- Content recovery: SharePoint provides both versioning and a two-stage Recycle Bin to help users retrieve deleted content easily. With versioning enabled, SharePoint retains multiple copies of the document so that a previous version can be restored if needed, thus reducing the risk of data loss caused by overwriting a document. Users can go to the Recycle Bin to recover accidentally deleted content; that's stage one. The second stage is part of the site collection itself, from which an administrator can restore content deleted from the first-stage Recycle Bin.
- Site recovery: This is the restoration of a site or parts of a site in the event they become corrupt or are accidentally deleted.
- Disaster recovery: This is the recovery of an entire farm, or the migration of a farm, site, or database.
I know one company (to remain nameless) that set up and ran a SharePoint server successfully, but had no site or disaster recovery in place when it crashed. Instead, the company's IT staff resolved to forget the whole thing and not use SharePoint any longer. Can you imagine such a case in your environment? Picture the SharePoint server going south, then you report to your superiors, "I have no way to bring it back. We can either start from scratch or just forget the whole thing." Welcome to the unemployment line!
What could that company have used? SharePoint does include two full farm backup options. One is the command-line backup tool STSAdm, and the other is the Web-based Central Administration backup and restore; another option is SharePoint Designer. Outside of SharePoint, you might be able to use SQL Server 2005 Backup and Recovery. You might also consider going for Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager (SC DPM) or a third-party tool. How do you know which to use?
Cost versus recovery
Every solution has a cost and recovery pain associated with it. Often, free tools involve a learning curve, which a paid tool might avoid. You'll have to ask yourself these questions: What are your needs? How large is your organization? What is your budget? What is your aggravation-to-cost ratio?
The built-in SharePoint tools (Central Administration and STSAdm) have several function limitations to keep in mind. First, although both tools can back up and recover the server farm, neither can recover the configuration or Central Administration databases, nor can they back up customizations. Central Administration cannot schedule backups or back up site collections. Neither tool can back up directly to tape, nor can they provide an incremental backup -- only full and differential.