ASR Backup with USB Hard Drives
Well what do you do when you need to resize partitions or change perhaps from a volume to RAID status or rebuild a RAID array? How do you get that SBS box up and running again? Many use some great disk cloning or imaging solutions out there. I've heard great things about Aconis True Image Server or Paragon Drive Backup.
In the past I've used products like this with great success. However now Windows Server 2003 and thus SBS 2003 come with some great backup items out of the box to get you going again. And perhaps you don't want to pay the $899 and $399 respectively for the products above.
How about using the ASR backup with ntbackup included with SBS? Microsoft has an SBS backup/restore whitepaper out there but it doesn't mention ASR. It's more from the standpoint of what if the server croaked. Well in this situation we're preparing for a change. The reason that the ASR backup is nice and I like it is that you don't have to entirely load SBS/Windows Server and then do a restore. The ASR restore process just loads what it needs. However that's where some problems may present themselves.
Doing an ASR backup of course is easy from the console of ntbackup where you just choose the ASR Wizard from the backup tab selection. It prompts for a diskette to store the partition info, etc after your backup runs and now you're set. However a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. The ASR just does the system partition and not your data. So make sure and get that backup ready to go for your data (or perhaps a D: or E: drive if you're so inclined.)
2. Are you backing up to USB drives? As HDD get cheaper this is getting to be a preferred method of backup for many. We do it you might too. However ASR will not see your backup on the USB Drive. What can you do? Well after the ASR restore (insert SBS CD1 and choose F2 after reboot when prompted on boot up for the ASR restore) character installation is done and it boots into Windows Server 2003 with the familiar setup process, you can actually stop the installation here and turn off your server. Everything will still be there and once you boot from the HDD again it will start the ASR restore again. However put in your favorite boot CD. I use Bart PE and boot from that. Now you'll see all your formatted drives ready to roll along with your USB drives. Now just copy the ASR backup from the external USB Drive to the data partition on your server. Restart the machine and boot from the HDD to get the ASR restore rolling again. Now when ASR complains that it can't see the ASR backup file just manually run the ASR wizard (it'll let you) and choose the file from the Data partition. Now you're good to go!
Remember that imaging software is NOT supported by Microsoft. So if you use the products mentioned above and your server dies you can just install SBS again and restore because a call to Microsoft will get you no where.
Hey you're a small business and you have to choose which is right for you. At times spending $899 is not a problem and the wisest thing to do, some months however the budget won't allow for it! :) The above is an alternative however if you choose to accept it.