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I'm new to working with Active Directory and after watching a training video it mentioned that the default Windows system backup was not an ideal choice as it takes over a drive. I'm going to be evaluating several third-party backup solutions. While I'm doing this, what features should I look for?

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Product recommendation questions are off-topic. As such, I've edited your question to make it more about valuable features of backup systems. –  EEAA May 12 '12 at 18:21

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The built in Window Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will dedicate the backup target drive to the backup and won't make the backup drive available for any other purpose, but I don't see that as a bad thing. Additionally, if I needed to restore AD, I'd much rather have a full backup of the server rather than bits and pieces.

My recommendation would be to purchase 1 or 2 drives that are large enough for a Full server backup and use those alternatley for backups of the entire server.

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If you are prepared to restore with a new install and then restore the core data you can use a "System State Backup".

From an elevated command prompt:

wbadmin start systemstatebackup -backuptarget:f:

will backup the key data to F:, but not dedicate that drive to backups. See Technet for all the wbadmin operations.

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