Disaster Recovery Techniques for End Users

Learn everything you need to know to design and implement a solid disaster recovery plan for SharePoint 2013

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Well this DR concept is wrong and might work in the mainframe world, but with SharePoint, the approach should be "we are all in this together".

Financially, this approach makes sense as well. The following screenshot shows the SharePoint costs for 1,000 users over a 3-year period. If IT support can be reduced by just 2 percent through end user education, the savings would equate to almost $40,000, by not doing a lot of extra work. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked, because there is a perception that end users already have SharePoint knowledge.

Source: www.huddle.com

In the previous screenshot, the people costs are manpower such as support, administration, trainers, and development.

In this article, we will cover the following points:

  • Why end user DR training is often forgotten
  • Useful end user DR practices
  • Managing expectations
  • Training

Why is end user DR training often forgotten?

Why is end user DR training often forgotten? End user DR is often overlooked by the IT department because typical DR procedures involve SQL Server backup plans, server images, and third-party backup tools, all of which are handled by IT resources. End users are not necessarily technical and are not accustomed to performing even the simplest backup and restore procedures.

When IT puts together a DR plan, the procedures normally focus on the "big hairy" disasters which are costly, highly visible to upper management, and effort large user communities. The small end user issues are often overlooked. These small issues are more common than one would think.

Often, IT's perception of end users is that they are not capable of protecting their content with scheduled backups and although this is often the case, you can set up a DR process targeted to the end users.

Although end users usually only manipulate content, it is the deleted content, such as sites, files, and list items that is most alarming to them. These end user disasters have their own negative effect on productivity and business continuity.

Useful end user DR practices

This section explains simple, yet often overlooked SharePoint functionality that enables the end user to recover content without the IT helpdesk number being dialed.

Recycle bins

Often an end user will delete content and not realize this information can be retrieved from the end user site recycle bin.

To retrieve content from the end user site recycle bin, follow these steps:

  1. In the quick launch tray, click on Site Contents, as shown in the following screenshot:

  2. Select Recycle Bin on the ribbon, as shown in the following screenshot:

  3. Choose the file that you wish to restore, and then select the Restore Selection link, as depicted in the following screenshot:

The file will be restored to the original location from where it was deleted. This simple and easy activity can be performed by the end user.

By default, content stays in the recycle bin for 30 days and then it is moved to the Site Collection's recycle bin.

The Site Collection Administrator can also restore content at the top-level site of the Site Collection by selecting the Recycle bin on the Site Content page.

The following screenshot explains the first and second stage recycle bins:

One of the advantages of the Site Collection administrator or IT performing this activity is that they do not need to navigate to the actual site where the document was deleted. This makes the restore process slightly quicker.

This recycle bin restore feature can save the day, because often senior committees often meet once a month—every 30 days—just when deleted content is being moved to the Site Collection recycle bin, which requires a Site Collection administrator's intervention. So it makes sense to extend the duration of the site recycle bin.

Increase the site recycle bin retention time

Problem

An executive level committee meets once a month, at the end of the month. The default site recycle bin configuration moves the deleted items to the second stage (or Site Collection) recycle bin every 30 days (that is, at the end of the month). The committee members are looking to restore deleted content, but find the site recycle bin empty. Due to bad timing, the content was moved to the Site Collection recycle bin right about the time of their monthly meeting! The committee will have to contact the helpdesk to restore the content.

Resolution

Increase the site recycle bin retention time so that it does not coincide with the end-of-month activities.

To extend the duration of the recycle bin, follow the next given steps. This must be performed by someone with the appropriate permissions.

In Central Administration, perform the following steps:

  1. Select the web application containing the Site Collection.
  2. Click on the General Settings button from the ribbon.
  3. Select the General Settings submenu.

  4. Scroll down to the Recycle Bin section.

    Only a Site Collection administrator can restore content in the Site Collection recycle bin.

  5. Make the changes to the retention days of the Recycle Bin.

Checked in but not published

Often, end users will upload a document to SharePoint, check it in, but not publish it. This results in restricted visibility to the document for other users, because the document is not published.

The unpublished document is not visible to other end users, so the end user train of thought is that SharePoint is not working and they of course call the help desk.

To prevent this from occurring, educating the end user is key. You will need to explain that the document needs to be published for readership to occur.

Keeping documents unpublished allows only users with editable access to the content. This might be by design.

The following screenshot illustrates how to publish a document. This also applies to any SharePoint content such as calendar event, or an announcement.

The previous screenshot can be accessed from a view of a list or library and through the item drop-down menu.

