Exchange 2016: Windows Server Backup

So far we have been covering the initial aspects of a simple Exchange 2016 installation. At some point we also need to consider the configuration steps for backing up our application minimising whenever possible  the RTO/RPO times to meet stringent SLAs. The purpose of this article is to cover these aspects with a very simple approach using the built-in Windows Server Backup Feature.

 So here are. First let’s start installing the Windows Server Backup Feature by using the Server Manager wizard

 

 

 

 

Once the Windows Server Backup Feature is installed let’s open the pertinent snap-in just by issuing the wbadmin.msc command and create a new Backup schedule. Ideally we can also create a “Run Once” schedule but during the article we’ll also start manually a backup occurrence to make sure it is working as expected

 

 

In my case I will be selecting a “Custom” configuration as I will exclude from the Backup a specific Drive which will be used to store the actual Backup. Now for “purposes only” this is a local drive but for best practices this drive should appear as a DAS storage possibly offered through iSCSI and made redundant by making sure Data included is error prone and disaster free. In my case this is Drive B:

 

 

 

This is where we define our schedules hence our Point-in-Time restores. The more the better and also more storage needed to store data in Shadow Storage Area

 

 

 

Let’s accept with a Yes  to this message. After formatting the “Backup” Drive will disappear from the standard Windows File Explorer but will still be visible in Computer Management > Disk Management

 

Let’s review all information and click on Finish to get to the Summary page

 

 

At this point we have successfully created a scheduled Backup. But what if we are impatient (especially myself!) and wanted to test the backup options sooner? Well the quickest would be to run the Backup Once wizard from the right panel and simply select the Scheduled Backup options as per screenshots below

 

 

 

 

So during the first execution of this Backup schedule let’s see what is happening under the bonnet! Since the Windows Server Backup Feature will leverage VSS and Exchange is an application “VSS aware” then we can follow same directions as per this article here. Just by issuing a

“VSSAdmin List ShadowStorage”

we can see the actual status of the dedicated Shadows Storage Areas (by default one per volume onto the same volume) and the actual usage

 

 

Now that the Backup job completed we can also issue the following command to view our Point-in-Time Restore

“VSSAdmin List Shadows”

 

Repeating the same command a few days later we can also see the other backups that can be used for our Point-in-Time Restores

 

So before concluding this quick article let’s consider the following:

  • The VSS Backup used in this case is the System Provider (Default one) which allows only Differential Snapshots

  • Differential Snapshots are including only the differences with the original volume

  • The VSS Provider is responsible for maintaining the two copies (the original one and the other in the Shadow Storage Area)

  • If the original copy is not accessible the full restore of specific objects is not possible

  • You might want to consider VSS Hardware Providers instead in order to take a Full copy of the original data in Shadow Storage Area

  • Full Snapshot Copies are a lot bigger than the Differential ones and equal at least the size of the original volume

  • Full Snapshots are also transportable and can be used for off host backup. Differential ones are not

  • Hardware Providers work on the controller level managing the Disks and Volumes. Performances are significantly faster when compared to Software or System Provider

This concludes our quick journey on Exchange Server Backups. Next topic will cover Restore scenarios

Michele Domanico

Passionate about Virtualization, Storage, Data Availability and Software Defined Data Center technologies. The aim of Domalab.com is sharing with the Community the knowledge and experience gained with customers, industry leaders and like minded peers. Always open to constructive feedback and new challenges.

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