Flexibility of NTBACKUP has been lost in Windows Vista

Another administrator weighs in on the loss of the NTBACKUP tool in Windows Vista.

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Another administrator weighs in on the issue of the disappearance of NTBACKUP in Windows Vista. The author writes:

I find NTBACKUP to be an acceptable backup tool, especially on Small Business Server 2003 systems.

I regularly migrate SBS2003 systems from older hardware platfoms to newer platforms using NTBACKUP as the backup/restore tool. I'm able to perform a migration inside 10 hours, which is about the same amount of time using other tools, as the bulk of the migration process is the same, i.e., over-the-top install to reset the hardware abstraction layer (HAL) and system drivers.

It also means I don't have to purchase additional software or have to learn yet another backup package that invariably either doesn't work properly, or has been horribly misconfigured by the previous administrator.

One of the advantages of NTBACKUP is its ability to restore individual files as well as full systems. With the change in backup in Vista, this is no longer possible, as the backup process is now separated into a file-based backup as well as an image-based backup. This makes it harder to incorporate backup and disaster recovery into the one process. Disaster recovery only works when incorporated into the daily backup operation. If treated as a separate process, it tends to suffer bit rot by the lack of frequent testing and lack of regular updating in terms of process and documentation.

One NTBACKUP process needs streamlining

Really, the only process that needs streamlining in using NTBACKUP as a bare metal recovery process is either bootable media that can write out the backup media contents, or integrating the backup media restore process in the over-the-top install process. Most bare metal recovery products/processes only work with a limited set of hardware changes, or the entire bare metal recovery process becomes so complex that the benefits of simple and fast restores get lost in the buzzword that is called "bare metal recovery."

In summary, NTBACKUP is a free tool that is useful when used appropriately. Like the precepts of good systems administration, it is wise to become familiar with all the tools offered by the operating system. Installing an additional package incurs further cost in terms of time, complexity, maintenance, configuration and security. For example, while I like Vim and Emacs, I'm unlikely to install them on a system where vi is installed and does an adequate job for that system. I only install them when vi becomes inadequate for the task.

But back to Vista. It now looks like that I will have to look for a third-party package, as the flexibility of NTBACKUP has now been lost. Vista -- with its default tools -- now forces me to treat file backup/restore separately from image backup/restore. This to me is a retrograde step.

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This was first published in May 2007

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