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- Free Desktop Tool: Real-Time Monitoring for Windows Based Network Devices
In the March 16 newsletter Disaster Recovery Options I mentioned that if the hard drive on your computer dies you basically have three options:
- Replace the failed drive with a new one and then restore all your data from a recent backup. You DO have a recent backup, don't you?
- Try to recover the data yourself by following the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach.
- Remove the drive and ship it off to a data recovery agency together with your wallet.
I then offered some suggestions concerning the second and third options listed above. But of course, you should always have a recent backup of your data which makes option #1 above the safest choice, right? Well...
But before we go any further on this topic, we all know that 3 am is the traditional time when all good backups are performed. But there are sometimes OTHER THINGS HAPPENING AT 3 AM:
Don't use ImageX as a backup tool
First off, using ImageX (the command-line tool in the Windows AIK that you can use for capturing, modifying and applying Windows images files) is not a supported method for backing up Windows computers:
If you want to create a full system image backup so you can completely restore your computer should the hard drive file, use the in-box Windows Backup utility found in Windows 7 as described here:
Backup products and elevation
Next, let's say you have a third-party backup product you've been using for backing up workstations in your company. And let's say that all your workstations have recently been migrated to Windows 7 and you've followed best practice by making all your users Standard Users (not local admins) on their workstations. And let's finally say that your third-party backup product requires elevation (admin privileges) in order for users to run the product on their workstations. Is there a way you can enable Standard Users to run an application like this that requires admin privileges without having prompts for elevation being displayed?
You're really asking the wrong question. You should be asking the application vendor whether they have a newer version of their product that can run without requiring elevation, and if they don't then you should ditch the product and buy a different one. Most enterprise-level backup products use agents that talk to a service and so don't need elevation. Obviously the product you've been using is either very old or not enterprise-grade, so you really need to find something better.
And besides, why are you backing up workstations anyways? Don't your users save all their work to servers on your network? If so, you only need to back up your servers, not your workstations. And if not, you probably need to rethink your infrastructure.
On the other hand, there is at least one scenario where backups initiated by users may be appropriate and that's on laptops used by mobile workers. If someone is on the road for a week and doesn't VPN into the corporate network, it's important that anything they work on is backed up. That's one scenario where using the Windows Backup utility to back up your Documents folder can be very useful, and since users who travel need to be able to troubleshoot any problems that arise with their laptops (perhaps with the help of phone support from helpdesk) it's reasonable to make these users local admins on their computers instead of less-privileged Standard Users, which means they won't have any problems configuring and running Windows Backup when they need to.
Backup products and elevation--revisited
OK so you INSIST that you want to keep using the third-party backup product that requires elevation in order for users to run it on their Windows 7 computers. Is there ANY way of doing this?
Sure. You can purchase a product like Privilege Guard from Avecto which basically lets you elevate an application such that the logged-on user can remain a Standard User while the elevated application works as if the logged-on user was a local admin. (See the Admin Tools section of this newsletter for a link to this product.) Note however that Microsoft doesn't support such solutions, so if you choose to go this route and something goes wrong you're dependent upon Avecto's support and not Microsoft's. Is the reward worth the risk? You'll have to decide that for yourself. To help you weigh the risks involved of bypassing elevation prompts, see the following blog post from awhile back by the UAC Team:
Backup products and elevation--last word
In case you haven't noticed, even the in-box Windows Backup utility found in Windows 7 requires administrative privileges in order to be enabled and configured on a computer, so you can't use that either for backing up workstations in a business environment unless either your users are all local admins (bad idea), you walk around manually configuring Windows Backup on all the workstations (lots of work), or you use a third-party product like Privilege Guard (not supported by Microsoft). Bottom line for business environments big or small is be sure to get a proper agent-based backup product and be sure to centralize storage of all user data on your network servers.
Windows Backup and 4k drives
If you've been following the news you'll know that drives with 512 byte sectors are rapidly becoming ancient history as newer 4096 byte sector drives take over the marketplace. This ZDNet article from awhile back gives the rationale behind the change:
The problem is that current Windows operating systems don't yet support such drives unless they're Advanced Format or 512e drives which emulate 512-byte logical sectors even though they actually have 4k physical sectors:
For example, a colleague reported that he purchased a 3 TB USB 3.0 external hard drive which he connected to a USB 3.0 PCIO3 card he installed in his Windows 7 computer. He intended using the external drive for backing up his computer, but when he tried using the in-box Windows Backup utility to do this, he got an error saying "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error." He could however use the vendor's own backup software which was included on the drive. He just couldn't use the in-box Windows Backup utility with the drive.
