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Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

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  • Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

    Hi all again,

    I want to continue backing up my Exchange 2003 server with NTBACKUP, to a Dell Powervault RD1000 (basically a SATA removable disk). I've been reading about the advantages of VSS 'point in time' backups of Exchange, and am trying to come up with the most fool-proof backup / restore strategy for our main box.

    Because of anticipated network expansion, we used Server 2003 standard, not SBS. It was / is basically our all-in-one server though. The version of Exchange is also 2003 Std.

    I have read the Microsoft KBs, Petri KB and forums, my Exchange 2003 MS Press book, and even talked to Dell Enterprise support about server backup. There is not really any literature about how to back up this arrangement, which I realize is officially unsupported. It works beautifully for us though, I'm very proud of my server maintenance.

    Based on recent research though, I think my backup strategy is not what it should be. I back up system state, all files on all drives, arrays and partitions, and our mailbox store in one pass, full nightly backup. It seems to work and always finishes successfully in the logs with no errors, but I'm concerned about how this would play out in a restore. I'm still lobying my boss to let me get a test server to simulate this on.

    It sounds to me like I should back up Exchange in a separate job with VSS. Is this true in my situation, or would you go with what I'm doing? Can I somehow get Exchange and the rest of the server into one job correctly?

    Maybe this is a better question: If you had my server, and both the OS and Exchange got completely ravaged by a disaster (worst case scenario), what kind of backup would you want to have, and how would you restore it?

    Pondering and preparing,

  • #2
    Re: Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

    I'd back it up in one pass as well, don't see any reason to split off the Exchange backup unless you are short of space on the backup device. AFAIK ntbackup does use VSS, at least to backup certain components such as the system state and also Exchange I think. I'm not particularly a fan of ntbackup or of backup to disk devices, I'd choose Backup Exec and a Tape Drive given the option but there are obviously cost issues there. So long as the disk is taken off site or stored in a fire safe I don't see any issues for DR.

    I'd definitely want to test it though.
    BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
    Cruachan's Blog


    • #3
      Re: Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

      NTbackup only leverages the same technology from Backup Exec that MS bought of Veritas years ago. The only problem NTbackup presents is a lack of a granular restore functionality on mailboxes and emails. If you must do a restore you have to restore the entire store which isnt practical unless your using Exmerge via batchjob and the mailboxes are less than 2GB. Cant see any problem with the OP scenario and theres defintly no need to split the jobs. But its always of course imperative that you test your restore. If your boss is willing to invest have him look at Backup Exec System Recovery/ Granular restore. This allows for an imaged based backup of the server and would more than halve your restore time as well as allowing for a more robust backup than having to muck around rebuilding servers restoring the data and system state. That could mean hours of downtime, whereas an image can mean minutes.


      • #4
        Re: Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

        Thanks for advising!

        A handful of questions,

        How can I be sure NTBACKUP is using VSS correctly during the backup and taking a point in time snapshot of Exchange? If any of you know how VSS literally does this and then feeds it to NTBACKUP, I'd love to have a working understanding.

        ...Microsoft's official word in the KB is that you have to make the service automatic, which I didn't do until recently (it was only enabled twice a day during a shadow copy job on the file server share drive). I feel like there must be more to getting VSS and NTBACKUP to 'work together', can I just assume it's doing it now?

        With NTBACKUP, I can't restore mailboxes granularly, but I seem to be able to do it with regular files, based on what I see poking around in there. Is that true?

        From that existing backup job, do I have the option of restoring either files by themselves, the Exchange storage group by itself, as well as both at once?

        So with a Backup Exec image, I get to skip reinstalling Windows Server before restoring the backup. The image can still be used for granular restores, right? In other words, instead of overwriting the whole server with an image, I can pick a mailbox out of it and just apply that?

        What's the advantage of a tape drive over a removable disk? I have 300 GB disks, and my impression is that even at 4200 RPMs, these little SATA PowerVault 'cartridges' are faster than a tape drive would be and competitive for size, plus they aren't limited to linear replay. Thoughts?

        I currently verify my backups and the system has no problem with this 99.9% of the time. I've heard I should turn this off (and I might, just to save time). Would you, or is this a decent stopgap if I don't have a server to test restores on?

        ...Actually, that's a lot of questions. But that's EVERYTHING I can think of to ask. Hopefully it will be very helpful to other visitors that way who are in my shoes. Thank you for responding, I really want to be knowlegible about this... pat yourselves on the back because you are helping me guarantee the data of a fair-sized franchise.


        • #5
          Re: Backup strategy for Exchange 2003 on a Server 2003 Std Domain Controller

          Hi rprovise,
          you are asking the same question which was running on mine mind always.
          But i can share what i m doing to backup mine exchange server.

          1. I create a clone of C drive : every 15 days
          2. I create a backup of System state : ever 15 days
          3. I backup mine exchange backup : daily
          4. I backup installation folder of exchange server : daily
          5. I export the pst from mailboxes : weekly
          I don't know this is a good backup policy or not, but u can advice me if it is not good and u can use it if u like it

          Take care


          Aman Dhallt