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2/15/2011 8:52:31 AM
The use of DAGs in Exchange Server 2010 mostly eliminates the need to perform backups of the Exchange servers because the data is already replicated to multiple locations. The individual identity of the mailbox, Client Access, Hub Transport, and Unified Messenger servers becomes much less important because there is no “unique” data store on them. This said, it is necessary to realize that not all environments will be large enough to justify the use of DAGs to provide protection against system failures. Smaller deployments will still need to be backed up to allow for recovery of failed systems.

The Windows Server 2008 operating system and the Exchange Server 2010 messaging system contain several features to enhance operating system stability, provide data and service redundancy, and deliver feature-rich client services. Windows Server 2008 continues to provide additional services such as Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS, which works to enhance backup capabilities when organizations use third-party backup products.

Though other options have been mentioned, this section discusses ways to back up a Windows Server 2008 system, including key components of Exchange Server 2010. Because there are no built-in backup utilities available with the Windows Server 2008 operating system that are compatible with Exchange Server 2010, it is necessary to utilize a third-party backup utility.

By preparing for a complete server failure and using the information in this section, an organization is more likely to successfully recover from a failed server, restoring it to its previous state.

Backing Up Boot and System Volumes

A backup strategy for every nonredundant Exchange Server 2010 system should always include the boot and system disk volumes of the server. For most Exchange server installations, the boot and system volume are the same, but in some designs they are located on completely separate volumes—as usually is the case for dual-boot computers. For the rest of this section and discussion, assume that they are both on the same partition. This volume contains all the files necessary to start the core operating system. It should be backed up before and after a change, such as the application of service packs, is made to the operating system and once every 24 hours, if possible.

When Exchange Server is installed on a Windows 2008 server, the installation, by default, installs on the system partition unless a different location is specified during installation. On average, the amount of information stored on the system volume, with applications, services, and all service packs installed, is typically approximately 15GB.


When system volumes are backed up, the System State should also be included in the backup at the same time to simplify recovery and restoration of the system to its original state, if a server needs to be recovered from scratch.

Backing Up Windows Server 2008 Services

Many Windows Server 2008 services store configuration and status data in separate files or databases located in various locations on the system volume. If the service is native to Windows Server 2008, performing a complete server backup on all drives and the System State almost certainly backs up the critical data. A few services provide alternative backup and restore options. The classic NTBackup utility has been replaced in Windows Server 2008 with the new Windows Server Backup that is installed as a feature. Although this utility is incapable of backing up Exchange Server 2010, it is also capable of backing up Windows 2008.

Backing Up the System State

The System State of a Windows Server 2008 system contains, at a minimum, the system Registry, boot files, and the COM+ class registration database. Backing up the System State creates a point-in-time backup that can be used to restore a server to a previous working state. Having a copy of the System State is essential if a server restore is necessary.

How the server is configured determines what will be contained in the System State, other than the three items listed previously. On a domain controller, the System State also contains the Active Directory database and the SYSVOL share. On a cluster, it contains the cluster quorum data. When services such as Certificate Services and Internet Information Services, which contain their own service-specific data, are installed, these databases are not listed separately but are backed up with the System State.

Even though the System State contains many subcomponents, using the programs included with Windows Server 2008, the entire system can be backed up only as a whole. When recovery is necessary, however, there are several different options.

The system should be backed up every week to prepare for several server-related failures. A restore of a system backup is powerful and can return a system to a previous working state if a change needs to be rolled back or if the operating system needs to be restored from scratch after a complete server failure.

Volume Shadow Copy Service and Exchange Server 2010

Before discussing the backup process using Windows Server Backup, it is important for Exchange Server administrators to understand what Windows 2008 Volume Show Copy Service is used for. With limited native support for backing up Exchange Server 2010, most organizations use third-party backup products. Backup products for Exchange Server 2010 must utilize VSS because legacy style “streaming” backups are no longer supported.

The Volume Shadow Copy Service is a server service in Windows 2008 and is available as part of the operating system. Alone, VSS is a service, but when combined with backup applications, VSS become a vital part of every organization’s backup strategy and recovery plan.

What Role VSS Plays in Backup

Microsoft created VSS to provide application platforms and infrastructures to enhance functionality when working with Microsoft services such as Exchange Server 2010. The key to VSS is its capability to act as a go-between or coordinator for service providers (backup applications) and service writers (Exchange Server 2010 databases).

It is important to know that VSS does not function alone; VSS is designed to provide application developers a platform in which to build applications to create Exchange Server snapshots.

Shadow Copies and Snapshots

This capability enabled third-party backup applications to create shadow copies or mirrors of the Exchange Server database and enabled administrators to design more dynamic backup strategies and reduce the overall cost of restoring servers. Using Shadow Copies (Mirror Copies) and Snapshots (Point in Time Mirror Copies), daily backups can be much smaller and for vital messaging systems, and snapshots can be taken several times a day.

VSS Requirements and Prerequisites

When looking at third-party products as an option for backups with VSS technology, you must evaluate the products to ensure that they are compatible with VSS. Compatibility is based on three specific areas:

  • Backups of the Exchange Server 2010 database, logs, and checkpoint files must be completed by the application writer (Exchange Server 2010).

  • The application must complete a full validation of the backup.

  • When restoring data in Exchange Server, this must also be completed by the application writer (Exchange Server 2010).

VSS and third-party applications also require hardware compatibility. This is especially true when backing up to disk subsystems, such as NAS and SAN solutions. To verify this information, review the application vendor support pages and verify that the application and hardware meet all requirements.


For more information regarding Volume Shadow Copy Service, Microsoft published several articles over the years on the Microsoft web page. The content is at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=822896 and http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd233256.aspx.

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