If I back up the Exchange Information Store, do I still need to select the .edb files?

Posted on 2006-10-26
Last Modified: 2012-08-13
I am using NT Backup to back up my Win2003 Server.  In NT Backup, I have selected the entire C:\ drive, the System State, and the Microsoft Information Store.  I am under the impression that NT Backup on Win 2003 uses the Volume Shadow Copy to backup open files, and when I look at a backup catalog, I see that the .edb and .stm files are listed in the backup.

My question is this:  Am I backing up the Exchange DB twice?  I know that the .edb and .stm files are pretty much useless for restoring the Exchange Information Store, but how about for a full server restore?  Do I need them for that?  Or is it OK to exclude the .edb and .stm files from the backup as long as I have the Microsoft Information Store selected?

Thanks in advance.

Question by:texastoast
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LVL 104

Accepted Solution

Sembee earned 250 total points
ID: 17812600
You don't need the raw files and shouldn't back them up.
In the event of a server restore you would restore Windows, then install Exchange using the disaster recovery switch. You would then restore the databases in to Exchange. The raw files wouldn't be used and it is a waste of time backing them up.

On most servers backing up the entire C: drive is also a waste of time. I don't backup any part of the Program Files directory and avoid most of the Windows directory as well. The only things I backup are unique data. I don't see the point in backing up applications and system files.


Author Comment

ID: 17812674
The whole point of this particular backup is to provide disaster recovery in case of server hardware failure.  We have another server with identical hardware and basic OS already installed standing by in case of hardware failure on the current server.  In case of failure, we would bring up the standby server and perform a full restore from the backup.  That is why program files and the rest are backed up.  We can't afford the downtime it would take to reinstall and reconfigure all the applications.  In THIS case, does Simon's answer still apply?  We would perform the full restore and then restore the Exchange db?

What about if the server is SBS 2003 (different server OS, but the same situation regarding the standby hardware)?
LVL 104

Expert Comment

ID: 17813002
Can you guarantee that the server is 100% identical? I wouldn't even guarantee that with two machines from the same manufacturer next to each other that had been delivered from the same source at the same time.

If you cannot afford the downtime then you should probably look at using something like doubletake.

Let me ask you another question. How are you going to restore this data? Unless you are doing a bare metal type backup (which is done in a different way with most products) you will need to install Windows first, then the backup application.
Once you reach that point, you have most of the major information already in place that is being backed up. Windows alone is about 2gb.
With careful planning your other applications can be installed very quickly.

I would be very surprised if Exchange accepted a restore of the data in the way that you have outlined. Exchange is very sensitive and restoring the raw database files very rarely works without a lot of playing around with Exchange.

Exchange has the backup mechanisms built in. The disaster recovery best practises are well documented on Microsoft's web site.

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Author Comment

ID: 17813903
Yes, I can guarantee they are the same hardware.  Doubletake is too expensive, and as I've stated, the spare server is same hardware with the OS already installed.  The backups are being stored on removeable USB2 hard drives.  If the hard drives on the live server fail, I will simply connect the appropriate USB2 hard drive to the spare server, turn it on and run Windows Backup to restore the data.  If the .edb and .stm files aren't necessary, then I will just add another step to the process and follow the steps in to restore the Exchange database.  Since this server is my domain controller in addition to the Exchange server (in the case of the SBS server), it saves me the considerable hassle of having to set up active directory, it saves me the hassle of having to reinstall all the server applications such as Symantec Antivirus Corporate and GFI MailSecurity and all the other applications that serve my domain.  Getting all those set back up in case of a hard drive crash is not trivial.   Not everyone can afford to have multiple servers, and that is why SBS exists in the first place.  

Anyway all of this is completely off-topic to my original question, which is this:  If I am already backing up the Microsoft Information Store with Windows Backup, is it OK (and will Exchange be recoverable) if I deselect the Priv1.edb/.stm and Pub1.edb/.stm files to exclude them from the backup?
LVL 104

Expert Comment

ID: 17820012
I answered the question about the raw files in my first post.

"You don't need the raw files and shouldn't back them up.
In the event of a server restore you would restore Windows, then install Exchange using the disaster recovery switch. You would then restore the databases in to Exchange. The raw files wouldn't be used and it is a waste of time backing them up. "

You cannot restore the raw files and expect them to work - even if you have backed up and restored everything else. The databases are very sensitive to change.

While it has drifted off topic, your restore plan isn't going to work for your applications.
NTBACKUP does not backup in a way that will allow you to restore from bare metal. If that is what you want to do, then you need to use an application that takes an image of the server.
Remember that applications are not just the files on the drive, but the registry as well.
In the case of Exchange/Active Directory, that information is held in the system state.

If we could backup the whole server using ntbackup, restore it and be off and running, then tools like DoubleTake, Ghost etc wouldn't exist. Restoring a server is a lot more complicated than it appears, which is why you have to test the entire process. Active Directory further complicates the process because that needs to be running before anything else is put in to place. System State gets most of the domain and Exchange configuration information, but has to be restored in a certain way.


Author Comment

ID: 17820109
I never said anything about any bare metal restore, you are the only one that mentioned that.  I know how to do full restores, I've been doing it for years.  You install the same OS first and then run the restore on it.  I also know how to restore the AD (directory services restore mode).  So the process of a full restore would be:

1) install the same OS as the one you are restoring
2) reboot the OS into directory services restore mode
3) perform a full restore of the drive contents and the system state
4) reboot normally
5) follow the Microsoft KB article on restoring the Microsoft Information Store

The spare server is sitting there with 1) already done and waiting for me to turn it on and do 2) - 5) if/when the hard drives crash on the live server.

I thank you for your advice.  I will accept your original answer.  All the rest of it is/was off-topic, though.

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