Watch out for this. As long as the external drive is 2 TB or less you should be OK. For example, I've been told that the 2 TB version of Seagate's FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive works with well Windows Backup though I haven't had a chance to verify this yet:
Best practices with backup media
Don't forget that doing regular backups is pointless unless you also do the following:
- Use a rotating set of removable media
- Always keep at least one of the rotating set offsite at any given time
- Attach the media just before you start the backup
- Detach the media as soon as the backup finishes
- Perform periodic validation of your backups by doing restores
Scripting backups of Windows Server
Did you know Windows Server 2008 R2 actually has three different in-box backup tools? These are the Windows Server Backup UI tool, the Wbadmin.exe command-line utility, and the Windows Backup cmdlets for Windows PowerShell. Jeffrey Hicks provided a good overview of these tools in this TechNet Magazine article:
Using PowerShell gives you more flexibility in how you do your backups but it requires good understanding of how to create and execute PowerShell scripts. Here are a few resources you can use to learn how to perform backups and restores using PowerShell:
- Using Windows Server Backup Cmdlets from the TechNet Library:
- Windows Server Backup Cmdlets in Windows PowerShell from the Cmdlet Reference in the TechNet Library:
- Sample PowerShell scripts for backup and system restore from the TechNet Script Center Repository:
The sample scripts in the TechNet Script Center Repository are a great way of getting your feet wet once you've got some basic familiarity with PowerShell scripting because you can step through the scripts to learn how they work and try customizing them in various ways to make them more useful to meet your particular needs.
Data Protection Manager
If you need to back up a lot of different kinds of servers (SQL, Exchange, SharePoint, etc.) as well as workstations (or laptops) then you probably don't want to roll your own solution using PowerShell. One solution you may want to look into is Data Protection Manager, part of Microsoft's System Center family of systems management products. DPM is centrally managed and can automate backing up to disk, tape or even the cloud, and it doesn't need much hardware to run apart from storage. Plus it can allow users to perform recoveries themselves. For the mobile user scenario, the DPM agent running on the user's laptop stores backups locally on the laptop until a connection is established with the DPM server, for example over a VPN connection, at which time the agent transfers the collected datasets to the server. For more info on DPM 2010 and a 180-day trial, see:
To try out the release candidate of the next version DPM 2012, go to:
Share your Exepertise!
Do you have any tips or tricks of your own on backing up and restoring Windows servers? Let me know at [email protected] and I'll share them with our readers.
And be sure to check out the Tech Briefing section of this newsletter for some links to blog posts on backing up virtual machines, SQL Server and more.
Tip of the Week
TechNet Magazine frequently publishes useful tips such as this one that tells you how to gain more control over how cookies are cleared from your Internet Explorer browser cache:
There's also a twitter feed so you can be alerted regarding any new tips posted in this online magazine:
I highly recommend following @TechNetTips if you use Twitter.
Recommended for Learning
Do you like to decorate the walls of your server room with colorful posters of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and other cool figures from the 60s? OK then how about some colorful posters from Microsoft showing component architectures of various Microsoft products or deployment options for different kinds of scenarios? Here are some of the cool posters currently available from the Microsoft Download Center:
- Windows Server 2008 R2 Feature Components Poster
- Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V Component Architecture (with Service Pack 1)
- Remote Desktop Services Component Architecture Poster
- Exchange Server 2010 Architecture Poster
- Global solutions for SharePoint 2010 Products
- Windows 7 Deployment Options for Small and Midsize Businesses
- Preparing Users for an Office 2010 Deployment
- Deploy Multilanguage Packs for Microsoft Office 2010
- Virtualization Overview, Methods, and Models
And one book you may want to take a look at (if you have time):
Effective Time Management: Using Microsoft Outlook to organize your work and personal life from Microsoft Press is part of their Business Skills Series that targets end-users who want to be more productive and efficient in their daily work and life. It's a well-written book with lots of good tips and recommendations plus some step-by-step procedures that anyone can easily follow. I've skimmed through the book and have flagged several sections for closer reading as I consider time management a really important subject because I've got a heck of a lot of work to do most days. Although most of the book focuses on Outlook, the last chapter deals with OneNote which as I mentioned in the last newsletter is a product I'm using more and more to keep my thoughts and projects organized. I like OneNote a lot, but it's still seems to have a few bugs. For example, page 2011 of the book explains that if you have an image file in a OneNote page and the image has text in it, you can right-click on the image and select Copy Text From Picture to perform OCR on the image and extract readable text from it. I thought that sounded neat, so I tried it on an image of a "REGISTER" button that I copied from an email, and the OCR process interpreted it as RISTEFFE. Oh well...still, this looks like a pretty good book and I plan to read it through when I have time--TIME!
Quote of the Week
This week's quote is by 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney from the April 2011 issue of Muscular Development magazine:
Keep a detailed food log so you know exactly how many calories you are taking in, and what the macronutrient breakdown is. This is where most bodybuilders fall by the wayside, because they don't want to make that extra effort. It amazes me when guys come to me asking why they aren't making progress towards their goals, and they can't tell me how many calories they're eating a day. You have to do your homework!
