Friends, readers, fellow backup geeks, lend me your eyeballs. I come to bury mailbox by mailbox (brick-level) backups, not to praise them. Exchange server administrators shall not backup mailboxes individually via MAPI for it is so slow it causes thy tape drive to shoeshine, takes several times the disk or tape space as an information store backup, is prone to errors, and causes your backup jobs to fail, claiming disabled mailboxes are corrupted. The time has come to throw brick-level backups on the junk heap of obsolete backup technologies with tape RAID, tape multiplexing, and 8-mm tapes.Granted, restoring the one urgent e-mail the CEO needs from an information store backup used to be a major production. To get one message back from an Exchange 2000 information store backup required a dedicated restore network with its own domain controller and Exchange server. Just assembling the restore environment could take a whole day.
Today, however, things are a lot easier. First you can recover the item from Exchange's internal deleted item recovery. If you set a few simple options on your Exchange 2003 or 2007 servers, items stay in the database for recovery even after users delete them from their deleted items folders. I keep deleted item recovery set to 30 days on the Exchange servers I have anything to do with managing and set the flag that prevents deleted items from being purged if the information store hasn't been properly backed up even if the 30 days has gone by.
When the request is for something older than deleted item recovery can restore, there's the recovery storage group. Starting in Exchange 2003, information store restores are by default directed to a special storage group rather than overwriting the running database. You can then use the Exchange console or Exmerge to extract the message in question.
Finally, if you're running the current version of Backup Exec or Commvault Galaxy, you can do item-level restores from information store backup, making mailbox backups completely superfluous.