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How to make Windows Backup work

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Warning: You are not notified of the backup status of Windows Server 2008 Backup or wbadmin scripts

Summary: The built-in wizards for scheduling backup jobs in Windows Server 2008 allow you to schedule daily jobs. However, the wizards do not notify you of the backup result, meaning that a job can fail for days, weeks or months, without anyone realizing.

As discussed in other articles, Windows Server Backup is a great tool for backing up and restoring your system, applications and files and folders.

Actually I need to add 3 words to the end of that sentence:

...when it works!

Like all backup systems, there's still a danger that you won't be able to restore when you need to. That danger is invariably caused by a failure of the backup itself. An example of this is that the backup never actually ran (because the backup device wasn't connected or inserted), or that the wrong data was backed up.

And while the new backup infrastructure is exceptionally good for a Microsoft built-in feature, it contains one massive gaping hole: if the backup fails, you don't get notified!

That's right. If you were to use the standard built-in wizards to schedule your backups, or if you're more sophisticated and use a scheduled script, you still won't be notified that the backup failed.

Instead, all that happens is that an event log entry is created. Too bad if you're not checking the event logs on a daily basis. And if you're managing multiple servers, you'll have your work cut out for you manually checking the results on each server.

To make matters worse, the built-in wizards will remove the drive letter of your backup device so you can't even browse it in Windows Explorer. So you don't get notified if the backup succeeded or failed, and you can't even see what's on the backup device!

Solution: Use BackupAssist to email you the backup results

An easy solution to this problem is to download the trial version of BackupAssist and use it to schedule, manage, monitor and report the status of your backups.

The reporting in BackupAssist is extremely comprehensive, and with each backup you get emailed an HTML report showing:

  • total data in the backup
  • time taken
  • a log of the process
  • a graph called the "media usage report"' that shows you how much of the backup device is occupied by backups, and how much is free
  • a list of backup versions available on the device.

[screenshot example - Linus to provide]

BackupAssist also retains the drive letter for your backup device, instead of confiscating it, so you can see exactly what's on the device at any time. It also has some black-magic method of reassigning the drive letter in case it changes (as is often the case when cheaper USB drives get plugged into different ports) and will also perform a "Safely remove hardware"' at the end of each backup so you can disconnect the drive without fear of data loss.

Managing multiple servers and Windows Server Backup

If you manage a large numbers of servers, monitoring the status of the backups across all the servers can be tedious and time consuming. 3rd party solutions like BackupAssist also offer a centralized monitoring option where the status of all the servers are collated using a cloud-hosted solution and a single email is sent to you, the administrator, once a day. This single email contains a summary of the job status across all the servers.