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Exchange 2010: Types of backup options

The following are some Frequently Asked Questions about the types of backup options for MS Exchange 2010 server backup. backup software utilizes the Volume Shadow Copy Service and the Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Writers for backup of MS Exchange 2010 databases. It offers the following types of backup options:

Full Backup

Backs up the databases (EDB), transaction logs (LOG), checkpoint files (CHK), and then truncates the transaction logs for a specific database.

A full backup of an Exchange database creates and stores a complete copy of the database file, transaction logs, and checkpoint files. A Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 database has one set of transaction log files dedicated to that one database.

After the database has been backed up, the transaction log files on the disk are truncated so that only database changes that occurred after the backup was made will remain. During this process, either the Store Writer or the Replication Service deletes all log entries up to the checkpoint, based on the assumption that the databases have now been backed up in a consistent state that contains all changes up to the most recent checkpoint.

If the database being backed up is dismounted during the backup operation, Exchange Server 2010 will not truncate the transaction logs and the result will be the equivalent of a copy backup operation, not a Full backup operation.

At the completion of Full or Incremental backups, the headers of the active mounted database get updated with the current backup information. A Full backup is required in order to run Incremental or Differential backups. There is no restriction as to which copy the Full backups are taken from as long as it is a backup.

Full backups are used in the following restore scenarios:

  • A database becomes corrupted or is lost, but the transaction log files on disk are intact. In this scenario, the affected database files can be restored from the Full backup, and then recovered by replaying the transaction logs that are still on disk.

  • Transaction log files, as well as the database file on disk, are lost. In this scenario, the transaction log files that were backed up at the time of the Full backup are restored together with the database.

Copy backup

Backs up the database (EDB), transaction logs (LOG), and checkpoint files (CHK). Copy backups do not truncate the transaction logs for the database.

A Copy backup of an Exchange database stores the same elements that are included in a Full backup (a complete copy of the database file, transaction logs, and checkpoint files).

However, unlike a Full backup, the transaction log files on disk are not truncated when the backup is complete. Copy backups are not intended for data recovery purposes. Instead, Copy backups are intended to provide an image of data for use in testing or problem diagnosis.

For example, an administrator who is experiencing problems with a storage group could make a Copy backup for use in a test environment, where the problem can be studied in greater detail without affecting the production system.

Normal backup schedules are not typically affected by the creation of a Copy backup but since a Copy backup also puts the storage group in backup-in-progress state it will block other scheduled backups from proceeding until it is completed or aborted.

Incremental backup

Backs up the transaction logs (LOG) to record changes since the last full or incremental backup, and then truncates the transaction logs.

An Incremental backup of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 database saves changes to the database that have occurred since the last Full or Incremental backup. When all the database files and log files are restored to the system, they can be recovered to the state they were in at the time of the last Incremental backup. The data stored in an Incremental backup includes only the transaction log files up to the current time.

When the backup is completed, the Exchange Server truncates the log files and marks the backup time in the database headers. Using an Incremental backup to recover a database requires the restoration of at least two data sets: the last Full backup, and then every Incremental backup taken after the last Full backup. The benefit of using Incremental backups is that the individual backups are much smaller than a Full backup and individual Incremental backups are frequently smaller than Differential backups.

The disadvantage of using Incremental backups is that if there are many Incremental backups made between Full backups, recovering the storage group may involve recovering many Incremental backups. Exchange does not allow an Incremental backup to occur when there has been no previous Full backup to establish the starting point for the incremental changes.

Differential backup

Backs up the transaction logs (LOG) to record changes since the last full or incremental backup, and does not truncate the transaction logs.

A Differential backup of a Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 database saves changes to the database that have occurred since the last Full backup. When the database files and log files are restored by the system, they can be recovered to the state they were in at the last Differential backup.

The data stored in a Differential backup includes only the transaction log files up to the current checkpoint. Differential backups do not delete or change the log files, nor do they change the database headers. Using a Differential backup to recover a database requires the restoration of only two data sets: the last Full backup, and then the most recent Differential backup.

The disadvantage of using Differential backups is that the Differential backups duplicate the backed up data in each backup until a Full backup is performed. If there are many Differential backups taken between Full backups, the storage space required can greatly exceed that required by the same number of Incremental backups. Exchange does not allow a Differential backup to occur when there has been no previous Full backup to establish the starting point for Differential backups.

Important: Circular logging must be disabled if you want to perform an Incremental or Differential backup.

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