So what does this have to do with IT and why do I find it inspiring? Let's say you're an IT consultant, business owner or entrepreneur. How can you tell if you're making progress towards your goal of running a successful money-making consulting practice or business? By keeping close track of what you do with your time. For the last several years I've kept a log book beside me as I work and I record what I'm doing each and every half hour of my workday. Then at the end of the day I can look back at my goals for the day and see from my log book whether I've been using my time efficiently to achieve those goals. For example, if I allocated 3 hours to finish a certain project but found I needed 5 hours, I ask myself why my initial estimate was unrealistic and/or what I could have done better. So while keeping track of what you eat will help you achieve your fitness goals, keeping track of how you spend your work time will help you be successful in achieving your business goals.
Save this newsletter so you can refer back to it later for tips, tools and other resources you might need to do your job or troubleshoot some problem you're dealing with.
Forward this newsletter to a friend or colleague who might find the tips and tools in it helpful for performing their job.
Send us feedback if you have questions, comments or suggestions concerning anything in this newsletter: [email protected]
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
mPowerTools - an AD Admin essential! 200+ reports, bulk import/export, scheduling, GPO/File Share Reports. Eliminate scripting! Only $1499!
Enable users to work using a least privilege account while assigning privileges directly to applications that need them:
Test drive the release candidate of System Center Data Protection Manager 2012:
Webinars & Seminars
Conferences, Expos and Other Events
March 26 - 29, 2012 - SQL Server 2012 Launch Conference and Expo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas:
April 16-20, 2012 - Microsoft Management Summit 2012 is where skilled IT professionals can meet to increase their technical expertise through hands-on training, breakout sessions and interacting with industry leaders in desktop and device management, datacenter, and cloud technologies:
Upcoming Microsoft Events and Webcasts
- March 21, 2012 - Business Insights Webcast: Office 365: Transforming Your Business with Lync Online (Level 200)
- March 21, 2012 - MSDN Webcast: Database Development Management (Level 300)
- March 22, 2012 - MSDN Webcast: At Home with Windows Azure, Part 1 of 4: Understanding Windows Azure Roles (Level 200)
Sign up for these and other Microsoft events and webcasts at:
Upcoming VMware Webcasts
- March 21, 2012 - Technical Deep Dive: Virtualizing Microsoft Exchange on VMware vSphere
- March 22, 2012 - Customer Spotlight: How Atlantic Health Virtualized Their Healthcare IT
- March 27, 2012 - Journey to IT Transformation: Complete Cloud Application Performance Management
Sign up these and other VMware webcasts at:
Upcoming O'Reilly Webcasts
- April 4, 2012 - Manually Removing Viruses and Malware from Windows 7
- May 3, 2012 - Building and Upgrading a PC
Sign up for these and other O'Reilly webcasts at:
Upcoming Cisco Events
Browse the Cisco Corporate Events Calendar to find Cisco at events, trade shows and conferences around the world:
Upcoming Oracle Events
Browse the Oracle Events page to find in-person events and live webcasts for your location:
Would you like to list your IT event, webcast, or seminar in this section? Contact Michael Vella, the WSN Account Manager at [email protected]
Have you ever tried to restore a server?
Some good tips on disaster recovery from the Ask Premier Field Engineering (PFE) Platforms blog on TechNet: http://www.wservernews.com/go/1332501355743
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 & EMC VMAXe; A Perfect Match
A guest post by EMC on the SQL Server Team Blog:
How to Cheaply Backup Virtual Machines
Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist Kevin Remde explains how to backup VMs without using Data Protection Manager or Virtual Machine Manager:
Use PowerShell to Back Up Modified Files to the Network
The Scripting Guy shows us how in this easy-to-follow tutorial:
Windows Server News
FAQ: The lowdown on open source cloud computing
Could open source cloud be a boon to your business? These frequently asked questions offer information and tips on the benefits and drawbacks of using open source, what?s going on in the provider market and how to use open source to build your cloud.
Buyer?s guide: Virtualization backup tools
Virtualization backup tools have become a crucial investment for many IT shops. Choosing the right one requires an analysis of the features and cost. Access this expert tip for insight into core features to look for in a virtualization back up tool and how to efficiently evaluate the various technologies available.
Building a remote VMware disaster recovery site
Virtualization offers distinct disaster recovery advantages, but consolidating your servers into a vSphere infrastructure can still leave your organization vulnerable, if you do not maintain a remote VMware disaster recovery site.
Data dedupe in Windows Server 8: What you need to know
Data deduplication is nothing new. Third-party vendors have used it for things like shrinking backup storage and WAN optimization for years. Even so, there has never been a native deduplication feature in the Windows operating system. That's about to change, however, with the release of Windows Server 8. Find out more in this popular tip.
WServerNews FAVE Links
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
The world's best R/C pilots show off their large scale model airplanes at the annual IMAA air show in France:
Slashdot Visits the Seattle Pinball Museum
Admiral Grace Hopper, computer pioneer and one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, demonstrates how long a nanosecond is:
Very few people understand how "public key encryption" works. Here is a simple explanation using paint mixing:
WServerNews - Product of the Week
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.