Almost everyone is aware of the importance of backing up critical data. And if you aren't aware, you'll likely become painfully aware on the day after a server crash. But, on a limited budget, what can you do in your small organization to make sure your data is safe? You could work with the big guys like Computer Associates or Veritas, but, if that's outside your budget, consider the backup utility included with Windows Server 2003. It's very good and can handle your basic backup needs both simply and affordably.
Back up files
You can find the Windows Server 2003 backup utility at Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup. When you initially start the utility, it presents a wizard to walk you through the backup process. I'll go over this wizard process to give you an idea of what to expect. Later, I'll provide a quick overview of the advanced interface that doesn't use the wizard.
Using the wizard
The first thing you need to do is to let the wizard know what you want to do, as seen in Figure A. Do you want to back up files or do you want to restore files? After all, it would be a pretty useless utility if it could only back files up!
|Choose whether you want to back up or restore files.|
Next, you'll see the screen shown in Figure B. Here, you get to choose what exactly you would like to back up. You can either back up everything or you can be more selective in what you save. In order to provide a better overview of the process, I'll select what to back up for this example rather than choosing everything.
|Now you need to choose what you want to back up.|
If you've chosen to select specific items to back up, the next step of the wizard gives you the opportunity to do so. In Figure C below, you'll see that I opted to back up drive D: in my server, as well as to back up System State information and the First Storage Group for the Exchange server that is also installed on this machine.
|Select the specific items you wish to back up.|
If you don't have Exchange installed on the machine, you won't be given the option to back it up. The Exchange installation extends the system backup utility to be able to support Exchange databases.
With the backup contents selected, you need to provide a safe place to put them. If you have a tape drive installed and the driver is loaded, you'll have the option to back the information up to a blank tape. Otherwise, you'll need to back up to a file. Note that ntbackup does not support backing up to CDs. The server that I am using in this example does not have a tape drive attached to it. Figure D below is from a Windows 2000 server that does.
|Next, you'll need to select the location for the backed up files.|
After you have chosen a location for the backup, you are presented with a summary of the selections you made, similar to the one in Figure E. To perform the backup, click Finish.
|Here you can see a summary of backup selections.|
While the wizard makes things easy by providing a step-by-step process to back your server up, many people prefer to use a normal interface to do their jobs. When you start the backup utility, the wizard will start, but clicking the option marked Advanced will provide you with the full ntbackup GUI, which you'll see in Figure F.
To see backup options, shown in Figure G, click on the Backup tab. The two large windows on the screen are used to identify what you want to back up. The entries in the left pane allow you to drill down into the server's contents, while the right pane is used to granularly select the items to back up.
The bottom of the window has options that allow you to provide the location to which files should be backed up. As with the wizard, if you have a tape drive, it will be presented as a valid backup location.
To start the backup, click the button marked Start Backup after you have made the appropriate selections. When you do this, you will be presented with a dialog box with options that will be used for this backup set, as shown in Figure H.
|Here are the options to use for this backup.|
For easy identification, you can create a description of the contents of this backup. Then, you need to specify what should happen if the backup location already contains a backup set. You can either append the new backup to the existing backup or you can replace the old backup with the new one. The next space is used to enter the name of the media. Finally, the last option on the screen—the checkbox—allows you to secure this backup so that only the backup job owner or an Administrator can restore the contents.
Using this window, you can also schedule backups to take place at another time. To do so, click the Schedule button.
For advanced options for this backup job, click the Advanced button. You'll then see the screen shown in Figure I.
|Here are the Advanced Backup Options.|
There are a number of specific things that you can do on the Advanced Options window, including:
- Back Up Data That Is In Remote Storage: This option includes data in remote storage in your backup. This is only required if you want the actual data in remote storage; it is not required in order to back up the remote storage database.
- Verify Data After Backup: This verifies that the data that is backed up matches the data on the original media.
- If Possible, Compress The Backup To Save Space: If your tape drive supports compression, use this option to reduce the amount of data written to the tape.
- Automatically Backup System Protected Files With The System State: This option backs up the files from the systemroot folder.
- Disable Volume Shadow Copy: This disables volume shadow copy for the backup. Using this option can result in open files being skipped.
- Backup Type: This determines the type of backup. The Normal option backs up all files and clears the archive bit. The Copy option backs up files without clearing the archive bit. The Differential option backs up only files that are new or that have changed since the last Normal or Incremental backup. The archive bit is not cleared. The Incremental option backs up only files that are new or that have changed since the last Normal or Incremental backup. The archive bit is cleared. The Daily option backs up all files that have been added or that have changed since the previous day.
Click OK in the advanced options window after you've made your selections and then click Start Backup in the Backup Job Information window to begin the backup.
What goes to tape must come back eventually. The odds are very good that, at some point, you're going to have to restore something that was previously backed up.
The restore wizard starts off by showing you a list of previous backups and allows you to select what you would like to restore. You do so by drilling down into the backups and choosing the files and folders that should be put back. In Figure J, I have selected a file for restoration that I backed up previously as a sample.
|Select the files and folders that you would like to restore.|
With the wizard, that's all you really have to do. If you want to restore files to a different location, click Advanced.
Like backing files up, you can restore files directly from a GUI without having to use the wizard. To use the GUI, click the Advanced option on the first screen you get to when you start the program.
On this screen of the GUI, you need to select the files and folders that you want to restore. As you can see in Figure K below, I have selected a single file to restore. Furthermore, I have specified that I want the file restored to an alternate location—in this case, D:\.
Once you have selected what should be restored, click Start Restore. Doing so results in a dialog box with three options. You can either begin the restore immediately by clicking OK, cancel the operation by selecting Cancel, or specify advanced options by choosing Advanced. Clicking Advanced results in a window like the one shown below in Figure L.
|Here are the Advanced Restore options.|
The advanced options are as follows:
- Restore Security: If you backed up data from an NTFS volume, selecting this option restores the file's original NTFS permissions.
- Restore Junction Points, And Restore File And Folder Data Under Junction Points To The Original Location: This option restores both junction points, as well as the data that is being pointed to.
- When Restoring Replicated Data Sets, Mark The Restored Data As The Primary Data For All Replicas: If you are restoring data that is to be replicated to an FRS point, select this option or the restored data may not replicate, as it will appear older than the current data.
- Restore The Cluster Registry To The Quorum Disk, And All Other Nodes: If you are working with clustered servers, you should select this option.
- Preserve existing volume mount points: This option allows the restore operation to restore files without overwriting current volume mount points.
You can schedule jobs to run without administrative intervention by scheduling them to run. To do this, click on the scheduling tab on the GUI. You'll then see the screen shown in Figure M. Click the Add Job button. This will start the backup wizard. I will not be going over the backup process here, because it is so similar to the process I just covered.
One difference in the process comes towards the end of the wizard when you're asked to provide a time for the backup, as shown inFigure N.
|This screen allows you to provide a time and name for the job.|
To set the schedule that will be used for this job, click the Set Schedule button (FigureO). Determine how often you would like to run this job—Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Once, At System Startup, At Logon, or When Idle—along with the time that the job should start, and click OK.
|Use this screen to provide a schedule for this job.|
After this, you will be asked to provide the credentials that will be used by the backup job. Make sure that the account you provide has the appropriate rights.
Powerful and free!
The Windows backup utility is actually a pretty powerful way to back up your servers. While it doesn't have some features of the enterprise backup software, it is more than adequate when money is tight and backups are required.