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What is an Exchange brick-level backup?

Welcome to this Microsoft Exchange ecourse! Over the next 5 posts, we’ll be taking a look at the 5 most frequently asked questions I get when it comes to working with Exchange data. I am always asked a lot of questions about brick-level backups and what they are used for, so in the first post of our Exchange ecourse we’ll be taking a look at them in more detail and how you can conduct brick-level restores using granular restoration tools.

What is an Exchange brick-level backup?

Most brick-level (or granular) backups in Microsoft Exchange are the backup of individual messages on the Microsoft Exchange Server store. This allows the user(s) to back up the contents of individual or multiple mailboxes to the Personal Folder (.pst) file.  Brick-level backups use a different backup process in which they perform a MAPI logon to each mailbox as part of the backup process; this gives them the ability to recover individual mail items directly from backup media. It also facilitates recovery of single mail messages or mailboxes without having to build a recovery environment and without having to resort to RSGs.  Every backup vendor implements brick-level backups in a different way.


Normally, an Exchange backup does not allow for granular restore of individual items. Microsoft also does not recommend carrying out brick-level backups, however some organisations choose to implement them because this allows for a quicker restore time of individual items as the whole database does not need to be recovered when only one item is needed. This is an important feature to have in the event of a data loss situation as this type of backup allows you to restore individual mailboxes from the Microsoft Exchange Server Store to your Microsoft Exchange Server Mailbox without requiring a full restore.

It is also important to note when the backup process takes place (i.e. once a day, once a week) as this can affect the retrievable data that is available in the event of a data loss situation. If you don’t have brick-level backup in place, you can still carry out brick-level restores using a granular restoration tool, such as Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange ExtractWizard.

This type of tool can be helpful in getting the specific items needed in a short timeframe without requiring a complete restoration of the Exchange Server store.

If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to share it with me in the comment box below. In the next post, we will be looking at mailbox quotas and why they should be monitored to prevent data loss.

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