Four ways to manage Windows Server 2008 Backup on multiple servers

John Joyner explains four methods to manage the performance of the Windows Server Backup utility across multiple servers.

In a previous article, I shared some techniques for using the Windows Server Backup utility that comes with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Besides the fact that the Windows Server Backup utility is a free part of the operating system, it uses a block-based disk image technology that is faster and often more reliable than traditional file-based full and incremental backups.

Using Windows Server Backup, rather than a third-party backup utility, you can save on backup software license costs, and reduce complexity for single-server backups. For the administrator with several (or hundreds) of servers to manage, what's not readily available is an easy way to manage performance of the Windows Server Backup utility across multiple servers. This article relates four ways you can remotely monitor the status of Windows Server Backup across more than one server.

#1Multiple Windows Backup Snap-in instances

Windows Server Backup is administered using the command line or the Windows Server Backup management application (wbadmin.msc). The management application monitors one server at a time (normally the local server) but can also be retargeted to other computers running the same version of Windows Server Backup. The Windows Server Backup Snap-in is available to add to a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) interface. Follow these steps to manage multiple server backups from one interface:

  1. Open a blank Microsoft Management Console (MMC.exe) at the command prompt.
  2. Select File ... Add/Remove Snap-in.
  3. Select the Windows Server Backup Snap-in and push the Add button.
  4. At the Computer Chooser screen, select Another Computer and type the name of the remote server to manage.
  5. Push Finish and repeat steps 3 and 4 for each additional remote server.
  6. When done, press OK and observe all your backup servers listed under the console root.
  7. Select File ... Save As, name, and save your custom MMC.
  8. Each time the MMC is opened, all the servers you added will be listed. Browse through each node in the MMC to verify the status of your server backups.

#2 Use a Windows Small Business Server product

If you own Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) versions 2008 or 2011, you have an automated backup management feature available already. Windows Server Backup is an integral part of the SBS management solution. The assured backup of Exchange 2010 in SBS 2011 is a high-value feature to the small business. Emailed daily summary reports and weekly detailed reports make it easy to spot problems with your backups; see Figure A for an actual SBS report email detailing a recent backup failure.

Figure A

The Detailed Network Report provides a high-level summary of Small Business Server backup status

Multiple SBS servers can be configured to email the same contact address or distribution group. Manual or automated monitoring of that central mail destination, both for the daily receipt of a report email, and for the status of the backup reported by that email, is a simple but effective technique. If your business model permits you to deploy an SBS server at multiple locations, remember you have this tool in your kit.

#3 Backup success events send an email

Did you know that every Windows 2008 server has a rudimentary network management feature built-in? This is the event-based task that you can create to take an action upon seeing a particular event in a Windows log. All Windows Backup events are recorded in the Microsoft-Windows-Backup log on the local computer. Follow these steps to check this log for backup successes and send an email when a successful backup takes place.

  1. Open event viewer and navigate to Applications and Services Logs | Microsoft | Windows | Backup.
  2. Select a backup success event which has the source ‘Microsoft-Windows-Backup' and the Event ID: 4.
  3. Right-click on the event and select Attach Task to This Event...
  4. Select to Send an Email, and follow the prompts to assign a recipient address and SMTP server. Figure B shows this task staged and ready to send an email after every successful backup.
  5. Use a common recipient address across multiple servers.
  6. Monitor the common recipient mailbox or distribution group for daily receipt of a successful backup event from every server that is expected to send one.

Figure B

An event-based task sends emails directly, or runs a command-line email utility after each successful backup

#4 Author a SCOM Management Pack

Strangely, Microsoft has never released a Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM) management pack (MP) for Windows Backup. Perhaps Microsoft would prefer that you use the System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) product to manage multi-server backup. There is a great DPM 2010 MP available that confirms backup status for all DPM-protected servers.

For a similar effect, you will need to author your own custom MP to create a view of the status of Windows Server Backup on multiple servers. A recommendation is to use the SCOM authoring console to compose a new MP that creates an object in SCOM that represents each server running a Windows Server Backup task.

A simple technique in SCOM to create new objects is to define discoveries based on the presence of a particular registry key. When a daily backup is scheduled, the computer's TaskCache registry Tree is modified by adding a Windows Backup key. To discover computers where Windows Backup is enabled, check for the existence of this registry key:

SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Schedule\TaskCache\Tree\Microsoft\Windows\Backup\Microsoft-Windows-WindowsBackup

After you discover the computers where Windows Backup is scheduled, there are a number of monitors you can create that watch for errors in the backup process. A useful monitor might be a missing event monitor that alerted if a successful backup event was not encountered in a 24 hour period. You can watch for the same Microsoft-Windows-Backup Event ID: 4 used in the event-based task method described previously. Figure C shows the health model node of the SCOM authoring console, with the cascading menu items selected to create the missing event monitor.

Figure C

Author a SCOM management pack to create a dashboard of backup health across servers (click to enlarge)

Add a state view of the Windows Server Backup Application objects in the presentation node of the authoring console. Save your custom management pack and import it into SCOM. A SCOM state view of these objects will give you a "dashboard" effect with a red light/green light indication of the backup health for hundreds of servers.

By John Joyner

John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, ...