Given that I work at a school district with no money, I find myself constantly faced with challenges that would otherwise be non-existent had I owned the correct tools. What I’m referring to in this instance, is Windows 2008 backup. If you are familiar with the earlier model of the Windows Server Backup (i.e: 2003 R2 and earlier), you know that the whole model has completely changed, and though the backup model seems pretty simple with Windows 2008 Server, almost mimicking the method that Time Machine uses on the mac, it is seriously lacking for backing up anything beyond one server.

For those not familiar with the Windows 2008 server backup (WB), there are 3 backup destinations which are possible.

  1. Device: this will allow you backup whatever data you choose, or your whole server to a device, be it another hard drive on your server, external device, or even remote device. This is the most intelligent method where the WB will operate most efficiently. The downside to this, is that you are required to format the whole device, and dedicate for a backup. If you have an iSCSI device, this would mean that you would have to have a separate backup volume for each server.  not exactly an ideal situation.
  2. Volume: This allows to back up to a volume which resides on the same server. Meaning, this could be another physical drive, or Partition.  This works ok, but would cost you a performance hit on the server. Given that you are backing up the data on the server to a volume on that server, it is highly likely that the server in question is running a production application and can’t afford a performance hit. The warning when choosing this option warns about a potential 200% performance decrease when running a backup to a volume.
  3. Network Folder : This method is what we are usually all familiar with as far as backup is concerned. With Windows 2008 Backup, it is possible. With a couple major caveats:
    • Though it is possible to schedule a backup to a network folder, that backup will overwrite the destination backup every time it runs. This means that you lose all the intelligence in the backup engine, and will only have on backup on-hand.
    • As a result of the first caveat, and if you want to have a workaround, you would have to use the wbadmin.exe command line utility, in combination with the schtasks.exe in order to schedule additional backup jobs. This will work, as long as you keep in mind that (1) You will no longer be able to monitor the backup job status for the manually created tasks. and (2) You will lose the ability to perform an incremental or differential backup. For every job, you would have to account for a full backup, means x2, x3 or x4 the space, depending on how many backups you want to keep.

The Solution
We need to have something that can be mounted on the source server that WB can actually see as a local volume, and therefore allowing us to use it as a target volume, instead of a network share, even though the actual destination data does in fact exist on a network share.

Here’s how to do it:

    • First estimate the amount of space you’re going to need for backup. The Windows backup is smart enough, and will delete old backups, so, depending on how far back you want your backups to go, you can double, or triple the space for your backup volume. For instance, if your data is 10Gb and you have a few megabytes of changes per days, then, creating a volume that is 15Gb for the backup, will likely make backups available to you, going back 3 months.
    • On your destination server. (where you want the backups to live), create a VHD file with the estimated size of the backup. Theoretically, you can create a TrueCrypt volume, or any other file that can be mounted as a device. (this example is assuming that your server that has the backups on it is running Windows Vista, 2008 or 7). To create a VHD:
        • Right click on My Computer and select Manage
        • click on Disk Management then right-click on Create VHD
        • Follow the prompt to create a VHD that corresponds to the size of your backup target.

      Right click on My computer and click on “Manage”

      From “Disk Management” right-click and select “Create VHD”

      Create the volume

    • On your source server (where you want to back up the data from), go through the same steps, but instead of select Create VHD, select Attach VHD
    • In the Browse… field, type in the path to the VHD you created on the target server, in the form of a UNC path.
    • The disk will get detected, and will show up in disk management
    • Go to the disk, initialize it, and format it like you would any other volume
    • Attach the VHD

      Browse to the VHD on the network location

      Initialize the VHD

Utility which will auto-mount the VHD on startup.

 

  • Go back to your Windows Backup, and change the destination to be a “Volume” destination. You will notice that the –remote– VHD volume will show up as a local drive for the server, and will now allow you to back up to a network “share”, while taking advantage of the features of Windows backup.

 

The last step required is to get the VHD to mount automatically upon server reboot. To do this, there is a little utility that you can run which will do exactly that, you can get it here: http://www.bmvhdloader.com/2.4.htm

Simply install it, point it to the VHD, and allow it to mount on startup.

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