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Special issue with single-volume Exchange Server 2003

If you have Exchange Server 2003 databases on the same volume as the Windows Server 2003 installation, you may have backup problems. This tip explains how to avoid this.

Sometimes you run across the most interesting parts of Exchange Server 2003 through experimentation (or accidents if you prefer). I came across an issue during backup quite by accident. You may want to plan ahead so you don't experience the same situation.

If you are attempting to backup an Exchange Server 2003, you may receive an error like this one:

Backup Status
Operation: Backup
Active backup destination: File
Media name: "Backup.bkf created 7/3/2004 at 7:45 PM"

Backup of "A51SVR3142Microsoft Information StoreFirst Storage Group"
Backup set #1 on media #1
Backup description: "Set created 7/3/2004 at 7:45 PM"
Media name: "Backup.bkf created 7/3/2004 at 7:45 PM"

Backup Type: Normal

Backup started on 7/3/2004 at 7:45 PM.
The 'Microsoft Information Store' returned 'Backup is already active.

' from a call to 'HrESEBackupSetup()' additional data '-'The 'Microsoft Information Store' returned 'Functions called in an invalid sequence.

' from a call to 'HrESEBackupClose()' additional data '-'
The operation was ended.
Backup completed on 7/3/2004 at 7:45 PM.
Directories: 0
Files: 0
Bytes: 0
Time: 1 second
The operation did not successfully complete.

If you have Exchange Server 2003 databases on the same volume as the Windows Server 2003 installation, you will have backup problems when you attempt to back up the system state and the Exchange databases at the same time. This is due to a limitation in the ntbackup.exe application. (Of course, no self-respecting admin would ever have a production Exchange server with the databases on the same volume as the OS files...the shame of it!)

The solution to your problem: you can find it in MS KB Article 820272, although that may not be what you want to hear. Your options: perform the backup in two steps (system state in one, databases in the other) or move the databases to another volume.

This should only be a problem in a lab environment, although it did take some time spent looking through the MS KB to find the correct KB article that addresses the behavior. Trying to beat the system by creating multiple volumes on a single physical disk won't do much to provide a long-term solution, although it will get you around the limitation in ntbackup.exe.

The real answer is to plan ahead and never plan to place a production Exchange server on a single disk computer. What you save in cost, you'll lose many times over in redundancy, reliability and speed--not to mention complicating your backup strategy.

Will Schmied, BSET, MCSE, MCSA, is a messaging engineer for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. He has written for Microsoft, Pearson, Sybex, Syngress, TechTarget and several other organizations. He has also worked with Microsoft in the MCSE exam-development process.

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