Disaster Recovery – Backup in Windows Server 2003 /2008

Introduction to the Role of Backup in Disaster Recovery

Despite seductive technical innovations such as clustering, backup remains your number one protector against a Windows Server 2003 / 2008 disaster.

Topics for Backup in Windows Server 2003Server


35% of Backup Tapes do Not Work

Gartner research points out that 35% of backup tapes will not restore in the way that you expect.

At first I did not believe the above statistics.  However, because I have read other articles which give even worse figures, I now accept the truth – many backup tapes are fatally flawed.  If you study Gartner’s statement carefully, it says not so much that backup itself does not work, more that something goes awry when you attempt to restore the tapes.

The salutary message is your backup strategy will never be complete until you find the time to test a full restore under realistic disaster conditions.

Guy’s Recommendation – EaseUS Todo Backup Server for 2003/2008 Server

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Differential backup – only backup changed files since last full backup.
Incremental – only backup changed files since last backup, save your disk space.
Clone – upgrade hard drive to a new one without reinstalling system and applications.
Universal restore – easily restore system to dissimilar hardware.
Flexible storage options – backup to a local hard drive, CD/DVD, tape devices, network share, etc.
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Backup Strategies for Windows Server 2003

Reasons why you need to backup up data

  1. Day-to-day retrieval of lost files or deleted mailboxes.
  2. Disaster Recovery – as a precaution against server failure.
  3. Archiving – documents that tax inspectors or government officials may need 5 years in the future.

Best Practice – Backup tactics

  1. Backup to a second hard disk or better still, control backup at your SAN.
  2. Backup to tape, that way you have protection against a physical disaster at the site.
  3. Keep father, and grandfather copies of you tapes. 
  4. Keep at least some of your tapes offsite.  (On the internet?)

See how to backup outlook with PowerShell »

Types of  Windows Server 2003 Backup

1. Normal – Where ever possible, take a normal backup.  The reason is that this is the only method that backs up ALL the the files.  Another benefit of Normal Backup comes when you restore, you only need the last tape.  With the other types or backup you need to restore multiple tapes which increases the time, frustration and the chance of something going wrong.  Make a normal backup your reflex.

Customer: ‘But Guy, a normal backup takes 22 hours’.

Guy: ‘O.K., let us use a normal backup at the weekend and differential each night.’

To understand the other types you need to consider what is happening to the archive bit during backup.  As you may know, a normal backup resets the archive bit (no tick), but when the user updates the file a tick appears in the archive bit.   Incidentally, you can check the archive bit status by looking at the advanced properties of any file or folder.

2. Differential – Backs up only files that have changed since the last full backup.  How does it know which files to choose?  It selects only files with the archive bit checked.  Unlike the next type, differential does NOT reset the archive bit, so each day the backups get larger and larger.

3. Incremental – Backs up only files with archive bit set.  Incremental then clears the tick.  Incremental backups are quicker to run than the other types, but are a nightmare to restore.  Some databases only allow Normal or Differential types of backup.  Make this method your last resort.

4. Copy – Backs up files that you manually select, suppose you want all documents that relate to a topic no matter when they last changed.  Copy leaves the archive bit as it was.  

Another scenario where you could use a copy backup is that you want to backup an entire website, no matter when the last files were backed up.  However, you do not want to reset the archive bit.

5. Daily – Backs up files with today’s date stamp. Since today midnight 0.00 hrs.  (Not within the last 24 hrs.)

Note: Which ever of the above 5 types you use, you can, and should backup theSystem State

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For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges.  For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. 

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Backup Tips for Windows Server 2003

1. Keep a spreadsheet – Update records, make a calendar, or utilize the built in scheduler.

2. Use Volume Shadow Copy – The new Shadow Copy feature in Server 2003, provides point-in-time copies of files on network shares.  This enables you to backup open files, however, Volume Shadow Copy is not a substitute for a proper normal backup.

3. Consider Security –  What would happen if someone stole the tape?  Would you notice? What could information could they gain?  How easy would it be for them to restore?  What could you do to prevent all of the above?

Answer: Protect by selecting the option: ‘Restrict restore to owner or administrator’.  Another security measure is to use your Domain Group Policy and restrict the Restore privilege to Administrators.

Select the option to verify backup, the process will take a little longer but its worth the wait.

4. Planning – Create a backup baseline.  The idea is to create a reference point where you know everything is working properly.  Then it will be quicker to restore the changes from tape.  Note the ‘Restore Point’ feature of XP is not available on Server 2003.

Make a written plan of who will do what in the case of an emergency incident.  Create a flow chart of the sequence to retrieve data.  If server is running then get data, if server is not running, repair Windows 2003 operating system.

5. Getting Started – You access the Backup GUI via Accessories, System Tools.  There is also a command line version suitable for scripting called ntbackup.

For an in-depth appreciation of backup, check out this article:
Kick the Tape! By Eric B. Rux, MVP

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