How to configure backups and perform restores in Windows Server 2008

Discover tips on backing up your Windows Server 2008 operating system and data as well as info on performing restores in this chapter excerpt from "Windows Server 2008 How-To".

Windows Server 2008 How-To This excerpt from Chapter 4 of Windows Server 2008 How-To, by J. Peter Bruzzese, Ronald Barrett, Wayne Dipchan, is printed with permission from Sams Publishing, Copyright 2009.

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About the authors.


Scenario/Problem: As part of the Business Continuity Management Team, you have been given the responsibility of making sure your Windows Server 2008 operating systems and data are backed up. You also have the task of performing disaster recovery tests and restoring the servers from your backups. How will you configure backups and perform restores?

Solution: You need to understand the requirements for recovering your server and data in your organization, most likely dictated by service-level agreements (SLA). SLAs define the amounts of time allowed for the recovery of your servers and what data needs to be available. Another item they define is retention of data, or how long to keep your data. In some environments, you may need to retain data for up to seven years for auditing purposes. (And believe me: The auditors will show up and expect to have access to the data.)

The first step in managing your backups is to devise a backup policy. You need to consider the different types of backups needed, which depends on your organization's infrastructure. The following are some of the different backups to consider:

  • System state backups (Automated System Recovery [ASR])
  • File system data backups
  • Database backups (full database backups and transaction log backups)
  • Exchange Server backups

In this book we cover only Windows Server 2008 system state (ASR) and file system data backups and restores using the backup utility within Windows. In a real-world scenario, you would probably use a third-party tool, such as IBM's Tivoli Enterprise or Symantec's NetBackup. Usually these third-party tools also allow you to set the number of versions of a file you want to keep.

Say that you work with your business division and come up with the following SLAs for server and data recovery:

  • Data files must be recoverable from at least the prior business day.
  • Server recovery should be less than or no more than six hours.
  • Data must be retained for at least five years.

Keeping these SLAs in mind, you need to make sure you have a daily backup of all data files and system state. You also need to have a plan that incorporates five-year retention of data, possibly on a monthly archive backup. And you need to consider your space requirements for this and also the media used, as some tape media may not have a good storage life.

If you think about this for a bit, you will realize that a daily backup of all data will cause you to duplicate quite a bit of data on your backups every day. This would waste storage and also require a large backup window (that is, time to run the backup). Ideally, you want to run the backups during a time when server utilization is at its lowest and finish prior to the start of the business day. Making incremental backups of data is the solution to this issue. You can perform full data backups on the weekend (usually when you can afford to have a larger backup window) and then perform incremental backups during the week. Incremental backups back up only the data that changes since the last backup. The drawback to this solution, in the past, was the time it would take to restore the data; you would first have to restore the last full backup and then restore the incremental backups. With Windows Server 2008, you no longer need to restore from multiple backups. Instead, you just choose the date of the backup you would like to restore.

Some third-party backup solutions use what is called "forever incremental" technology. This technology allows you to set your backups to back up only what has changed, and it also keeps active the data that has not changed. When the unchanged data remains active, the restore time will be shorter because you will need to perform only one restore—not restore the full backup and then all the differentials. Many backup solutions back up only what has changed on the block level of a file. Windows Server 2008 also backs up on the block level. Backing up on the block level only backs up identical data once, even if the data can be found on different files. An example of this would be a company letterhead. The letterhead is on many files but is only backed up once with pointers to each file that uses the letterhead. This technology improves space utilization.

Now let's look at how to configure Windows Server 2008 to back up your data files and system state on a schedule:

  1. Select Start, Administrative Tools, Windows Server Backup. The Windows Server Backup window appears.
  2. In the Actions pane, click on Backup Schedule to invoke the Backup Schedule Wizard. A scheduled backup automatically includes the system state.
  3. Click Next on the Getting Started page.
  4. Select one of two options:
    • Full Server: Select this option to back up all the data, applications, and system state.
    • Custom: Select this option to exclude some volumes from your scheduled backup.
  5. On the Backup Configuration page, select Custom and click Next. On the page that appears next, you can exclude volumes. However, notice that you can't exclude a volume that contains the OS files.

If you had chosen to do a one-time backup, you would be given the option Enable System Recovery at this point to include the system state. If this box is unchecked, you are not forced to back up the volume that contains the OS.

  1. Specify the time of day the backup should run. Or, if you like, you can back up the data multiple times in one day.
  2. Select your destination type. Windows Server Backup looks for external disks to which to back up the data. You can select a local volume by clicking Show Available Disks; however, in this case, the backup utility reformats that disk and uses it solely for backup data, and you will no longer be able to see the disk via Windows Explorer. The backup disk selected needs to be at least 1.5 times the size of the amount of data being backed up. If it isn't, you will not be able to complete the Backup Schedule Wizard.

If you choose to do a one-time backup, you have some additional options:

  • You can select a local disk or provide a UNC path to a shared folder as a backup destination.
  • You can allow all users who have permission to the share access to back up data or specify a user.
  • You can decide whether to use VSS Copy backup or VSS Full backup. Use VSS Copy backup if you use third-party backup software to back up your data to ensure that the third-party software will still see the file as not backed up. (Remember that this is a one-time backup that you can run to make sure you back up some select files.)

When launching the Windows Server Backup utility, you may receive the notice "Windows Server Backup is not installed on this computer." You then need to install the feature from Server Manager. If the command-line feature is selected, you need to also install Windows PowerShell.

Here's how you recover a file that has been backed up:

  1. From the Actions pane in the Windows Server Backup utility, click Recover to open the Recovery Wizard.
  2. Select to recover files from the local computer rather than from a remote computer.
  3. Choose the date you want to recover the file from.
  4. Choose Files and Folders from the three recovery types:
    • Files and Folders
    • Application
    • Volume

    • You can now navigate to the file you intend to recover. Obviously, you needed to have backed up a file or folder to see it available for recovery here.
  5. Select one of the three recovery options:
    • Specify the location you would like to recover the file to.
    • Indicate what to do if a duplicate file exists in that location.
    • Restore the security settings.
  6. Confirm your choices and perform the recovery.

For more information on Windows Server 2008 backup capabilities, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc770266.aspx.

In this chapter, we have really just touched the surface when it comes to managing the Windows Server 2008 infrastructure. The information in this chapter provides a good foundation, and as you become more involved with managing your environment, you will find many other tools, both native Microsoft and third-party tools, that will help you with managing Windows Server 2008.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:   
J. Peter Bruzzese, MCSE+I, MCT, CNA, is a network specialist with eight years of experience in information technologies. He is the co-founder of LAN-Slide Technologies, LLC, which provides specialized instruction in certification training and networking.

Ronald Barrett, second lead blog writer for Network World, is an author and tech speaker with many years of experience.

Wayne Dipchan is author of Exam Prep: Active Directory Design, a certified SQL database administrator, and a server expert for companies such as New Horizons, Bear Stearns, and GE.

This was first published in September 2009

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