Windows Server 2008 R2 : Understand Backup and Recovery

6/11/2012 11:51:17 AM
In Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft has made several improvements to the backup tool. You now have the ability to back up specific files and folders. In Windows Server 2008 RTM, you had to back up an entire volume. In Windows Server 2008 R2, you can include or exclude folders or individual files. You can also exclude files based on the file types, and you can perform incremental backups of system state. Previously, you could only perform a full backup of the system state by using the wbadmin.exe utility. Now you can perform incremental backups of the system state by using the Windows Server Backup utility, the wbadmin.exe utility, or a PowerShell cmdlet. You can also perform scheduled backups to volumes or network shares. Lastly, Windows Server 2008 R2 has built-in PowerShell cmdlets for managing backups and restores.

1. Understand Backup and Recovery Terminology

When working with backup and recovery technologies in Windows Server 2008 R2 or any Windows environment, it is necessary to learn the lingo used by the operating system.

Table 1. Backup Terms
Normal or full backupNormal backups, sometimes known as full backups, are the slowest for the backup process to complete. The time your backup will take is determined by how much data you are backing up. However, if you can perform a normal backup every night and have it completed during off-hours, this is the preferred way to protect your system. This is also the default setting for Windows Server Backup.
Incremental backupIncremental backups are the fastest backup proces because this type of backup tracks only the changes to your data since the last backup of any kind. Incremental backups will also control how your restore process will work. When you want to restore data with incremental backups, you first need to restore the latest normal backup followed by all the incremental backup sets in order. This method may also impact your servers' performance.
System stateSystem state contains most of the system's configuration information. It does not contain all the needed configuration for your system; you should always consider using this in conjunction with a full backup. Also, the roles you currently have installed on the server will determine what components make up the system state. 
Bare-metal recoveryA bare-metal recovery allows you to recover a full server environment based on a backed-up image you had created previously (without first installing an OS). This allows you to recover a server that may otherwise have been inoperable because of any number of errors that a regular backup and recovery could not fix. Bare-metal recovery is one of your last lines of recovery to bring back a failed system.
Shadow copiesShadow copies are point-in-time copies of data typically located on file shares. A shadow copy provides your users with a self-service method of recovering files they have deleted or overwritten accidentally.
Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)VSS is the master service inside Windows Server 2008 R2 governing the majority of the backup infrastructure. It is also the service providing you with the ability to create shadow copies.

2. Use Backup and Recovery Tools

Three tools allow you to access the backup and recovery tool set in Windows Server 2008 R2. You have a fully functioning GUI management tool called Windows Server Backup, you have a command-line tool called wbadmin.exe, and lastly you have PowerShell cmdlets at your disposal to perform these commands. On a Windows Server 2008 R2 Server Core installation, you only have wpadmin.exe and PowerShell cmdlets to back up a Server Core installation.

In addition to these tools, another valuable tool you can leverage to help protect data located in the file shares is Volume Shadow Copy Service. This tool creates point-in-time backup copies of your file on shared resources. This powerful utility gives your users the ability to protect themselves from accidentally deleting or overwriting files and even allows them to compare versions of a file.

2.1. Install Windows Server Backup Tools on a Full Server

Before you can use any of these tools, you need to first install the tools on their respective server environments. Even though you will see the Windows Server Backup utility in the administrative tools on your Windows Server 2008 R2 server, the feature is not installed by default, and you will see a message similar to Figure 1 when you first try to run it.

Figure 1. Windows Server Backup message

To install the tools, you just need to install the built-in Windows Server 2008 R2 feature:

  1. Open Server Manager.

  2. Click Features in the tree menu on the left.

  3. Click Add Features in the details pane on the right to begin the installation.

  4. Scroll down the feature list to find Windows Server Backup Features. Click the + sign next to the feature name. You will see you have two options to install, as shown in Figure 2.

    Figure 2. Installing Windows Server Backup

    The Windows Server Backup choice installs the GUI management tool for your backup administration, and the Command-Line Tools option installs the wbadmin.exe command-line tool and the PowerShell cmdlets.

