I've just rented a dedicated server running Windows Server 2008 R2. Now I have to think of a backup strategy for the server.

My webhost offers an optional 32 GB USB stick for a one-time fee that would be permanently plugged into the server. Would it be a good idea to use Windows Server Backup for backing up the entire system onto such a stick? It seems that this would be the best option for a bare metal recovery in case it becomes necessary.

The other option would be to use an additional partition on the second harddisk that is built into the computer. But since that disk is part of a Software RAID and therefore a dynamic volume, it seems that it would not work with a bare metal recovery. Or am I mistaken?

So, would the USB stick be a good idea? Or should I back up to the dynamic volume? I'd be interested in your thoughts on this.



Edit: Since you asked about it, there is one other option: The webhost offers 100 GB FTP backup space for offsite backups. I could write a shell script that copies the backup from the local harddisk to that server. But since it's not a drive share, I don't see how this could be used to recover the server in a case of desaster. It seems that the windows installer does not offer recovery from backups stored on FTP servers...


Neither are really good options.

Your software RAID offers you some redundancy, so the likelihood of you having to do a bare metal install is a little less (and likely means that your USB stick would be useless as well if your server goes kaput). However, it's always a good idea to have as many means of restoring backups as possible, just make sure you encrypt your backups before putting them on the USB stick.

Also, you may want to look into an offsite backup solution. The USB stick may work for now, but I would only use it as a temporary solution.

Putting the backup on the second partition seems kind of counter-intuitive, and will not likely help you in the result of a disaster.

One more thing to consider is that the more you write to the USB stick, the more likely it will fail, USB sticks, unlike hard drives, WILL fail after a certain amount of writes to each block of memory, whereas hard drives will simply have more chance to fail as usage time increases.

The best thing to do would be get an offsite backup solution. Next to this would be to get an external drive to attach to the server to do your backup. Next to this would be to get an internal (and independent) drive to store the backup. Next to that would be the USB stick. I have little faith in NAND devices for backups.

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How much data are you talking about? Is it the full 32 GB? Neither sits with me very well. Ideally you should make an off-site backup but that, obviously, won't be feasible over the Internet.

I'd personally be wary of the USB stick because of the fact that it'll burn out over time. That and the fact that it could be bumped by someone in the data center which could destroy your backup if it breaks.

Are those the only backup options they provide?

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  • No there is one other. See my edit above. – Adrian Grigore Mar 10 '10 at 16:16

I really wouldn't go for either option for full backups. Either would work OK for having a local recent copy of data, but i don't think either is good for backups. The stick would likely be too small, and backing up a server onto itself is not very robust (understatement.) Does the provider offer backups? I don't have a lot of experience with hosting providers, but they should have some sort of offering here. If not, maybe you should look into one that does.

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  • Please see my edit above for the additional option I have – Adrian Grigore Mar 10 '10 at 16:18
  • It sounds like your best bet is going to be backups of only your data and assume you're going to have to do a rebuild. I don't know that the built-in 2008 backup/recovery tool can do a bare-metal restore from USB, and it also seems small, and you say that it appears it can't do it from FTP. But I'm not that familiar with that software, so I think you should do some research into its stated capabilities with regards to restoration. The second option, backing up onto another volume in the same system, barely counts as backup because it's entirely unreliable. – mfinni Mar 10 '10 at 16:53

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