted to check out and review their BDR suite for Microsoft 365. I have several mailboxes present in Exchange Online, and seeing as I regularly tinker in AzureAD as part of my Workspace ONE lab, a back-up or two of those mailboxes won’t hurt.
Let’s start with the why
Many organizations think that moving to a cloud-based solution puts all the responsibilities at the service provider. While this often is the case for many responsibilities, creating back-ups for your organization is often not one, as service providers tend to protect the data on their platform on a much larger scale.
This might also put you in a tough spot regarding compliance and local regulations.
Enter the what: Vembu BDRSuite Backup for Microsoft 365
Vembu offers two solutions to back-up your Microsoft 365 data, depending on your preferences:
- Vembu Cloud Backup for Microsoft 365 – which is a SaaS offering by Vembu that stores the data in their cloud (hosted on AWS)
- Vembu Backup for Microsoft 365 – which is an on-premises solution that organizations can install and run from their datacenter
I think it’s a great thing that Vembu offers their solution in two different flavors. Depending on your organization’s requirements, you can follow a cloud-only model or host the solution yourself if you still have an on-premises datacenter.
As I’ll be running Vembu Backup for Microsoft 365 (version 5.1) from my lab, I’ll be focussing on the key features of their on-premises solution:
- Back-up Microsoft 365 Mails, Contacts, Calendars, OneDrive, Group mailbox, SharePoint Online, and Teams data
- Back-up data for the entire domain or selected user data
- Store back-up data on-premises storage repository or S3 storage
- Restore selected user mailbox or individual mails
- Export to multiple formats like .PST, .EML, .VCF, .ICF
And move on to the how
As this is the first time I’ll be working with any Vembu product, I was curious to see how my experience would be. I won’t cover the entire installation in great detail, as it’s pretty self-explaining, but I will highlight specific steps where I deem it valuable.
In a nutshell, the steps to configure Vembu Backup for Microsoft 365 are as follows:
- Install Vembu Backup for Microsoft 365
- Configure a repository – either block or object-based storage
- Configure a data source – which means setting up the connection between your back-up server and your Microsoft 365 environment
- Configure the back-up job – selecting what to include (or not to include) and an appropriate schedule and retention policy
- Start your back-up and watch the data flow!
Where the software installation might take the longest, the remaining steps could take you less than 15 minutes.
Configuring the data source can be done manually or by downloading and running a PowerShell script. Under most circumstances, customers will configure it manually unless you have multiple data sources to configure, where the PowerShell script and a CSV file might be the faster route to take.
A huge compliment to Vembu is that configuring the data source manually is really straightforward and well documented, on the same page as where you configure it. So no looking at a different browser tab or a PDF guide! The steps were precise and left no room misinterpreting their instructions.
Configuring the back-up job itself is just as simple. First, you must select what you would like to back-up in terms of Microsoft products, and then you can select which users and what data you would like to include.
All that is left is to specify a schedule and configure a retention policy, and you can start creating that back-up.
I took a back-up of a single test mailbox with only a few items in it, and it reported run time was less than a minute, 53 seconds to be precise!
All I can say is that I’m impressed, especially if you keep in mind that the back-up engine has to spin up, the software has to create a connection to Exchange Online, and the actual back-up has to run in that time.
Testing the restore process
Having a back-up is one thing, but being able to restore it successfully is something else. So I took the same mailbox that I used earlier, deleted a few items, and used Vembu to restore it.
Following a wizard similar to the one when creating the back-up job, I could easily browse the contents of my previously made back-up and select the items that I wanted to restore.
Now, Vembu doesn’t restore the items to their original location. Instead, it creates a folder called “Vembu Recovery (Microsoft 365)”, which contains a subfolder with the timestamp of the restore operation. You’ll find the items in their original folders, ready to be dragged to their original location.
Speaking performance, the restore took under a minute, which I find pretty impressive, especially since my lab isn’t running on enterprise-grade hardware.
As this was my first time working with any product of Vembu, I was afraid I would spend the afternoon reading up on the documentation and having to make certain decisions in terms of topology or infrastructure, which could bite me at a later stage.
In the end, it was the exact opposite. Vembu Backup for Microsoft 365 was easy and fast to set up. The steps needed to set it up were intuitive, and I wasn’t bothered with options that weren’t needed or that someone might find complex.
They say first impressions always last, and this was a good one. I’ll be exploring their back-up and replication solutions for VMware soon.
If you like to try out Vembu BDR Suite for yourself, you can download their software here.