Q. What's the client protection provided with Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 and how does it differ from what previous versions had?

A. DPM is Microsoft's main data backup and continuous protection solution and the latest version is DPM 2010. One of the key new features for DPM 2010, in addition to supporting the latest Hyper-V (including CSV), Exchange, SharePoint, and SQL Server, is the ability to protect client OSs.

This might not seem like a new feature—DPM has been able to protect client systems before, but in the past client systems were always treated like servers. The entire system was backed up and DPM assumed it was always connected. Restoration was a manual process by the DPM administrator.

If you look at client systems, that type of complete system protection isn't really what you care about. With client systems, you have deployment systems to deploy the OS and applications quickly. What you care about is the user data. Also, you want to offer this protection even if the computer isn't connected to the network, and allow users to restore their own data.

DPM 2010 has a new client component that treats client systems as a completely separate workload. The complete system is no longer backed up. Rather, a set of folders that are defined by the administrator are collected from the client workstations and are periodically stored securely. The administrator can also allow users to specify additional data sets to be protected.

For example, the administrator may specify that My Documents is protected on all computers, however some users may have other data in a D:\Data folder. The user can access the DPM applet on their machine and specify that this additional location should also be protected by DPM. Users can use the same DPM applet to view the various restore points, which are point in time views of the protected areas, and restore data as needed. The same delta technology used by the rest of DPM is still used—only changes to the data are replicated to DPM, minimizing bandwidth usage.

If the client machine is disconnected from the network at the time of data synchronization, a local shadow copy is created on the client machine, so the user can still access previous point-in-time views of the data that occured when the machine was disconnected from the network. As an administrator, you we can set alerts if a client machine doesn't synchronize with DPM after a configured amount of time, so you know machines that aren't having their data protected by DPM.

As the image below shows, the DPM applet gives basic information about the amount of data protected and the last synchronization. Clicking View More Details gives access to recover data and set the protected items. If you know a machine is going to be disconnected for a long time, you can also force a synchronization with the Synchronize Now action. Note that I see all the data I have on all the machines I use.

This is a great solution for a lot of companies. Today there are technologies that can redirect My Documents and similar folders to network locations, and that may be the right solution for some environments, but the user self-service restore can be problematic. This method doesn't offer protection when a client is disconnected, you don't have granular point-in-time copies of the data we can restore from, and it doesn't cater to data in non-standard locations, which is very common. With DPM 2010, you can get full protection for all vital client data and give users easy access to it.

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