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Exchange 2007 and Server 2008 – will it backup?

November 27th, 2008 by Linus Chang

Hi all,

There has been a considerable amount of confusion about backing up Exchange 2007 on Windows Server 2008 and whether BackupAssist will support this.

We too have seen a LOT of conflicting information on the Internet. In this blog post, I hope to clarify the situation.

The Short Version:
Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 RTM does not support the backup of Exchange Server.

However, Microsoft are working on a plug-in that will allow Windows Server Backup to properly backup Exchange 2007 on Server 2008.

They report that it will be released in Summer 2008 (Northern Hemisphere). As soon as we find out about its release, we will update this blog entry. As soon as MS supports this, then so will BackupAssist.

Note: Our testing of SBS 2008 RC1 indicates that Windows Server Backup does interface with Exchange.

The Long Version:
Although Windows Server Backup is a VSS-based backup application, and Exchange is VSS-aware, there are “additional requirements for Exchange backups and restores beyond using the VSS Framework; for example, checking the database and log files for corruption during backups is not part of the VSS Framework”

In the initial RTM release of Windows Server 2008, Windows Server Backup did not perform these additional requirements for backing up Exchange 2007. Therefore, Exchange 2007 could not be backed up by Windows Server Backup.

However, it looks like MS ran into huge amounts of criticism over, and a plug-in will be released shortly that addresses it.

Quoting from Scott Schnoll’s blog:

“I announced that sometime this summer, Microsoft will be providing a VSS-based plug-in for Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 that will enable customers to take Exchange-aware, VSS backups on Windows Server 2008. I don’t have a lot of details to share beyond this.”

“In short, NT Backup was replaced with Windows Server Backup (WSB) which unlike NTbackup, did not support ESE streaming backups of exchange. While WSB supports backup/recovery of any application including 3rd party apps using VSS and a plug-in model, for reasons outside the control f the Windows or the Exchange team, the out-of-box-experience of Windows Server 2008 did not include the support for backing up and recovering Exchange. Both the Windows and the Exchange team heard a lot of feedback and criticism over a decision that neither team was responsible for. As a result of the large amount of feedback we received on this issue, we have decided to ship a plug-in for WSB created by Windows and the Small Business Server (SBS) team that enables VSS-based backups of Exchange.”




eSata and wbadmin support

November 27th, 2008 by Linus Chang

Hi all,

I’ve recently been delivering an educational presentation on the drive imaging features in Windows Server 2008. I’ve been very impressed by its capabilities, especially given that it is built into the OS. Hardware Independent Restore (HIR) has worked just great in all our testing, even in absurd situations (eg. backup an Intel Server 2x dual core CPUs, restore on AMD desktop 1x quad core CPU).

However, the built-in wizards really struggle in many situations. They do not allow users to schedule backups to anything other than USB or Firewire HDDs – meaning that newer popular technologies are not supported – like eSata.

I’ll blog about the other limitations on the built-in Wizards in Server 2008 – and how BackupAssist fixes them – but this post is specifically about eSata support.

There are a number of problems with eSata that you’ll likely encounter if you are not using BackupAssist.

Firstly, Server 2008’s wizard does not support backing up to an eSata disk. This is because eSata looks like an internal hard drive. SBS 2008’s wizard will allow you to add an eSata disk to the backup pool (when you click on the “show all devices” checkbox), but from my testing, it still won’t work reliably.

This is partially a Windows problem and partially a motherboard problem.

eSata drives are not Plug-and-Play by default. Instead, you need to enable AHCI support in your motherboard BIOS, change a registry setting in Windows, and reboot. Then, *perhaps* it will work. However, in half the test machines we tried this on, after enabling AHCI support on the motherboard, Windows wouldn’t boot (blue screen of death).

This means that AHCI is NOT a recommended solution to fix this problem.

However, BackupAssist does correctly handle eSata disks. This is because before each backup, BackupAssist will scan for newly connected hardware devices, find the drive, assign the drive letter, and then start the backup. After the backup has finished, BackupAssist will then perform the equivalent of a Safely Remove Hardware so that the device can be disconnected with no danger of uncommitted buffered data.

