Set up Server Backup
One of the most important functions of a server is the ability to back up the data stored on that server. In Windows Server 2016 Essentials, not only do you have the ability to back up the server data, you have the ability to back up the server operating system itself. That means if the server’s system volume is damaged in some way, you can perform a complete Bare Metal Restore of the server from a backup.
The server backup service included with Essentials is relatively straightforward. Attach an external drive, or multi-drive module, to a USB or eSATA port; run the wizard; done. You can also opt to back up server date to the cloud, via Microsoft’s Azure platform.
Before you do so, think about your backup strategy. First, you need to determine how critical your server is to you for the minute-by-minute operation of your business. If the server is absolutely essential and a catastrophic failure or loss of the server itself were to occur, you would need a redundant server.
For protection just short of that level, I would suggest the following setup:
Create a RAID 1 configuration for your C: boot drive (also known as the system volume). This is the simplest form of redundant RAID which requires only two hard drives, but is quite satisfactory for use on the boot drive. This can be done using one of several methods.
- Software RAID, typically a feature of the motherboard.
- Hardware RAID which typically requires a separate RAID card.
- A specialized enclosure which turns a single 3.5” drive bay into a RAID 1 solution using two 2.5” drives.
Create a RAID array for your server data folders. You can create an array using:
- Software RAID, typically a feature of the motherboard and typically limited to RAID 1 for use as a redundant drive setup.
- Hardware RAID, which typically requires a separate RAID card (more expensive) but is usually better performing, more efficient and can be normally be configured to run in an industry standard RAID 5, 6 0r 10 configuration.
- Storage Spaces, which is the storage pooling technology first introduced in Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 Essentials. While not a classic RAID service, Storage Spaces can be considered equivalent to a RAID 1 or RAID 5 software-based RAID array. The most easily understood major advantage of Storage Spaces for many users is the ability to pool drives of various sizes, but critics will tell you about an associated loss of read/write speeds, depending on the configuration chosen.
Using this scenario will require you “move” your server folders from the system boot drive and on to separate data drives. This is a very simple process which if done during the initial server setup is also fairly quick to do.
Which method you use is up to you and the specific needs of your business, however, the important feature you need to have is some form of real-time redundancy. If a drive fails, you lose nothing; just make sure you have the ability to replace that drive quickly in the event of a failure.
The purpose of a redundant drive array is simply instantaneous data duplication, while a backup is a snapshot in time. Without a redundant drive array (RAID or Storage Spaces), the result of the loss of a drive will be the loss of any data written to that drive since the last backup. In addition, drive arrays create large contiguous virtual drives and do not suffer the limitation of running into the single hard drive size restrictions. Using a RAID array, or Storage Space, certainly does not exempt one from having that snapshot backup. For file recovery, you have a feature in Essentials called File History. This feature can be used to restore a lost or accidentally erased file. A separate backup using the Windows Server 2016 Essentials Backup function is essential if you need to perform a bare metal restore, or recovering from a catastrophic loss of data.
The most important aspect of having at least a data backup is the ability to maintain an off-site backup – used to protect business data from hardware theft, fire or flood. A business can recover from the loss of a physical building. Can the same thing be said of the data associated with that business?
For the purpose of backing up a server, many methods exist. Microsoft includes a server backup feature in Essentials. That allows one to perform that bare metal restore feature mentioned previously. So, without further ado, let’s get this backup feature up and running.
To start, select Set up Server Backup in the Dashboard, then click on the Click to set up Server Backup task.
The process starts with Essentials loading the Backup wizard and outlining the drives and data required to perform a complete server backup. A Getting Started message lets you know what is required on your part to successfully set up a backup routine for your server. Take note of the requirements and click Next.
For this scenario, I have an external hard drive attached to a free USB port on the server. If you are storing large amounts of data, I would suggest you pick up a pair of multi-bay docking stations, one for on-site backups and one for off-site backups. This will require a total of three sets of drives:
- one on-site backup drive set
- two sets of rotating off-site drives
In addition, Microsoft recommends that your backup drives have 2.5 times the capacity of your data (once data is fully loaded on to the server) which simply provides room for future data expansion.
Tick the box associated with the drive to be used for backups and click Next. Acknowledge the potential loss of any data on that drive.
Next, fill in the required data to add a drive label.
Click Next once you have named your backup drive.
You will need to specify a backup schedule. You can accept the default, which backs up twice a day or you can create your own schedule. Click Next.
In the next screen, you need to decide what you wish to back up. As I noted at the beginning of this section, I would separate the system drive from your data folders. This way, you can break up these potentially large chunks of data into manageable blocks. I do recommend that you back up the complete C & D system drive in the event that you need to restore the server itself.
Once you have selected what you want backed up, click on Next and confirm your settings.
The wizard applies your desired settings and finishes up. Click on Close to exit this wizard.
Please note that this is one section you may want to initially skip and return to set up later once you have completely set up your server. Just make sure you do not delete any data from your original sources until you have a successful backup!