How familiar are you with Windows Server Backup? You may be surprised by its value in your organization. I’ll explain what its main purpose is and how to use it to back up an Active Directory domain controller and fileservers.
Windows Server has had a built-in backup application since Windows Server 2008. I know, right? As far as I recall, Microsoft had an agreement with Seagate back in the day to offer a ‘simple’ version of a basic backup application/feature in Windows Server. Like Active Directory, they haven’t offered a lot of updates to this core feature in the product. However, it does have value in certain real-world scenarios.
Windows Server Backup provides a set of wizards to guide IT Pros through to accomplish data protection in an isolated or AD-based domain. You can use WSB to back up a full server (bare metal recovery). individual files and folders, and remote servers and computers. You can also recover volumes, folders, files, and even the System State.
The consensus is this – Windows Server Backup is a basic data protection solution. It does do a very good job of backing up a single server and being able to back up and restore sets of folders/files, and/or the server’s system state.
It is free, so, you can make a valid assumption that it doesn’t provide the same features and stability of a true enterprise data recovery solution.
The system state consists of configuration and files that are critical to the running of Windows Server. Typically the system state includes:
How will you know if Windows Server Backup will be good enough for your needs? There are a few ways to look at this. From my point of view, the more you want your backup environment to be automated, set-it-and-forget-it, you need to move to an enterprise backup product.
Although Windows Server Backup does offer scheduling capabilities, determining whether to use it or to use a paid enterprise-grade data recovery product depends on your specific needs and budget.
Beyond the basic needs, if you require more advanced features, such as global data deduplication, high availability, or faster backups, you will want to consider a higher-end product. If you have more scalable storage requirements, that’s another reason to look to a third-party product.
Let me walk you through how to install Windows Server Backup. Welcome back to my Hyper-V lab running a Windows Server 2022-based Active Directory domain. I have one of my fileservers running Windows Server 2022. I’ll use it to install the feature. There are different options for installing, but I will use Server Manager.
Now that we have Windows Backup installed, let’s open it.
In my opinion, you should always confirm exactly what items you are backing up.
Another note regarding the usability – you can only back up local drives, essentially. There is no option to include a remote server or remote server network share as a backup source. The only way to make this work is to simply connect to the remote server’s running instance of Windows Server Backup. Uh, yes…not ideal. This is another reason to entertain an enterprise-grade software product.
Let’s continue on our backup workflow here.
After clicking Next, you can choose either the local server to store the backups or a remote shared folder. I’ll choose the local server for demonstration purposes.
What happens when you need to back up the entire operating system core files, system files, the Registry hives, COM+ class registration databases, and the NTDS and SYSVOL folders involved with Active Directory domain controllers? No, you don’t need to find and select all those items. You can simply choose the ‘System state’ selection. Let me show you.
It’s very easy to back up the System state of your server.
I can keep all the same parameters and go ahead and kick it off.
There you go. All set.
If you need to be able to fully restore a botched server, you can choose the ‘bare metal recovery’ item in that same ‘Select Items’ screen. As soon as you check it, the software will automatically choose all appropriate items to close that loop.
Choosing ‘Bare metal recovery’ will allow you to restore a server exactly as it was backed up to an alternate location, or as a clone (for testing). Very cool technology, honestly.
I will start the backup, but I don’t know if I have the time or disk space for it to finish. However, you get the idea.
You can use Windows Server Backup to back up virtual machines (VMs) but there are a good number of hoops you need to go through to be able to accomplish this, including modifying the registry of your server. The key step is to register the Microsoft Hyper-V VSS writer with Windows Server Backup.
Let’s run a Recovery/Restore job, from the homepage of Windows Server Backup.
Let’s restore the files to a local disk.
The restore job ran and was completed very quickly.
Done, there you go.
In terms of restoring to an alternate location, this only means you can restore the files to an alternate folder on your local server. A slight surprise, but you can NOT restore files to a location off your local server. If you try to enter a UNC path, you’ll see an error like this.
Ouch. So, here’s a major reason to go with an enterprise product.
Let’s hop on the ‘robust’ train by creating a scheduled job. As an example, we could create a nightly job that will back up a specific location every night at 9 pm.
I used the same settings as our first backup but on the ‘Specify Backup Time‘ screen, I will keep the default of backing up once a day at 9 pm.
Yep. You can only keep ONE restore point to recover from. Not very robust.
The job is now scheduled.
You may have noticed in the Title Bar for Windows Server Backup – ‘wbadmin’. What in the world does that mean? wbadmin.exe is the actual name of the application that is running and processes all the backup and restore jobs. The GUI is simply a front-end for IT Pros to make things easier for us that aren’t command-line gurus.
If you open a shell and type in wbadmin and hit Enter, you will see what you see above. Here is one example of a job you could run.
wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:e: -include:C:
This will start a backup job immediately and back up everything on the C: drive to the E: drive. Here is another one.
wbadmin start backup -allCritical -backuptarget:e:
This one is for a bare metal recovery. Because of that, it doesn’t explicitly include what items or drives to back up – it’s automatic.
I don’t think anyone should be surprised that PowerShell is another tool you can use to manage Windows Server Backup. We will use ‘Start-WBBackup‘ and ‘Get-WBPolicy‘ to accomplish our goals.
I will enter Get-WBPolicy to see all scheduled backup policies.
Here is our scheduled backup nightly at 9 pm. Now, we will enter a few commands and store some items in variables.
$Policy = Get-WBPolicy
Start-WBBackup -Policy $Policy -Async
$BackupJob = Get-WBJob
And there is our completed job’s history.
Nice and easy.
Windows Server Backup is a native backup feature integrated into supported versions of Windows Server. It includes basic backup functionalities and helps you manually back up files and folders, system critical data, and applications. You can also use a schedule, albeit not a very robust one, to perform backups daily. You can use the Dashboard/homepage to make changes and to start backup or restore jobs.
An important consideration is whether Windows Server Backup will provide for your needs or not. If not, you will want to look into purchasing an enterprise-grade data recovery solution.
Please leave a comment or question below – thank you for reading.