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Can I use an imaging tool to capture and restore the state of my Windows Active Directory domain controller?
Active Directory domain controllers pose a special problem for data protection specialists. Software tools like Symantec Ghost or Acronis True Image can capture an image of the domain controller, but the problem comes in restoration.
Remember, a backup is older than the current state of the system. So restoring a backup effectively rolls back the affected system to an earlier state. This is usually not a problem for an ordinary workload, but the domain controller must be "aware" of the restoration so it can receive appropriate updates to synchronize with other domain controllers. If the restored domain controller is not "aware" of the restoration, it could wind up replicating old data to other domain controllers and causing severe AD problems.
Imaging or snapshot tools can certainly capture the current system state, but restoring those images may roll back the update sequence number (USN) and fail to reset the domain controller's Invocation ID – which could have catastrophic consequences.
The trick to successfully restore domain controllers is to make the system is "aware" of the restoration so it can synchronize with other current domain controllers. This typically requires the use of Windows Backup or some other Windows-aware backup/restore tool that can capture the entire system state, including boot and registry files, class registration database, SYSVOL and Active Directory components. In addition, Active Directory backups should be more recent than the AD's tombstone setting.
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