So in this case at least, it’s not all Microsoft’s fault. But the good news is that BackupAssist should make the process seamless. I wrote the code for this about a month ago, and it’s been released in the new v5 of our software.




Windows Server 2008 Image Backup and REV / rdx drives

November 27th, 2008 by Linus Chang

Hello all,

This is an important message for users of the rdx and REV drives on Server 2008 and the Image Backup (aka Windows Server Backup).

BackupAssist does support the rdx and REV devices as a destination device. [Note that the built-in Windows Server Backup (and the SBS wizards) does not detect these devices as valid backup destinations.]

This means that using BackupAssist, it is possible to backup to these devices for the purposes of doing a bare-metal full restore, or for restoring complete volumes.

However, the operating system sees these devices as “Removable drives” meaning that it will backup to these devices just like it backs up to a DVD drive – by compressing the VHD file.

It turns out that compressed VHD files cannot be mounted, and therefore you cannot restore individual files and directories, or individual applications, from within the standard Windows Server Backup restore wizard.

This is a limitation at the operating system level. We have not yet found a way to work around this limitation (but we’re trying).

Note: when backing up to USB hard drives, or local hard drives, you can restore individual files and folders and also applications.

So in summary:

When backing up to REV/rdx:
– Compression is on
– Can restore from bare metal
– Can restore entire volumes
– Cannot restore individual files and folders
– Cannot restore applications

When backing up to USB HDD:
– Compression is off
– Can restore from bare metal
– Can restore entire volumes
– Can restore individual files and folders
– Can restore applications

There are two workarounds for this scenario:

1. If you need to restore individual files and directories, use a USB or eSata connected removable hard drive as your backup device.

2. As an alternative strategy, use your REV / rdx drives with the File Replication Engine to backup your file system. You can achieve extremely good results with this method – giving you version history on your files that’s far better than can be achieved with drive imaging. Then have another job that will back up your system using the Windows Imaging Engine and enable you to restore quickly from bare metal.

Read more about how you can do this here: http://www.backupassist.com/SBS/sbspresentation.html

I’ll post more about alternative backup strategies in the near future.

Server 2008 backup taking a long time – caused by USB version setting

November 27th, 2008 by Linus Chang

Hi all,

I recently had a case where a client of ours was reporting that the backup was taking over 23 hours to complete, and it looked like it had “hung”.

However, he promptly fixed the issue himself, and discovered that it was due to the USB version setting in bios. I’ve quoted his reply to me below.

I thought it would be of interest to everyone else running HP Proliant servers!



I have fixed the problem. It turns out that HP Proliant servers default to USB 1.1 ports for some LILO legacy stuff. I changed this in the bios of one of the two of my windows server 2008 servers and a 138GB backup now finished in 37 minutes. This is good for us as it is much better than 23 hours. :)

Announcing… SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 Support!

November 27th, 2008 by Linus Chang

Hi all,

To coincide with Microsoft’s worldwide launch of SBS 2008 and EBS 2008, we’d like to formally announce our support for these two latest operating systems.

The current version of BackupAssist (v5.0.5) supports these operating systems with the following features:
– Drive Image backups – building upon the block-level backup features present in Windows Server 2008, while adding extensive scheduling, strategy, hardware support, monitoring and reporting. For more details, visit Drive Imaging Fact Sheet
– File level backups – backup specific files and folders by replicating them to another location. Our Single Instance Store saves space and extends backup history, while intelligent differential backups make it very fast. For more details, visit
File Replication Fact Sheet

In addition, our next version 5.1, due in December, will also support:
– Internet based backups – by Rsyncing your files and folders via the Internet, using a bandwidth efficient transfer method
– EBS Administration Console plug-in – so you can view the results of jobs and perform basic administration through the EBS Administration Console.

Of course, all these features are in keeping with our philosophy of making straightforward backup solutions that are easy to use, manage and monitor, and “just work”.

So download and try BackupAssist today for a great backup experience!