Disaster Recovery optimize

Back up Exchange 2010 with this Windows Server 2008 R2 feature

Windows Server Backup is included with Windows Server 2008 R2 and can be a great quick-and-dirty way to back up an Exchange server. Scott Lowe explains how to use this tool.

No matter how small the Exchange implementation, the data needs to be backed up. Many Exchange shops (particularly smaller ones) have relied on the ubiquitous Windows Server Backup utility to protect their Exchange environments against disaster. Although there was a period of time when Exchange and Windows Server Backup didn't work together, with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010, this is not the case, and the backup and recovery of Exchange using this tool is a relatively simple process.

For the demonstration in this tutorial, I'll back up a single Exchange 2010 mailbox database that exists on a server named MAIL3. At Westminster College, we're currently in a pilot phase for an Exchange 2010 rollout, and we're using Windows Server Backup during this phase. Once we're in full production, we'll move to our normal enterprise backup application.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic gallery.

How to use Windows Server Backup with Exchange 2010

Figure A gives you a look at the Exchange Management Console view of this database. The other two databases you see reside on a different Exchange server. Figure A

We'll back up the default mailbox database on MAIL3.
Start the Windows Server Backup tool by going to Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Windows Server Backup. More than likely, you'll end up with a screen like the one in Figure B that tells you the backup tool is not yet installed on your server. Figure B

Windows Server Backup is not yet installed.
To add the Windows Server Backup bits to your Windows Server 2008 R2 server, open Server Manager, navigate to the Features item, and click the Add Features link (Figure C). Figure C

Click Add Features to add a new server feature.
On the Select Features page, locate the Windows Server Backup Features option and select it (Figure D). Although it's not required, it's also recommended that you install the Command-Line Tools so that you can script backup jobs if you like. Figure D

Choose to add the backup tool.
When you get to the Confirm Installation Selections page (Figure E), look over your selections and click the Install button to add the features. At the end of the process, you will receive the results screen shown in Figure F. Figure E

Review your selections and click Install.
Figure F

The backup tool has been installed.
Now that Windows Server Backup is installed, when you restart the utility, you'll be greeted with a screen like the one in Figure G. At the top of the window, Windows Server Backup will tell you that there are no current backups configured, and all of the informational areas of the window will be blank since there is no detail to share until after an initial backup is run. Figure G

The Windows Server Backup window is mostly blank to start.
I'll jump right into creating a backup schedule in order to schedule a regular backup of this Exchange Server database. To start the process, go to the Action menu and choose Backup Schedule (Figure H). Figure H

Schedule a server backup
Starting the backup schedule kicks off a wizard that begins with a welcome screen that outlines what decisions you need to make (Figure I). For the purposes of this article, I'll stick mostly with defaults. Figure I

Backup Schedule Wizard Getting Started page
On the next page of the wizard, you're asked to decide what you'd like to back up. You can choose to back up the entire server (this includes all data, applications, and system state), or you can choose to perform a custom backup, which allows you to make granular options about what to back up. You see in Figure J that I'm performing a full server backup that will use 17.52 GB of space. Figure J

Choose what to back up
Although the backup default is to run every day at 9:00 P.M., you can choose to run the backup at a different time (Figure K) or, if you need a shorter recovery period, can choose to run multiple backups each day. To add additional daily backups, select the button next to More Than Once A Day, specify the times you'd like, and click the Add button. After you make your choices, click the Next button. Figure K

Decide at what time(s) each day you'd like to run backups.
With the "what" and the "when" out of the way, it's time to consider the "where" (Figure L); specifically, you need to make sure to back up your information to a location that can survive a server failure. You can choose to back data up to a hard drive that you've dedicated to this purpose. Ideally, this would be a removable drive of some kind that you can store away from the server. If you can't do this, you can back data up to an existing server volume, although you may take a performance hit and, if the server is lost in a disaster, recovery won't be possible. The option that I prefer is to back data up to a volume on a separate server. In my case, this second server resides in a different building. Figure L

Where do you want to save backups?
When you choose the remote location option, you're told that each backup will overwrite previous backups and only the latest backup will be available (Figure M). If you need multiple backups to be available, consider other backup options. Figure M

Heed the warning
When you choose the remote backup option, you need to specify where the backup should be saved. On the screen shown in Figure N, you'll note that backups are being written to a server named Backup and to a folder named MAIL3 on a share named Exchange10. In the Access Control section of the window, the Inherit option is selected, indicating that anyone who has access to the shared folder also has access to the backup file. As such, set carefully controlled share and NTFS permissions on the resource. Figure N

Specify where the backup should be saved
For a remote share, you need to provide a user name and a password that has access to the backup destination (Figure O). Figure O

