Imagine that one of your servers experiences a random hard disk drive failure. What would you do, assuming that the hard disk was not part of a fault-tolerant volume set?
If you're like most administrators, you'd probably think about replacing the drive and restoring a backup. Restoring a backup is great if the failed hard disk drive contains data, but what if the drive that failed contained the server's operating system?
Most admins aren't in the habit of creating full system backups because of short backup windows and media capacity limitations. If no backup is available (or if the backup is more than 60 days old), you may have to manually reload the operating system and reconfigure the server, resulting in a significant amount of downtime.
Fortunately, many products can help you avoid this situation by maintaining server snapshots. Here are three that are currently available.
Portlock Storage Manager 4.0
On the surface, Portlock Storage Manager 4.0 , from Portlock Software appears to be a run-of-the-mill disk imaging utility. It can copy, create, clone, image, restore and resize partitions. Yet a couple of features make this utility unique. First, it supports a wide variety of partition types. The utility is designed to be compatible with DOS, Windows, Linux and NetWare, and therefore supports all partition types associated with these operating systems. The software can even image a server's diagnostic partition.
Another useful feature is Portlock Storage Manager 4.0's ability to perform a bare metal recovery. If a hard disk drive fails, there is no need to install an operating system onto the new drive prior to restoring the disk image. You can use the software's boot CD to restore a drive image.
Portlock Storage Manager also supports online imaging for NetWare servers. You can use the software to image volumes on a NetWare 6.5 server, even if the volumes are mounted and active.
Acronis True Image 9.1 Enterprise Server
Acronis True Image 9.1 Enterprise Server for Windows is another server disk-imaging utility. Like Portlock Storage Manager, Acronis True Image 9.1 Enterprise Server supports a bare metal restore of disk images.
Acronis True Image supports real time imaging and supports imaging of remote servers. Images can be written to a SAN, NAS, DVD-ROM or just about any other high-capacity media. Furthermore, Acronis True Image supports incremental disk backup, meaing the software does not have to create a fresh disk image each time you want to back up the server. It can just back up those portions of the disk that have changed since the last image was created.
Likewise, if you need to restore a hard disk drive, you don't have to restore an entire image. You can choose to restore either a full disk image or a subset of the data that the image contains.
Drive Backup 7.0
Another drive-imaging application is Drive Backup 7.0 from Paragon Software Group. Like the other two, Drive Backup 7.0 can image entire hard disk drives or individual partitions. It also offers support for backing up Windows servers while they are in use.
Drive Backup 7.0 has two unique features. First, while you have the ability to perform a bare metal restore or a restoration of a single partition, you can also restore the hard disk drive's Master Boot Record (MBR), the hard disk's first track or individual files and folders from the disk image.
It also offers a backup capsule, a partition that is only readable by Drive Backup. The idea is that you can create this partition on a server and store all your disk images in it. By doing so, you protect those images from being accidentally deleted or modified. This is important because it offers protection and security (no one can get to your backups unless they're using Drive Backup). I have seen poorly written antivirus applications trash a drive image on more than one occasion.
About the Author:
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He writes regularly for SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.
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