If you asked me to start listing the third party vendors who offer some kind of backup and archiving solution for an on-premises implementation of SharePoint, I wouldn’t know where to start -- there are a number of them. But if you asked me to name the vendors who offer the same solution for a hosted version of SharePoint, like Office 365, there’s only one I can think of -- MetaVis Backup. MetaVis Backup is the newest tool to come from MetaVis, a provider of information management tools for SharePoint. It works as a standalone solution or can be combined with the MetaVis Architect Suite which includes Architect, Migrator and Classifier. MetaVis Backup takes its place easily among the backup and archiving providers for on-premises SharePoint, but it’s the ability to support cloud-based SharePoint implementations that really make it stand out.
How MetaVis Backup Works
While many SharePoint Backup providers work using agents (software that runs within the SharePoint environment -- typically on the front-end web servers with a main application that is installed on the application server), MetaVis Backup is completely separate from your SharePoint implementation and its agentless, so there’s no software to install in your SharePoint environment at all.
This feature, in and of itself, is the biggest reason MetaVis Backup is perfect for cloud-based SharePoint implementations -- in most cases you don’t have the ability to install anything within a hosted SharePoint environment that isn’t run within a SharePoint custom application and run within the Sandbox (Office 365).
With MetaVis Backup, you enter the SharePoint site url that you want to connect to, provide your credentials and watch as the entire SharePoint environment schema is created in your preview. You can move through the navigation to see all the content and metadata associated with your SharePoint environment, from site collections, to sites, to libraries and more. At this point, you are simply looking at what’s in your hosted environment. Nothing has been backed up.
Backup and Restore Content
As this is a backup and archiving tool, the first thing you may want to do is create a backup of your content. MetaVis Backup allows you to create a full backup of your entire site -- they call this a “MetaVis Backup” -- to either a local file system or to a cloud-based storage location. Essentially you are backing up your entire structure, metadata and all.
You can easily view the backed up structure and content in the Backup Navigator Pane, shown on the right hand side of the BackUp screen.
Note that in the bottom of the Backup Navigator Pane you can see detailed information for the Backup selected including the source URL, the last update, if subsites or versions are included and where the backup content is stored.
If you backed up your site to a local directory, you can also see the contents in the file folder structure, as shown below:
Maybe you don’t want to backup an entire subsite, but only certain content from all sites, or content written by a certain author or before a certain date. Simply filter the content and then only archive that filtered content.
Say for some reason your SharePoint environment goes offline and you have no access to the content you need to do your job. Now you can quickly retrieve that content from the local backup you have created. You can retrieve a single document or list item, or the entire site.
Now suppose your hosted environment is down long term, but you want your site back up and running asap because a lot of people depend on it. What you can do, is take this entire structure and upload it to another hosted or on-premises environment -- all of the content and its associated metadata is there for you to move to the new location.
If, like most, you want to be able to schedule your backups and not worry about them, you can do that with MetaVis Backup. Backups are scheduled with Windows Task Scheduler which you access from within the MetaVis Backup environment (right click on the backup you created and click Update Backup) through the Generate Script button.
What if you have SharePoint site or a ton of subsites in your SharePoint site that are no longer used, but you aren’t prepared to just delete them permanently? Archive them to a local file share as a Zip file or a local folder for offline storage and then delete them from your SharePoint environment.
If, at some future date, you realize there was information in one of these sites that you need, you have easy access to find and restore it to another SharePoint site.
One Piece of Content or All Content
One of the biggest issues with the backup and restore capabilities that come with Microsoft Office 365 is that restoration of a single document or list item is limited to first and second stage recovery bins by your own site administrators. Unfortunately content in those locations is only there for a limited amount of time -- they aren’t meant as a backup or archiving location.
Also, backups are limited as well. If you accidentally delete an entire site, you have seven days to contact Office 365 support and get that site restored. There is also disaster recovery available, but there’s a potential 12-hour time difference. Suffice it say, backup options are available through Office 365 support, but they aren’t likely going to meet all your needs.
MetaVis Backup can be configured to meet your needs as required. Do a full weekly backup and daily incremental backups. Archive entire sites or only certain documents and other content. Restore individual content items, subsites or entire sites. Restore not only to the current location, but also to a different location altogether. And best of all, have a copy to work on if your regular environment goes offline.
One Company’s Experience with MetaVis Backup
MetaVis Backup is a new tool from MetaVis, but it’s been put through its paces with a few vendors already. I had the opportunity to speak with Constantine Baugh-Ruschman, IT Helpdesk at the Center for Vein Restoration, about his company’s experience using MetaVis Backup. He told me that they had been affected when Office 365 went down in September of last year and it took a long time before their site and all its content were back in place.
Microsoft did offer a program on a CD, called SharePoint, that was similar to a Windows File Share program. This program would allow you to move files offline. But he said it was difficult to figure out how to use and there was no automatic backup capabilities or individual file restore features.
So he went Internet searching and stumbled upon MetaVis. Using MetaVis Backup, they now maintain two backups -- one is a monthly full backup and the other is a daily incremental backup. I asked how hard it was to learn to use (as I found I picked it up pretty quickly on my own). He indicated 1-2 days training was all it took for him.
Baugh-Ruschman said there were so many blogs out there with people looking for this kind of capability. The best part of MetaVis Backup, he told me, was not only is content backed up, but all the metadata as well, so he could easily bring up the entire site if needed.
Summing Up MetaVis Backup
First of all, I want to say that I don’t have a lot of experience using other SharePoint backup options from other vendors. I have read about them and spoke to different vendors about their products. But I have had the opportunity to actually use MetaVis Backup.
All I had to do was download the tool and activate my license, then simply point it to the SharePoint environment I wanted to backup. I connected to two different environments, adding documents, folders and items items. I created my backup and copied down all my content. Then I changed content locally and restored the updated document back into the environment.
It was easy to find the content stored in the hosted environment and just as easy to view the content stored locally in the backup. I am as much impressed with the ease of use of MetaVis Backup as I am with knowing that I can backup my environment and that if something does happen, I have access to the content while I am waiting for my environment to come back online.
Important points to keep in mind regarding MetaVis Backup:
- It works with hosted SharePoint environments -- no software install in the environment required
- It utilizes native SharePoint APIs, so you know it’s doing things via the proper channels.
- It provide both an offline backup and an archive capability.
- It supports both full site, partial site and individual document/content item backup and restore.
- You have full access to your content when your environment is offline.
MetaVis has the right approach to supporting backup capabilities for SharePoint. There are many departments within larger organizations as well as many smaller organizations who could benefit from MetaVis Backup whether the SharePoint environment is hosted online or on-premises. The need to do disaster recovery level backup is still important, but often falls within the control of a bigger Disaster Recovery plan.
The big sell for a solution like MetaVis Backup is with organizations who need to get something up and running quickly (and not necessarily in the hands of IT) while at the same time providing its departments or teams a way to keep working with SharePoint in the event that someone does something accidentally or something bigger happens.
I think if you have a hosted version of SharePoint -- Office 365 or otherwise -- or are looking for an easy to use backup for your on-premises version of SharePoint -- MetaVis Backup is worth checking out.
How to Buy MetaVis Backup
MetaVis Backup is available for a Free Trial and is priced starting at $495. Learn more about it by visiting MetaVis website at http://www.metavistech.com/product/backup-sharepoint.