NTBackup not copying Exchange mailboxes

I have a SBS 2003 server with exchange running the pop connector.  I am running NTBackup every night to an external hard drive.  The backups are running correctly and all of the files including system state are backing up and there are no errors in the event viewer.

However, under the exchange first storage group on the backup file their is nothing showing backed up for the user mailbox data - is this being backed up somewhere else or being skipped for some reason?
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Microsoft does not support individual mail box backups - this is supposedly something that they are going to add to Exchange 2007. NTBackup will only backup/restore the entire Exchange database as a whole (and hence why you cannot see the mail boxes in ntbackup). You can restore a backup to the recovery storage group if you need but this is quite a bit of stuffing around. If you need individual mailbox backups then you need to use real backup software such as Arcserve or Backup Exec with the Exchange agent.
Exchange does have some recovery built in such as deleted mail box retension and deleted items retension.
if you let your computer idle after your back everything up it cache's everthing in your RAM so if you just shut down your system completely it'll show mail and all. this includes your external.
Do you know where the backup log (NTBackup log, not the event viewer) is located? It should indicate if you are getting a good backup of the exchange stores. It's usually located in something like:

"Documents and Settings\User_Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows NT\NTbackup\Data"

Depending on your explorer settings, some of these folders might be hidden unless you enable them.

The MS backup utility won't display the details of the files in these directories. That's just how it's designed. You should rely on the logs, maybe test restorations.

If you know the actual files you are looking for, you might be able to see them by browsing down the drive instead of the storage group in ntbackup.

When you restore, you would have to dismount the information store then just check the appropriate boxes in NTBackup for the Microsoft Information Store. As far as seeing individual mailboxes, I don't personally know how to get that kind of detail out of NTBackup on an Exchange system. I've used it for more of a protection against total loss rather than selective restoration.
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You can use a microsoft utility exmerge to script exporting each mailbox to a pst and then you can back these files up to external storage using ntbackup.
The reason you are seeing nothing is because the backing up of individual mailboxes isnt supported in NTBackup. You could look into third party products instead to achieve mailbox backups (Symantec Backup Exec for example) but remember that mailbox backups use the MAPI interface to access the mail store so it can be problematic where performance is concerned. The other point here is that messages in the store are stored once even if the mail was addressed to 10 people, therefore backing up every mailbox in the store can take more space on disk or tape than the size of the store itself.

To get around users accidently deleting messages you could take a look at retention time, then a user or yourself can restore the deleted email from within Outlook itself.
In Outlook select the trash can and goto the tools menu, you should see "Recover Deleted Items" or something like that.
The retention period can be configured in Exchange System Manager.
- On your Exchange server open Exchange System Manager and goto your server object.
- Right click the server object and select properties. Goto the limits tab and check the "Keep Deleted Items" setting.

Setting up ExMerge to export mailboxes is another solution, depends on size of mailboxes and number of them you need to backup though.

Yet another option and one I use internally, in addition to backing up the store and using retention periods you could look at image based backup/restore products. They are commonly referred to as bare metal backup restore solutions. I use a product called ServerProtect from StorageCraft, there are others like Symantec and Acronis. The benefit when it comes to backing up using ServerProtect is that Exchange is a VSS (volume shadow services) aware application so when StorageCraft is doing its sector by sector backup of everything (files in use etc) it will quiet the Exchange store, write to the image, truncate the logs and keep going. In the event of failure you can take the images (full and incrementals) and restore the entire server to different hardware or a virtual machine.

Backing up of individual mailboxes is NOT in Exchange 2007 and is not something that is planned to be.

Individual mailbox backup is slow, inefficient and close to useless for most scenarios.

My mistake - MS still does not support individual mailbox backups in Exchange 2007 but they do have additional methods of achieving the same thing. Yes it is true that individual mailbox backups are slow but they are far from useless.
There cold be something that is corrupted in one of the boxes. Check the error log and it should tell you.
Chris DentPowerShell DeveloperCommented:

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