This was asked by a university in California. The answer is yes it is possible with Exchange 2010 and Microsoft IT has been running in a backupless state for all mailboxes in production since the beta of Exchange 2010. Note: pics from our documentation
What backup and recovery requirements did MS IT have?
Support mailbox capacities of 5 GB.
Reduce backup costs by eliminating third-party backups.
Reduce administrative overhead by simplifying the mail restore process.
Provide recovery of mail items up to 30 days old.
What were the objectives MS IT had to meet to move to this state?
A minimum of 30 days of data available to be recovered at any time
The ability to recover any single item that was deleted within those last 30 days
The ability to hold information for longer than 30 days if active litigation required it
The safety to know that if one or two copies of the data went offline, the e-mail system data could still operate or be recovered
How did MS IT accomplish backupless Exchange 2010?
1) Implement Exchange 2010 DAG for high availability and general resiliency
2) Leverage the new dumpster and additional feature called single item recovery
How do I recover something from single item recovery?
Administrators can recover purged items from Exchange Control Panel E-Discovery UI (Ent. CAL) or Search-Mailbox cmdlet (Std. CAL). Below are your options:
Is a lagged database copy needed?
Initially, MS IT implemented this during the beta however it did not really align with their core objectives such as reduced complexity, lack of quick recovery, and if logical data corruption occurred reseeding is required which, in effect, loses the lagged aspect of the copy. Non-lagged DAG database replicas better met the objectives of MS IT and also allowed for recovery during a rare case of logical data corruption. Read more here on seeding, lagged copies, etc.
What is the general DAG and makeup of an MS IT mailbox server?
Exchange Native Data Protection – no backups
4 real time DB copies on JBOD – see more on JBOD decision here
Single item recovery set to 30 days
5 GB mailbox quota
Approx 300 users per DB
35 DBs per server
Variable number of nodes per DAG (up to 16)
Backup cost savings?
MS IT reduced its backup costs from ~$5 per mailbox per year using daily incremental backups to disk to $0 per mailbox after the move to Exchange 2010.
Read more on MS IT’s backupless approach here.