Saturday, 16 June 2007

SBS 2K3 - All Editions: Backing up to a USB external HDD

We have pretty much settled into backing up all of our SBS installations to a set of USB 2.0 external hard drives.

It works really well with a couple of caveats: One, it really labours the system, even the more powerful dual Dual Core Xeon 5100 series servers struggle with it. So, we start the backup when we are sure no one would be around.

It must have something to do with the USB bus being saturated! ;)

When running the backup configuration, it is important to exclude the entire USB hard drive from being backed up.

During the backup setup process, click on the Exclude Folders button then click on the (E:) - your USB drive letter may be different - drive and OK.

When the drive has been selected, you should see the following:

The drive being backed up to is greyed out.

When we first started with the USB drives, we were getting random lockups during the verify phase of the backup. We discovered that it was because we did not exclude the USB drive itself from the backups. Once we excluded the USB drive from the backups all together, the lockups disappeared.

The second caveat is to make sure that the person responsible for rotating the drives stops the drive via the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the system tray before switching them out.

Otherwise there will be drive space errors indicating that there is 0 MB on the drive arriving in your e-mail every once in a while. They can be troublesome to get rid of too.

Another minor caveat that may show up if you have mapped network folders to drive letters on the low side of the alphabet on your server: when you plug in the USB drive, the Drive Manager may assign a drive letter to it that is the same as the mapped drive letter.

You will not be able to access the drive if this is the case, and will have to manually set the drive letter via the Drive Manager. This can be painful because once the drive letters have been set for the first time, there is no guarantee that the drive will pickup the same drive letter when it is time to plug it back into the server.

One thing that can be done to mitigate this if there is a drive letter crunch and no applications are using the CD/DVDROM: Move it up to Z: or Y: or the like. Once you do this, the USB drives will take over the CD/DVDROM's previous drive letter without incident.

Besides being quick and easy, hard drive storage is so cheap now that tape no longer makes sense.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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