SANs have gotten a lot simpler to administer over time, and a new breed of vendors focused on iSCSI SANs have been a big part of that. I’ve been using Equallogic Peer Storage Arrays for four years already, but they keep adding useful functionality — and at no additional charge! The latest firmware update and the newest release of the Host Integration Tools kit provide an application-aware VSS writer for both Exchange 2003 and 2007, making it possible to provide consistent snapshots, clones and replicas of Exchange data hosted on the SAN. An earlier version did this for SQLserver 2005 and individual databases, and Exchange was the next logical step.

After the initial setup, the Auto-Snapshot Manager (an MMC snap-in) identifies the volumes used by Exchange, each storage group and associated mailbox databases. You create collections of volumes, e.g. the volumes with the mailbox databases and logfiles, so that you can perform actions against them.

Auto-Snapshot Manager makes it possible to create schedules. A simple snapshot schedule might look like this:

Snapshots can make restoring mailboxes or messages simpler than going to tape, but even greater benefit can be derived by replication to a remote Peer Storage Group. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning just got easier! And you didn’t have to write a check to get there!