Provide credentials for the remote backup location
Finally, the confirmation page appears, providing you with an opportunity to review your backup selections (Figure P). When you're done, click the Finish button. Figure P

Review your backup selections
When you get back to the backup console, you can click the View Details link under Next Backup to see details about your pending backup. Figure Q shows this detail window for the backup we just created. Figure Q

Details about the next scheduled backup
If you'd like to kick off a manual backup before the next scheduled backup, go to Action | Backup Once. On the first page of the Backup Once Wizard (Figure R), you're asked how you want to run the backup. Do you want to use the same options you used for your scheduled backup, or do you want to choose different backup options? Figure R

Backup Once options
The Backup Once Wizard provides you with a summary page. Click the Backup button to begin the backup process (Figure S). During the backup process, the window in Figure T will display on the screen so that you can watch backup progress. At the end of the process, you'll see a final completion page (Figure U). Figure S

Backup summary page
Figure T

Backup status page
Figure U

The backup is complete.

Proof

How do you actually know that Exchange was appropriately backed up? That's revealed during the restore process. Although I'm not covering restores here, I will share the screen in Figure V; this shows that the Exchange application was backed up and that, specifically, the database on the server named MAIL3 was the one that was saved. Figure V

The restore process reveals that the Exchange database exists in the backup.

Summary

While suitable mostly for small organizations and those running pilots, the Windows Server Backup utility can be a great way to back up your Exchange 2010 server without having to invest more dollars in software.

Keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

9 comments
abb2151989
abb2151989

Hi , I run exchange db backup on remote shared folder using windows server backup schedule mode. But time was passed 1hr , backup process can not start and only keep showing " running consistency check .... ". any possible error on my exchange server or remote shared folder that destination of backup exchange db. Thanks ..

mr_ian84
mr_ian84

An archiving solution will keep your mind safe that it store all the emails found on the Exchange server and more. Then when disaster strikes you can easily restore the emails you desire. The main thing to note is that the Archive is up to date. All of this can be achieved using GFI MailArchiver. It is one of the best and cheapest archiving solutions out there. GFI MailArchiver can help you to restore a mailbox easily in case of disaster recovery using the Mailbox Restore utility. And while the exchange server is down one can easily continue working to access the emails by accessing them from the GFI MailArchiver web interface. more on http://www.gfi.com/MailArchiver

joshi_at
joshi_at

Hi, are the logfiles also removed after backing up the MSX2010 DB? How about a brick level restore? I assume the latter is a enterprise feature and not available in WSB? Cheers Johannes

Richard_Laing
Richard_Laing

Hello Scott, we have our backup setup as per your details and above and it has been working 100%. We unfortunately recently had trojan virus attach itself to our mail database log files and as such exchange mail database could not be mounted because the Anti Virus quarantined the log infected files. We proceeded to recover the database from a previous backup and this was succesful, but now Windows Server Backup backs up everything except the exhange application and its inherent database. Any possible ideas why this could be? EDIT: I should just note that we are using the exact same settings that worked previously. It complains that the consistency check failed for the information store.

daniel.markwalder
daniel.markwalder

Backing up never seems to be a big problem, why not talk about restoring a single item of a Exchange Mailbox .. that seems like mission impossible ..any ideas ?

Justin James
Justin James

On WS 2003, the built-in backup was pretty good. With WS 2008/R2, the backup leaves much to be desired. We've been EXTREMELY displeased with it. We've had all sorts of minor annoyances, and the final straw was when we tested recovery (yeah yeah, we put a plan into place without really testing recovery for a while...) we were absolutely dismayed. As a result, we just bought some Paragon licenses and we're in the middle of moving to that right now. J.Ja

WorkingHardInIt
WorkingHardInIt

I have had a 100% susccess rate with Windows 2008 (R2) backups. Test the scenario's, try them out. Most people fall over 4 to 5 issues (mostly due to assumptions) and over some more complex scenario's but it does work and quite well and fast. Including bare metal recovery. only this week we restored a W2K8R2 server from a DELL PE510 to an older PE2950 with different raid controller etc. That worked just fine. I use it when and where approriate fully automated via simple scripting. See also some posts on some of te most challenging P2V. I've done some complex recoveries / transitions with nothing more than that product and free tools. http://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/stories-of-windows-backup-p2v-v2v-v2p/ But beware that most restores are a lot easier. Main complaint: backups to a network share consume a lot of space but a couple of TB is so cheap it's not show stopper.

Justin James
Justin James

That's what burned us, we thought we could do bare metal recovery... you can, but only when you allow the backup system to take over a disk. Which we can't do, because we need to expose the backup location so other systems can backup to it as well. That was the deal breaker. In some scenarios, it is still a good backup system (on my server at home, it more than meets my needs) but for our servers in the office, it no longer worked as well as the older version did. J.Ja