  5. Select the management tools you want to install, and click Next.

  6. Review the Confirm Installation Selections screen, and when ready, click Install to install the backup tools.

  7. After the installation completes, click Close to use the tools.

2.2. Install Windows Server Backup Tools on Core Server

Windows Server Core has the same built-in backup tools and functionality as a full Windows Server 2008 R2 server installation. Because of the nature of the Server Core installation, there is no GUI tool; however, you can install either the wbadmin.exe command-line tool or the PowerShell backup cmdlets. Just like the Windows Server 2008 R2 full installation, the backup tools are not installed by default.

  1. Log on your Server Core server.

  2. Type the following command and hit Enter to see the current state of the backup tools (as well as other features installed on Server Core):

    dism /online /get-features

    You are looking for the two features called WindowsServerBackup and WindowsServerBackupCommandlet, and by default the current state for both will be Disabled.

  3. Type in one or both of the following commands to install the backup tools on the Server Core server.

    To install the wbadmin.exe tool, type the following command, and hit Enter:

    dism /online /enable-feature

    Make sure you have enabled PowerShell on your Windows Server 2008 R2 server before you install the backup cmdlets. To install the PowerShell commands for backup, type the following command, and hit Enter:

    dism /online /enable-feature

  4. To verify the tools installed properly, you can run the following command and hit Enter. You will see the current state of your backup tools as Enabled, and you will see a screen similar to Figure 3.

    dism /online /get-features

Figure 3. Server Core backup tools enabled

2.3. Enable Shadow Copies

Shadow copies help protect data located in the file shares and drives of your Windows Server 2008 R2 server. Shadow copies are point-in-time backup copies of your files on shared resources. They're enabled at the volume level. This means that when you enable this on a volume you protect all the resources and shares residing on the volume. While you cannot select individual shares to turn this on or off for, you will still be able to recover information individually if needed because the volume is protected.

When a shadow copy is created for a file, only the incremental changes are stored for the file. This means the amount of storage needed for your network could be minimal, based on how many files and changes are made to the files. The copies you create can be stored on the same volume the data is stored. You can move the shadow copies to another volume, which will help the performance of the shadow copies and the volumes themselves. Before you enable shadow copies, you should also be aware you can have only 64 copies on the volume at one time. This will impact the schedule you choose as well, which is Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. (noon) by default. Shadow copies are run by the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). When you enable shadow copies, there is a 100MB backup file automatically created. Additionally, by default the maximum size used for the backups is set to 10 percent of the volume's total space. What this means is that if you run out of space, VSS will start deleting older versions of your shadow copies.

Allowing your users to work quickly with these volumes will save you from having to use your recovery media to help restore lost data. However, shadow copies are not a replacement for your current backup and recovery implementation. Rather, they provide a nice complement for your backup and recovery tool belt.

For more information on Shadow Copy, take a look at the following:

Enabling shadow copies is just a matter of enabling the volume, and you can do this for both Windows Server 2008 R2 full and Server Core installations.

  1. Open Computer Management by selecting Start => Administrative Tools => Computer Management.

  2. In the Computer Management tree on the left, right-click Shared Folders, and select All Tasks => Configure Shadow Copies. You will see a screen similar to Figure 4.

    Figure 4. Enabling shadow copies
  3. Select the volume where the shares are located that you want to enable this feature on.

  4. To modify the settings for shadow copies, click Settings; you will see a screen similar to Figure 5. The Settings screen will allow you to control the location and schedule for the shadow copies. You can change the storage location for the shadow copies only when they are disabled on the volume. So, you want to make sure you change the location of the shadow copy storage before you enable shadow copies.

    Figure 5. Shadow copy settings
  5. After you have modified the settings, click Enable to enable shadow copies on your selected volume; you will see the warning shown in Figure 6.

    Figure 6. Shadow copy warning
  6. Click Yes to enable shadow copies. You can also select the Do Not Show This Message Again check box to not see the warning again.

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