Windows 2003 NTBackup Scheduling

Windows 2003 NTBackup Scheduling Anomalies

I admit that I don’t spend much time with microsoft windows computers but today I found myself helping a small business with their backup strategy and I am not amused. They had hired a consulting firm to build, install, and configure a file server for their office network.  It appears to be a rather expensive box which is an HP Proliant ML350 G5 using HP SmartArray E200i controller and is a domain controller.  If it fails, nothing works in this network.  It has 4 hot swap drive bays and the owner was instructed to keep 2 drives outside the computer and swap out a drive each day. I assume it was a raid 1 configuration but on further discovery, nothing was working and the raid has been in degraded mode since delivery according to the logs. Needless to say, I wanted a backup now which is the reason for this article and I’ll address the lack of raid at another time when I learn more about how this environment works.

I begin by looking through the vast number of menus and find a backup command. I run a few manual backups which is very easy and it just works.  First I backup the application data to a remote server and then I follow that with a full backup of the server. In the back of my mind, I am thinking the drive is going to fail so I do it in this order.  Next I setup the schedules so that once a week we get a full backup followed by daily incremental backups. I am short of space on a remote desktop so I go with incremental instead of differential. In a differential backup, you can apply the last differential to your full backup to get to the last saved state. In contrast, the incremental means I have to apply all the proceeding backups until the last incremental so it takes longer on restore. None the less, I am happy that it is click click and its all done. The next day, I check the remote server and nothing. What is going on? Google to the rescue and finds this: A scheduled backup does not run after you reschedule the backup by using NTBackup.exe in Windows Server 2003 … Basically, what is happening is that the password is not being set or read properly so I read further and find this workaround.

To work around this problem, use Scheduled Tasks to reschedule a scheduled backup job.

To use Scheduled Tasks to reschedule a backup job, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type Control schedtasks, and then click OK.
  2. Double-click the scheduled backup job.
  3. Click the Schedule tab, and then specify the new time for the backup job.
  4. Click OK, type the credentials for the logged-on administrator account, and then click OK.

I bring up this schedtasks screen and sure enough that is what happened.  If you set the password from this screen, it works great.  I don’t know how Windows Administrators keep these things running but my hat is off to them if this is common place.  I consider this a really crazy bug and I would have a fit if cron stopped working on one of my unix/linux servers.

NTBackup Syntax

I was curious how one would make a change to the backup options once it had been created.  There doesn’t appear to be any GUI to perform this function and a delete followed by an add appears to be the recommended method.  Here is the command as saved by the Scheduler. It is possible however to make a change to this string by choosing properties after right mouse clicking on the task and modifying the run command line. Here is an example:

C:\WINDOWS\system32\ntbackup.exe backup
"@C:\Documents and Settings\PPIAdmin\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows NT\NTBackup\data\Dentrix incremental.bks"
/n "Dentrix  Backup incremental.bkf created 20/03/2011 at 9:03 AM"
/d "Set created 20/03/2011 at 9:03 AM"
v:no
/r:no
/rs:no
/hc:off
/m incremental
/j "Dentrix incremental"
/l:s
/f "\\Findesk1\Backup\Dentrix Backup incremental.bkf"

The first argument is ‘backup’ followed by a specification file that contains the directories to backup. This directory also contains the logs and status of the job. The ‘/n’ option specifies the ‘new tape name’ or in our case the name of the backup that will be changing with each day. The ‘/d’ option is the description followed by no verification ‘v:no’.  An option not specified is the ‘/a’ which would allow for multiple copies (append).  By default it will replace the old file with a new file. Other options can be found in Chapter 19 page 1526 of Mastering Windows Server 2003 (Sybex) by Mark Minasi. While searching for the answers to some of these problems I ran into BackupAssist which appears to be a very nice program that supports functions like rsync and AES-256.  Could be a solution for a roll it your self backup scheme in the future with cloud storage.