Installing Windows Server 2016 Essentials (Part 3)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Next, fill in the required data to add a drive label.

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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.

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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.

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Once you have selected what you want backed up, click on Next and confirm your settings.

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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!

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18 comments

  1. Thanks for this Terry. I am trying to decide if there is value add going from 2012 R2, so far it looks like no. One thing that I didn’t like about 2012 is you are limited to a 2GB max size for the backup drive. Do we know if that barrier is finally lifted with 2016?

    1. Hi Brad,

      I am using 2 x 4 TB disks in an eSata enclosure, one for data and client backups and the other for server backup. Both are working fine, although neither have exceeded 2TB yet. However, I believe I wouldnt be able to use a 4TB at all for server backup if the limitation was still in place, so I think you are OK.

      Dennis

  2. In regards to accessing the server from the MS provided web address, to play music and videos, does this version of software still force you to use Silverlight? Like windows home server did?

  3. Have you attempted to do an “upgrade” of your domain?

    I don’t want to create a new domain, but I want to replace my old server with a server running a new server.

    I followed the instructions for Windows server 2012 (https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/sbs/2014/02/21/deploying-windows-server-2012-r2-essentials-in-an-existing-active-directory-environment/) and it worked mostly. The users in my domain don’t show up in the dashboard on the new server.

    I attempted to use windows powershell commands to import users, but the commands that existed in 2012 seem to be removed from 2016. (https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn156005(v=wps.620).aspx)

    Import-Module WssCmdlets
    Import-WssUser –SamAccountName

    I know 2016 is new, but my old server is in need of upgrade. Thanks.. Wim.

  4. Hi Terry,

    Thanks for a great how-to guide on installing WSE 2016!

    I was a somewhat happy WHS 2011 user for years, but figured I had better migrate to a supported platform, so I recently went ahead and installed WSE 2012 R2 on new hardware. The install was a bit bumpy, but I got it down. However, getting our 5 PC’s (Win 7’s and 10’s) setup for backup was a nightmare (especially the WIN 10 issues, but a lot of others as well such as computers not showing online etc.) After days and nights of googling and installing/uninstalling various versions of the connector, I decided I would try 2016 essentials instead since I was installing from scratch on new hardware anyway.

    In researching this, I found your 3 part installation guide which I used as my bible and which was really helpful – thanks!

    During the server install, I only ran into ONE (1) issue (amazing!), which was: During the server config phase the progress bar stalled at 17%. Back to googling and I found this workaround: simply start the “Windows Server Essentials Management Service” and the process will start moving again – workaround found here: https://windowsserveressentials.com/2016/03/10/windows-server-essentials-2016-install-stuck-at-17-or-39/ – piece of cake.

    I then setup and tested the server backup – this process went equally smoothly – I was stoked!. (The only issue I am facing in this regard is performance – the backup is extremely slow, but I’m not too worried and will work on this later).

    Finally, after this promising effort, I proceeded with the most important part of the project, and the real reason I need a windows server: Setting up the client backups. However this is where I hit a wall 🙁

    The good news first: unlike WSE 2012, the connector installs now go smoothly for both Win 7 and Win 10 clients – another promising sign. HOWEVER, after the connectors are installed, there is no right click option to start a manual backup even though backup is turned ON in the client backup config. Also, no backup started automatically during the specified timeframes. Finally, although the clients are showing online, the various status columns are showing “Not Available”. Both the clients and the server are up to date with all windows updates.

    I did some googling, but there is not much out there for WSE 2016 as it is so new. So after all of this, I have 2 questions:

    – Would you have some ideas as to how to troubleshoot the backups?
    – Do you know of any forums that actively deal with WSE2016 troubleshooting?

    Thanks again for your help,

    Dennis

    1. Wanted to know if the hack for…

      How to make Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials client connector install behave just like Windows Home Server

      Still works with Windows Server 2016 Essentials?

  5. Hi Terry, thanks for you guides they are awesome. Installed Essentials today but when trying to change Microsoft Update settings I get an error “Cannot run the task” it says.

    When going to Windows Update and trying there I get another error (0x80070422) and I can’t get any updates that way too. Any suggestions what to do to get it to work?

    1. I realise I’m not terry, and this is somewhat late, but if anyone else has the problem (like I just did there is an easy fix. Go to Control Panel> Administrative Tools (click view small icons to see the option easily). Then double click ‘Services’, scroll down to find Windows Update and double click. You can change it to Automatic Startup and also Start the update service from here, and then the Update option will work from the Dashboard.

  6. Hi Terry,

    I used the WS2012R2 Eseentials bought your books and was a happy user – I was also lucky to set up the VPN for IOS devices. Recently I upgrades to WS2016 Essentials – and biggest concern the VPN for IOS – I´m still fighting to set it up. The RRAS – Routing and Remote Access console – says Legacy mode is disabled on this Server – even if I click on server properties – it says no properties are available – in 2012R2 it was the place where you could enter here the “IP Sec Shared Secret” password in the L2TP setup. Is there any default shared secret – or did you manage not just to set up but also connect from a W10 or even better via IOS to VPN of WS2016?

    1. i’ve the same problem. I try to uninstall remote access from WSE and install it from server manager… the result was i can configure VVPN parameters but (i don’t know why) i can’t use https://remote.contoso.com/remote… I install (it was very hard) everything and the result is the same… Legay Mode and no way to configure vpn parameters. had you solve the problem?

  7. Thank you Terry. Just purchased Windows Server 2016 Essentials and doing a new installation. I had the issue you described where installation stopped at 17%. Your suggestion worked perfectly for me!
    Apparently this is still an issue.
    Bruce

  8. Has anyone been able to successfully change ports for Anywhere Access or use port forwarding? My ISP (UVerse) already uses port 443 so I can’t get a working solution.

    1. Use Port Forwarding in your router.
      I *never* use default port numbers for remote anything.
      For example, set the “incoming” port to listen at 4443, and forward that to 443 on the internal LAN.

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