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Windows Small Business Server 2011 : Disaster Planning - Preparing for a Disaster, Restoring from Backup

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1/14/2013 11:41:56 AM

1. Preparing for a Disaster

As Ben Franklin was known to say, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” This is truer than ever with modern operating systems, and although SBS includes a number of exceptionally useful recovery modes and tools, you still need to prepare for potential problems.

1.1. Setting Up A Fault-Tolerant System

A fault-tolerant system is one that is prepared to continue operating in the event of key component failures. It’s very useful for servers running critical applications. Here are a few of the many ways to ensure fault tolerance in a system:

  • Use one or more RAID arrays for system and data storage, protecting you from hard-disk failure. If a hard disk in the array fails, only that disk needs to be replaced—and no data is lost. 

  • Use multiple disk array controllers to provide redundancy if a controller fails.

  • Use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to allow the server to shut down gracefully in the event of a power failure.

  • Use multiples of everything that is likely to fail, including power supplies and network cards.

  • Keep key spares available to quickly recover by replacing a failed part. If you have only a single power supply and it fails, you’ll be back online a lot faster if you swap out a failed power supply yourself and then call your hardware vendor for a replacement for the failed one.

1.2. Backups

Having a backup of your critical system files is nice. Having backups of your data is nice. But having a tested backup of both of them is critical to a successful restore experience. By tested, we mean that you’ve actually restored the files in the backup and that you were able to read and use them.

Not every single backup will get tested for your ability to restore. That’s not realistic, and there’s no point even pretending it’s going to happen. But you should have a regular schedule of testing backups to know you can restore from them. We like to do ours at least once a week. We pick a couple of key subdirectories and restore them to a temporary location on the server.

Image backups, such as those done by Windows Server Backup, pose additional testing issues. It’s a really good idea to test full system restores to ensure that your recovery scenario for a full hardware failure is viable—especially if you intend to do restores to dissimilar hardware, which is something not directly contemplated by Windows Server 2008 R2 Backup. If you want to be able to do a restore to dissimilar hardware, you’re probably going to need to use a third-party backup utility, such as Acronis True Image for Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (http://www.acronis.com) or StorageCraft ShadowProtect Server (http://www.storagecraft.com). Both of these products are designed to allow you to do backup and restore to dissimilar hardware, including physical to virtual (P2V).

2. Restoring from Backup

The process of restoring your SBS server from backup is something you should test and do before you find yourself in the middle of a disaster. And yes, we know, we’re repeating ourselves. But it’s really important. One last time and then we’ll let it go: The only good backup is a fully tested backup. And the only reliable way to test a backup is to restore it.

When disaster strikes your SBS network and you have to restore an entire server, you’ll need the following:

  • Your backup.

  • Hardware to restore the backup to. If you’re using the native Windows Server 2008 R2 Backup that is part of SBS, it needs to be quite similar hardware to the server you’re replacing.

  • The original disk 1 from your SBS 2011 installation media, or another Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard DVD.

  • Any drivers required for Windows Server 2008 R2 to “see” your hard disks, or your backup media. These should be on a USB key or other media that the target server can read.

After you have all the requirements together, you’re ready to restore your server by following these steps:

  1. Insert the first disk of the SBS 2011 installation media, and turn on the server.

  2. If the BIOS needs to be changed to allow the DVD drive to be the first boot device, go into the server’s BIOS and make the change, and then restart the server.

  3. If prompted, press any key to boot from the DVD drive to bring up the initial localization page of the Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard installation, as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1. The localization page of the SBS 2011 installation

  4. Set the localization options, and then click Next to open the Install Now page.

  5. Click Repair Your Computer to open the System Recovery Options dialog box shown in Figure 2. If you’re restoring to a bare system, no operating system is shown, as in the figure.

    Figure 2. When restoring to a new server, no existing operating systems are present

  6. Click Load Drivers if you need to load drivers for your hard disks, and follow the prompts to provide the necessary drivers.

  7. Click Next to open the System Recovery Options dialog box shown in Figure 3.

    Figure 3. The System Recovery Options dialog box

  8. Click System Image Recovery. Windows will search for attached backups and present the Select A System Image Backup page of the Re-Image Your Computer Wizard if it locates a backup, as shown in Figure 4. The most recent backup identified on the backup disk will be highlighted.

    Figure 4. The most recent backup found is selected for restoration


    If a backup isn’t located, you will be offered an opportunity to attach a USB disk, or to point to the location of the backup.

  9. Click Next to open the Choose Additional Restore Options page, shown in Figure 5. If your disks are identically sized and not yet partitioned, you won’t have an option to format them and repartition.

    Figure 5. The Choose Additional Restore Options page of the Re-Image Your Computer Wizard

  10. Select Format And Repartition Disks to completely remove any existing partitions and create new partitions that match those on the original server.

  11. Click Exclude Disks to not reformat and repartition disks that you want to protect, as shown in Figure 6.

    Figure 6. You can exclude disks to protect existing data

  12. Click OK when you have selected disks to exclude, click Next to move to the confirmation page, and then click Finish.

  13. Re-Image Your Computer requires a final confirmation before restoring, as shown in Figure 7. Select the confirmation check box, and click OK.

    Figure 7. Final confirmation before formatting disks and restoring your computer

  14. After the restore is complete, you’ll be prompted to restart the server.

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