Permission

Similar to the previous point of major publishing, an end user unintentionally changes the permission on content and restricts the ability for other users to view or edit it. This is often interpreted as "There's a problem with SharePoint!"

This can be resolved easily with the end user or IT confirming the content permissions by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the menu option of the content.

  2. Click on View Properties.
  3. Click on Share With on the ribbon.
  4. Click on Advanced.
  5. Select the Check Permissions icon.

This will confirm who has access to the content.

Users can't remember where their file is saved

This is a common issue with end users, and a call to the Help Desk often follows. Before pulling out the backup and restore documentation, performing a SharePoint search to locate the file could be the quickest way to locate it.

Version control

The version control capabilities of SharePoint are a big selling point of the product that is often overlooked in an actual SharePoint deployment.

By default, version control is turned off on lists and libraries. Therefore, as a result, previous versions of the document are not recoverable.

To restore a previous version of a content object, carry out the following procedure:

  1. Open the menu option of the content.
  2. Select Version History.

  3. Restore a previous version.

    Version history is not turned on automatically when a list/library is created. This is done in the list/library settings, and has to be done for each list/library.

SkyDrive Pro

SkyDrive Pro (Sky Drive) is a Dropbox-type desktop application for the professional community. Files are saved on the end user's PC and synchronized both with other devices and on your My Site SharePoint server. SkyDrive Pro is a part of Office 2013 Standard or ProPlus. It can be installed separately for previous editions of Office, but there is no synchronization client for Office 2010 or 2007.

SkyDrive Pro is similar to the SharePoint Workspace 2010, which was Groove, the Microsoft client software that never really took off. This is mentioned as a comparison of technologies in different versions of SharePoint.

To synchronize files, carry out the following steps:

  1. In the document library on your My Site (or any site), click on the SkyDrive link on the menu as shown in the following screenshot:

    This will display the following screen:

  2. Click on the SYNC link on the ribbon (top right-hand corner).

The content in the library and the end user's desktop will be synchronized.

This is an end user DR procedure if the SharePoint server is unavailable. The files can be stored offline are still accessible.

Admittedly, this is a temporary measure, but it still provides content workability for the end user.

This is not peer-to-peer software, so you will need SharePoint in the mix somewhere.

You can think of SkyDrive Pro as your SkyDrive for business. When you store your files on SkyDrive Pro, only you can see them, but you can easily share them with co-workers and access them from your mobile devices. Your files are safely kept in the cloud with SharePoint Online, or on your company's SharePoint Server 2013 servers, depending on what your company has set up.

Microsoft's SkyDrive was previously called Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Folders is a file hosting service that allows users to upload and synchronize files to cloud storage and then access them from a web browser or their local device.

It is part of the Windows Live range of online services, and allows users to keep their files private, share them with contacts, or make the files public.

This is a consumer-based file storage service available through your Microsoft account.

SkyDrive, not SkyDrive Pro, has no relationship to SharePoint Server 2013. However, if you install Office 2013 and open Windows Explorer, you see a SkyDrive folder in the favorites section.

For more information regarding SkyDrive, visit the following links:

By implementing the previous practices, the urgent support calls and the "Let me walk over to your desk" activity of the day should be reduced.

Managing end user expectations

End user and business expectations must be managed. This is in line with what is stated in Planning and Key Concepts – What Not to Forget, along with service level agreements. When there is a problem, how does it get resolved and how quickly is the business, IT, and user community made aware of the recovery time? Is there a support number to call, or is there just an online ticketing system.

Just because the content is a Microsoft Word document does not mean that it is not important to someone who is important. So SharePoint support needs to be part of helpdesk support.

Training

The points mentioned in this article should be covered as part of end user training. The authors cannot stress how important end user training is to the end user DR procedure.

This does not have to be more than an hour for a user, but the payoff is huge for uptime and a working environment for the end user. Cheat sheets are useful to provide tips in resolving easy and simple issues.

Summary

In this article the reader has been introduced to several simple techniques that can reduce the support calls or fire drill activities related to end user disaster recovery. These techniques will not save the day if SQL Server crashes, but this activity is not daily support activity to the business.

The SharePoint cost of ownership is not the software licenses but the user support staff. If this can be reduced through user training, then the end user is more productive and IT is freed up.

From experience, the authors would state, SharePoint 2010 licensing is approximately 5 percent of the total cost, with the remaining 95 percent represented by the administration and support costs.

Resources for Article:


Further resources on this subject:


Books to Consider

Disaster Recovery using VMware vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager
$ 19.99
Microsoft SharePoint 2010 End User Guide: Business Performance Enhancement
$ 16.80
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