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I'm overhauling our system backups and am wondering: What files are important to always backup in Windows Server 2003/2008 environments?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Answers to this question will most likely boil down to needing to back up:

  1. System state.

  2. Any other application specific data you have.

On some systems, it's likely not even necessary to back up the system state. Like any backup system, what you back up depends highly on:

  1. What data is important to you;

  2. How much time and space you have to perform backups; and

  3. How much time is acceptable to elapse until full recovery.

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Short answer: Don't back up Windows on a file-by-file basis. Use the right tools.

Long answer: This is entirely incumbent on what you're running. IIS stores its configuration differently from Remote Desktop Gateway, for example. Some Windows services have internal databases, where copying off the file may be entirely useless.

There is plenty of software that deals with the tricky stuff for you, and allows you to create a Windows Server backup without too much effort. I recommend a tool that gives you the option for a bare-metal restore, ideally hardware-agnostic. At the low end, Acronis's offerings are your best bet. For larger deployments, I'd use Symantec Backup Exec.

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What exactly does the first sentence in your answer mean? – joeqwerty Apr 19 '12 at 22:36
The idea is that dragging and dropping files to a backup destination is not generally an effective backup method for Windows Server. The myriad tools available are designed to handle the particulars of backing up an online system. – Joel E Salas Apr 19 '12 at 23:08
I don't get it. Did the OP say that was how he was going to perform the backups? My take was that he was asking what files to back up, not how to back them up. – joeqwerty Apr 19 '12 at 23:33

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