Among one of the top priorities that we had, as part of our network migration to Essential Business Server solution from Microsoft was to look for a Backup solution that would actually provide some peace of mind.

I had the opportunity in my current job as well as from my previous one to work with a wide variety of backup solutions. Shadow Protect came to me as an accident, which till today I am happy that it happened.

Well you can read all about them from their website to get the commercial jargon. But what I would like to write today is how it has saved my backside a few times since we have decided to buy the software. Actually I am lying the first time it did save me from a sleepless night was when we were still using the evaluation software. The very next day I went back to work and put it forward to be placed in the migration shopping cart.

At this point I would like to make a statement that I am in no ways related or have been asked to write this article about Shadow Protect / Storage Craft. For starters I have no idea about any of their other products and haven’t bothered looking into it as it doesn’t hold any value at work. So this blog would basically be mostly about Shadow Protect Server Edition. Also the information provided on the blog as always is AS IS and I am sorry but cannot be held responsible for anything. Sorry got my own bag of headaches to look after. But wouldn’t mind helping out if your request is of genuine interest.

Playground for this blog:-

  1. Shadow Protect Bootable CD (Recommend Filling out a full evaluation form I believe the software demos don’t carry this. But this CD is what does the magic)
  2. Any Windows server product. (For the blog I am going to run this against one of my Windows 2008 R2 server and the demos will be from the EBS servers which are again windows 2008 standard)
  3. A network share to store and retrieve your backups.
  4. My soon to be Ex- ESXI 4.0 server (Will be following the steps involved in this blog when I switch over to Hyper V R2 to migrate all the VM’s)

What is Shadow Protect?

Shadow Protect is basically backup software. With a history of driver development for several vendors, led to the development of Volume Snapshot Manager which basically lets you take a snapshot or backup of hot running systems. This was later licenced out to several vendors such as VMware, HP and several others.

This was integrated into VMware convertor to do P2V migrations and several similar steps inside VMware Workstations as well. This would probably explain why Shadow Protect backup files can be opened directly from VMware workstation and converted to a virtual machine.

From the technical training that I went through couple of months back with Jack Alsop (one of the best training programmes that I have attended. Did not sleep off, even for 2 minutes even though it was in the afternoon straight after a heavy lunch) some of the stuff that I had picked up was that SP tends to Backup from a sector level which as you all know is the smallest amount of data on your drives. So when the Backup of sectors is done that means all your data, settings, system files basically everything gets placed into the backup.

Being part of the VSS framework, developed by Microsoft and I believe which came through with Windows 2003 servers, gives the backup software the ability to take technologies like Exchange and SQL into a perfect state for that backup, take a snap shot and then have it released for continuing its operations.

Versions and Licensing

I would like to concentrate this blog on two versions that I use at work, which is the Server and IT edition. Server Edition is the version of the software that you install on your windows server. They are per machine licenses and would take care of all your backups and restore actions while the system is running hot.IT edition doesn’t carry a per machine license. It functions more like a bootable Windows PE environment from which you are able to do a cold backup and restore of your system partitions.

So what all can Shadow Protect do?

Well basically it’s able to backup and restore from most of your standard backup locations such as:-

  1. SAN and NAS
  2. i/SCSI and SATA
  3. USB and Firewire
  4. Flash Memory
  5. CD/DVD/Blu-ray

Your backups are saved into any one of the above locations via the software into a Shadow Protect file (.spi type). When you want to restore them, they can be restored to any of the following:-

  1. The same piece of hardware
  2. Different piece of hardware
  3. Virtual environments

From here I am going to divide the post into two main sections backup and restoring

Backups via Shadow Protect

Backing up a Hot Server is simple. Install the software, which requires a reboot at the end, from then on its pretty straight forward.

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  1. Setup a Network backup location

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  2. Let us start with the backup wizard

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  3. Choose which of the drives are to be backed up.

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  4. Choose the network location that we selected in the first step.

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  5. Choose the schedules. This is quite important and powerful. The screenshot is from the Management Server from our Essential Business Server (EBS) environment which does AD, SCE 2007 and WSUS roles. Hence the backups are less frequent. But the Exchange and SQL servers are backed up every 20 minutes. 15 minutes is the lowest time interval between your Intervals. Till today I haven’t had an issue to change the Intervals of the incremental backups due to stress on the server.

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  6. You have a few standard backup options such as password protecting them. Splitting the image and compression ratios

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  7. But where I would like to focus attention is on the advanced TAB. Clicking on it
    1. The throttling slider to decide how much beating your server should be taking. Recommended setting is to go for 50% throttling especially doing exchange and SQL during work hours.

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    2. The Image and Commands are pretty straightforward but moving onto Retention

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      Please spend some time here to plan your retention level and have a peace of mind about your backup destination location.

  8. Clicking Ok and onto the next window brings about a Summary Page

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  9. A completed backup job would show the following summary page about its last Job and next task

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  10. A backup history can also be found to record your previous backups.

Restoration via Shadow Protect

VMware convertor can be used to open the Shadow Protect files directly if required as shown below

vmwareconvertorandsp

In this manner a Virtual Backup machine can be started in the event of a failure.

But Shadow Protect can also be used mount an image as either Read Only Drive or as one that can be used as an Active Drive. Restoration can also be done from a complete drive restoration as follows

restore1restore2restore3restore4

restore5

restore6restore7restore8restore9restore10mountedImage

Hopefully the post gave a bit of an insight into Shadow Protect. Next Backup software to be tested and blogged would be DPM 2010 goodness.

Cheers and let me know what you all think about it.