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Troubleshooting abnormally long backup cycles

I am using Veritas to back up Microsoft Exchange remotely. The Exchange server was set up about one year ago. At first, backups took only three to six hours. Now, the backup takes up to 20 hours. Do you have any thoughts on what could have happened?

I am using Veritas to back up Microsoft Exchange remotely. The Exchange server was set up about one year ago. At first, backups took only three to six hours. Now, the backup takes up to 20 hours. Do you have any thoughts on what could have happened?
VIEW MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A.

Assuming that no configuration changes have taken place over the last year, the only thing that should cause the backup to take longer is an increase in the amount of data you are backing up. However, based on your numbers, that would mean the data has increased four times in size. Not impossible, but I'm guessing you would have figured out if that were the case.

So you might want to check out the following:

  • Disk storage performance: The source of your problem could be a disk that is extremely full (over 80%), contains data that is fragmented or corrupted, a failed hardware RAID, or malfunctioning SCSI controller/physical disks. See Understanding and analyzing -1018, -1019, and -1022 Exchange database errors. However, these issues can cause not only backups to take longer, but all sorts of problems.

  • Network performance: If backups are going over the network, make sure there is bandwidth. If your tape storage is directly attached to the server, then this should not be an issue, even if you are triggering the backup from a remote server.

  • Media errors: Look for errors on your tape backup unit. Media can go bad. You should have a good media rotation cycle to prevent this. If the backup unit is having problems writing to the tape, that could cause the backups longer.

To eliminate the probability that it is a media or a tape backup problem try to back up to a local hard drive on the Exchange server. If you think it might be a software problem, use NTBackup (a lightweight version of Veritas) to back up Exchange.

MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A:

I have seen this happen out of the blue also, and it can be very frustrating.

Typically, many use SCSI-based tape devices and many will be using Windows Update or WUS/SUS for Microsoft hotfixes and services packs. Although I have never proven it entirely, I often have had cause to suspect one or more of these updates may interfere with the SCSI drivers used by Microsoft's Windows 2000 and 2003 servers from time to time. In most cases, a driver update on the SCSI card is available and I have seen these updates halve the back up times and bring everything back to what it should be.

Also, if you are using a SCSI-based device with hopefully just the tape unit on the chain, and also a separate SCSI terminator, replace the terminator. There is an amazing amount of weird errors that will lead you up the garden path before you find this little gem.
—Gordon H.

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Can a long backup also be caused by antivirus programs running on Exchange Server?
—Dalibor C.

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It is possible that antivirus software could slowdown a backup, if the antivirus software is accessing the information store(s) at the same time as the backup -- especially if the backup software and the antivirus software are utilizing the same MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface). Of course the best way to find out is to stop antivirus software services when backing up the mailboxes.
—Richard Luckett, Spam and Security expert

Do you have comments on this Ask the Expert Q&A? Let us know.

Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Reference Center: Exchange performance
  • Reference Center: Exchange backup and recovery
  • Learning Center: Toolbox for Exchange administrators
  • Dig Deeper on Exchange Server setup and troubleshooting

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