Best practices for backing up Windows server clusters

When it comes to backup, a Windows server cluster environment is very different from standalone systems.

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When it comes to backup, a Windows server cluster environment is very different from standalone systems.

Of course, as with any standalone system, you should make a backup before and after any significant changes in configuration. But Microsoft has three specific recommendations for backing up clusters.

  1. Perform System State Backups. System State Backups, also called Authoritative System Restore (ASR) capable backups, include the cluster configuration information needed to fully restore the cluster. The alternative is a local backup, which only backs up the data on the computers. You need System State Backups of every node, and you need to do them regularly in order to record the meta-information on the cluster's disks. Note: The Cluster Service must be running on the node to record the proper disk information on the clusters disks.

  2. Know when to restart an ASR over the network. You can do an ASR over the network, but you will need to reboot if disk maintenance is performed during the ASR. The tricky part is that the reboot message doesn't warn you that ASR won't be automatically restarted.

  3. Back up cluster disks by hosted by node separately. Although you need to save all the cluster disks to a network share, you do not want that information in one big chunk. It is more manageable if it is backed up by node. This limits the risk of information loss if the backup becomes corrupted because at worst, the disks associated with one node will be affected.

About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term often meant an 80K floppy disk. Today he specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in April 2006

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