Sunday, February 20, 2011

Windows Server 2008 R2 Backup and Restore

To install backup functionality in Windows Server 2008 R2, go to Server Manager – Features, and select Windows Server Backup Features with additional components – Windows Server Backup (core files for backup functionality) and Command-Line tools (for Powershell support scripts).

Select features screen – select all the Windows Server Backup features available.

Screen indicating successfull installation

After the installation of Backup features we can access them through the Start , in Administrative Tools under “Windows Server Backup”.

Inside the Windows Server Backup Management console, we can create a backup schedule, perform one-time backup, recover data that was previously configured for a backup, or configure performance settings.

Windows Server Backup Console

In this walk-through we will create a scheduled job for backing up an entire operating system (including the registry), so we’ll go ahead and click on Backup Schedule option.

During the backup schedule plan creation, we can select what to backup (single files from our server, system state, folders, volumes or the entire server), as well as when and how often backups should occur, and finally where to store the backups. Before Windows Server 2008 R2, we could only keep our backups on a dedicated volume, which was a serious maintenance cost for system administrators who had become accustomed to the NTBackup tool from Windows Server 2003, which allowed backups to any storage (including local folders).

During the setup of a Backup Schedule job, we will have to decide what to backup. We can obviously select individual volumes, folders or files, but since Windows Server 2008 R2 we also have additional backup options:

  • Bare Metal Recovery – backup an entire operating system. This is not the same as full backup, which also backs-up your data.
  • System State – generally this option will backup all system-related settings, like registry, COM+ class registration database, Boot files (including system files), certificates, Active Directory Services, SYSVOL folder, IIS Meta-Directory, etc.

Select backup Items windows

After we select data to backup, we can specify file types to exclude in the backup (such as mp3 files or temp files), and choose additional VSS settings. To do this, we click on the Advanced Settings button.

It is advisable to exclude certain files from the backups that are not necessary to restore. For example, when you manually create Full Server backup and store it locally on one of your volumes, you should peform that backup everyday, because it will surely take lot of diskspace and impact server performance. Instead consider a less regular Full Server backup and more regular backups of the data which changes more frequently.

Specific files excluded from the backup.

In the VSS Settings screen, we can choose what type of Volume Shadow Copy we want to create. Available options are VSS Full Backup, and VSS copy Backup. Normally we will want to use the VSS full backup when we do not use third party tools for backups.

VSS Settings window

On the next step of scheduled backup configuration, we need to decide when to perform the backups. This is a crucial step, since we have to choose a time when the server load is low and when performance isn’t the most important. For this reason , backup jobs are usually run during the night.

We can choose to backup once a day (and select an exact time when), or choose to perform backups more than once, then we can choose more than one hour for a backup.

Backup Time Schedule Window

In the next step we will decide where we’d like to store the backups. In previous version of Windows Server 2008, when I tried to configure backups as I am used to with NTBackup, I’ve encountered issues because Windows Server Backup wasn’t able to backup my data to local folders. I was forced to purchased a dedicated harddrive for backups despite space being available on existing data volumes. It was a real relief to see the Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 R2 re-introduces this functionality!

Select Backup Destination window

In our example, I’ve used one of my local volumes to store my backups.

Select Destination Window with local D: Volume added

The final step is the summary, where we can review our settings and Finish the Backup Wizard. After a successfull setup, we’ll see our newly added backup job on the Windows Server Backup console.

Windows Server Backup console with newly added backup job.

If we decide to perform the backup right now, out of schedule, we should use Backup Once option in right pane. Then in the Backup Once Wizard screen, we can choose either one of our scheduled backups, or we can configure entirely new one.

Backup Once Setup Window

Keep in mind, that when you create a backup of volumes hosting Virtual Hard Disk files (VHD), these files will be automatically excluded from the backup, as if they were mounted at the time backup was created.

So far so good, but what about Recovery ? To configure recovery go back to Windows Server Backup Console and select the Recovery option from the right pane.

We can use this option to recover specific files, entire volumes or the system state components from a backup we setup earlier. We will need to specify where our backup file is located, it can be either on a Local Server, or remote location (which is the normal and recommended location for any backup).

Recovery Wizard Screen

The last interesting option in our Windows Server Backup console are the Optimizations options. These options only apply to backups where we include entire volumes in our backup. We can choose Normal Backup, which is best for servers under heavy loads. Faster Backup is usually good when we perform backups at night or at close to zero server usage. We can also customize these settings for each volume on a server.

Optimization Options screen

With Windows Server 2008 R2 we once again have a great, in-built tool to backup our data. I know many Sys Admins prefer third party tools for backup, but with an appropriate setup Windows Server Backup is now a viable option.

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