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Planning Your Server Backups

The best way to protect data on the network and important configuration files is to perform scheduled backups on mission-critical servers (or any server for that matter). Installing a backup device on your domain controller or a file server not only enables you to back up the Registry on a particular server, but it also does not add to network traffic by moving the backup files over the network medium.

Backup devices are available from a number of manufacturers, as is specialized backup software. Later in this hour, we take a look at backing up files using the new Windows Server 2008 Backup utility.

By the Way

A large number of backup devices using different media types are available—everything from DAT tape to 8mm tape to CD-RW jukeboxes. No matter what type of device you choose, you must make sure that the device is listed on the Windows Server 2008 compatibility list, available at www.microsoft.com. Be advised that Windows Server Backup does not support tape drives and you will need to use a third-party backup solution ot take advantage of tape backup devices.

Although the media and backup software that you use for your backups should be sufficient for your needs, another important aspect of backing up data is to have a backup plan. Your backup plan must revolve around the data that must be backed up and how often you decide to back up that particular information.

Before determining your backup plan, some basic issues related to backups should be discussed, including the different types of backups that can be made. First, Windows uses file markers (or archive attributes) to specify whether a file has been backed up.

When you create a new file, one of the file’s attributes is that the file has not been backed up since changes were made to it last (the changes here are its creation).

When you back up the file, the “never been backed up” tag is removed. In effect, this marks the file as having been backed up. Then when you make new changes to the file, the file is again marked as having not been backed up since recent changes were made. Markers are important because you can use them to your advantage during the backup process.

The fact that files are tagged based on their backup status enables you to use three different types of backups:

So, a possible strategy for a backup plan would be to do a normal backup the first time you run a backup on the server. You can then run an incremental backup on a daily basis to back up any changes made to the files. This speeds up the daily backup process because you are backing up only files that have been modified since the previous backup. Differential backups can be run once a week to back up all the data that changed since the last differential backup (giving you a week’s worth of changes).

Using the backup plan discussed, if the server goes down on Tuesday, you have to restore only the differential backup that you ran on Friday and the incremental backup that you ran on Monday evening. This should restore all the files to the state they were in before the crash.

Be advised that the new Windows Server 2008 Backup utility does not support differential and incremental backups. It only provides for a full backup (the same as a normal backup defined above) shadow copies of shared folders. If you want to have a more fine-grained backup strategy for your servers, you will need to take advantage of a third party backup software solution.

Did you Know?

You should also have a backup plan for keeping a copy of backup tapes or other media offsite. This enables you to restore the company data even if a major disaster such as a fire hits the business.

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