We help IT Professionals succeed at work.

Best Practice Question - Backup of Exchange and SQL Databases

dtocco asked
I have a quick question.  I am near completion of implementing a new backup strategy.  I have decided to use the Grandfather-Father-Son tape rotation strategy.  My question is how fellow admins/techs handle daily backups of databases such as Exchange and SQL dbs.  For example, M-Th I am going to be running an incremental backup.  However, I don't feel very confident backing up my Exchange Information Store or other SQL Applications using the incremental method.  Maybe I'm paranoid and should not 2nd guess.  The other option therefore is using a FULL backup on each db and Exchange.  That is fine (and actually what I previously did), however that somewhat defeats the purpose of an incremental backup.  

Any thoughts or ideas of best practices, what works for you, etc.  I would be much obliged..

Watch Question

Most Valuable Expert 2015
First I don't recommend incremental backups in any way because in the case of restore, and that happens to be on a friday, you'd need to restore from the last full backup, plus every tape from there until friday. Much better is a differential backup, where all the changes between the last full backup and now are backed up (this means a thursday's differential tape includes what has been backed up on monday, tuesday and wednesday. With this backup you only need the last full backup plus the last differential backup for a restore, which makes it a lot easier for you. usually the space or time saved through an incremental backup compared to a differential one isn't big enough to warrant the need for an incremental backup.

As for SQL or Exchange backups, as long as you use a backup software that is aware of these databases there is no problem using the same backup strategy. The builtin ntbackup is aware of exchange and SQL, and for third party software you need the correct agents, which are usually optional. Without those agents you wouldn't be able to backup these databases while their online anyway.


I actually used Differential previously, was much more comfortable with it, however upon research found that Incremental is reffered as "Best Practice" - ?  I am actually more comfortable with Differential for the reasons you stated.  

The software we are using is Symantec (Veritas) BEWS v10.d.  I have the remote agents for SQL and Exchange.  

Most Valuable Expert 2015

Then there should be no problem, and for me "best practice" is still a dif backup... I think the others here would agree (including it seems, you).
Distinguished Expert 2019

I'd stick to full for Exchange and SQL if you can afford the time, plus exclude the Exchange mailboxes and put deleted retention time to 7 days instead. There isn't really such thing as a differential or incremental backup of a database, it just skips backing up the database completely and does a diff or inc of the transaction logs.
Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
I do NOT recommend incrementals.  I would love to see/speak to the person who DID recommend incrementals to understand their logic.  In addition, I've not seen/heard better ways of backing up databases - be them Exchange or SQL - than to use a full backup and I would recommend doing so.

It may not help you much - or perhaps it will validate your personal opinions, but I wrote up a comment on backup in general that grew VERY long and so I eventually turned it into a web page.  You can read it here (several experts from EE have contributed their support and/or have not found anything significant to disagree with (as far they've told me)).