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Windows Lesson 10 - Backup

Summary

In this lesson we're going to learn how to backup our servers.  We will look at two different methods, the first will use Shadow Copy and the second will use the built in Window Server Backup.

Shadow Copy

First introduced with Window Server 2003, Shadow Copy is a technology that allows your users to restore their own data by browsing previous versions of files.  Pulling up the properties of a drive, folder, or file and clicking the "Previous Versions" tab allows your users to see the available backups.


Shadow Copy uses the Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) to perform the backups.  VSS maintains a separate volume that contains a read only copy of your files.  When a snapshot is performed all changes are copied to the VSS volume.  VSS works at a block level and not a file level, this means only the portion of a file that's different is copied.  If you have a large presentation and you add a few slides, only the new slide information will be copied to the VSS.  

VSS solves other problems we used to face when backing up data.  In the past we would have problems backing up data that was in use.  Now we can backup the read only data in the Shadow Copy and grab the data that is normally in use.  Any current third party backup software will take advantage of this ability.

Enabling Shadow Copy on a server is easy.  In the properties of a drive that contains your shares click the "Shadow Copies" tab, select your drive and click "Enable"

Shadow Copies will store the data on the same drive and take snapshots twice a day (7am and noon) by default.  You can modify these default behaviours.  If your drive contains a lot of data you may want to store the VSS volume on a separate drive.  

Shadow Copies combined with the Previous Versions feature allows your users to restore their own data.  If trained on how to use this feature this can reduce the number of requests to restore data significantly.  Shadow Copy is not a replacement for other backup systems, it is designed to supplement your other backup solutions.  If you have a total server failure Shadow Copy data won't help you.  

Windows Server Backup

Another tool to backup your data is Windows Server Backup.  This is a feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 that needs to be installed before you can use it.  This feature can be installed using the Add Roles and Features wizard.  When you open Windows Server Backup you can choose to backup the server once, or you can schedule a backup job to run regularly.

Windows Server Backup allows you to choose what you want to backup.  You can select all your drives, or individual folders on your drives.  There are two options that need explaining.
  • Bare metal recovery - This option was introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2, prior to this option if you had an entire server failure you had to reinstall Windows and your backup software before you could perform a data restore.  With this new option you can boot from a Windows disk and restore the server without the need to install everything first.  This expedites the process of restoring your data significantly. 
  • System State - The system state contains some important parts of the system all bundled together in one group making it easy to backup.  The items contained in a system include the following:
    • Boot files
    • Active Directory
    • Sysvol
    • Certificate services
    • Cluster database
    • Registry
    • Performance counter
    • Component Services Class registration database

Recovering data using Windows Server Backup.  When recovering files you can choose to redirect the data to a different location when you're recovering it.  This can be handy incase you want to do a test restore to make sure the data looks right.  You can also choose what happens if the data already exists when recovering the data.  You can have it create a copy of the data, overwrite the data, or do nothing.  You can also restore the data with the same permissions, or have it inherit the permissions from the folder.

There are many third party programs available to backup your system with additional features.  This lesson only covers the tools and features built into Windows Server 2012 R2.

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