To Backup or Not to Backup? Yes! To backup!!

There has been a lot of discussions in the Exchange ecosystem (see comments on this post and other posts on our blog for example) about the fact that Windows Server 2008 built-in backup application (Windows Server Backup) is not Exchange-aware. Even though we have also clarified that the limitation does not apply to Windows Small Business Server 2008, we still kept getting a lot of open and honest feedback on the subject, which we greatly appreciate.


About 2 years ago, when the Exchange team started testing Exchange 2007 on Windows 2008, we found that the built-in backup application had changed dramatically. Decisions that drove that change by the Windows team are not the subject of this post, but it is fair to say that the Windows team did not make the decision lightly.

When we evaluated the features of Windows Server Backup, it was clear that the backup and restore experience on Windows 2008 would not be the experience that existing Exchange customers have been used to for so long. Because we had feedback from several customers who told us they would rather get a more full-featured backup solution for their Exchange servers, a decision was made not to provide an Exchange-aware backup solution for Windows 2008 in Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1.

Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 Ships...

Right after we shipped Service Pack 1, we started hearing from customers who were upset with the fact that they cannot take Exchange-aware online backups with Windows Server Backup. These customers had enjoyed the integration of Exchange and Windows Backup (NTBackup) for many years, and for many versions of Exchange and Windows. We also saw quite a but of discussion activity on this issue in various Exchange communities (this blog, internal discussion groups, MVP and MCT communities, etc.).

We then published a blog post on this issue, which prompted more comments from customers who told us that they were unhappy about this and why.

Now - the next question you have must be:

What are we doing about this?

Although we can't share all of the details now, we thought that this issue was important enough to announce a decision we recently made. We have decided to develop and release a VSS-based plug-in for Windows Server Backup that will enable you to properly backup and restore Exchange 2007 with a built-in Windows 2008 backup application.

While you will be able to backup and restore Exchange 2007 on Windows 2008, you should not expect feature parity with the Windows 2003 NTBackup experience. There will not be the same level granularity and control that NTBackup provides and backups will be limited to the local server only. However, you will be able to perform a VSS backup of Exchange to a separate disc or a network share. If the backup completes successfully, it will (depending on options chosen) truncate Exchange transaction log files, and you'll be able to restore Exchange data when needed.

We will cover all of the details in updated documentation when the time comes. We realize that this may not be an ideal solution for all organizations, but we are quite confident that this is a good solution for many, especially our smaller customer segment.

When can you expect this?

We do not have a release date to announce yet. Our Customer Experience team is working out the details, and because we are still relatively early in this process, we cannot commit to a specific date yet. Rest assured - we'll announce it when it becomes available!

Finally, I think it is in order to thank all of you for all the feedback that you have provided us. As we mentioned before, we want your feedback. We are lucky to have people passionate enough to let us know and explain why what we did was not ideal.

- Nino Bilic

Comments (32)
  1. Jerry Rasmussen says:

    I got to tell you I was fairly angry when I discovered this.  I went to run a full backup before I moved the server to production only to find out that server 2008 could not backup exchange.  It took nearly an hour of searching to find this was the reason.

    I glad to see you guys are taking this seriously and taking steps to solve the problem.

  2. pesospesos says:

    Great news, please keep the info coming because there are many of us that could really use this functionality to supplement DPM.

  3. lee says:

    I also think you should reconsider making it at least as functional as ntbackup in 2003.  

  4. TimH says:

    Hallelujah!!! My prayers have been answered! Thank you!!!!

  5. Troy Troy says:

    Thanks for this.  Customers understand they arent getting a full featured backup client in NTbackup, but for folks in small environments (or even in our test/dev environments) having the ability to backup and truncate logs without an additional software piece is essential.

    Thanks for listening to the people, this site and your team continue to be a huge value to Exchange Admins.

  6. jeremy says:

    Although it’s nice to make this for peoples I think it’s a poor substitute for a real backup solution.  If you are going to run Exchange you should spend the money on a third party solution like Symantec Backup Exec.  I don’t have a single customer that runs NTBACKUP for Exchange and this includes many SBS and banking customers.

  7. Mike Crowley says:

    Thanks for listening!

  8. SARFARAZ KHAN says:


  9. Flemming Riis says:

    -If you are going to run Exchange you should spend the money on a third party solution like Symantec Backup Exec

    Yeah but when backup product xyz fails its always nice to be able to do a backup and know you have it until it gets fixed.

  10. DE says:

    NTbackup was sometimes the most feasible way of getting out of the mud if your logs did not get truncated by something like BEX! As it always did this…

  11. amitmtank says:

    Sounds great…!!!

  12. Timothy says:

    I’m glad the Exchange team is picking up the ball that the Windows Backup team dropped.  The Vista and Server 2008 backup applications are horrible.  Honestly, NTBackup was not that feature rich, so I don’t see how the Windows team could come up with such a lacking solution.  I don’t ask for much, I really don’t.  And, yes, I do appreciate the "quick" options to do a full (including system state) backup.  However, not being able to exclude a folder is absolutely ridiculous (that’s been available in every backup app since the beginning of time itself).  Despite that, I learned to live with it — I bought bigger hard disks.  But not being able to backup exchange?!  That is incredibly short-sighted and I wasted a LOT of man-hours trying to figure out a cost effective work-around (currently backing up from a Server 2003’s NTBackup after turning streaming network backup back on in the registry).  

    Thanks, Exchange Team, for developing this plug-in that was neglected by the Windows Team.

  13. george1 says:

    I found this Guide to online backup on Wikipedia! I thought it was extremely helpful so I put it here to share! (! I just discovered online backup and I think it’s a good way to protect data! Can anyone confirm this???

  14. bday says:

    Hi folks. Great news on a plugin. Will the plugin allow us to schedule backups to save to remote network locations or will we still be bound to only being able to schedule backups to local storage? Thank you.

  15. Alex Lewis says:

    Great work guys!! I have a lot of SMB customers that use NTBackup exclusively for backing up Exchange 2003. It’s always hard to explain to a customer why their "upgrade" has less features that they consider essential.

    I added some more thoughts here:

  16. KnightHawk says:

    Even if it’s more then a day late and a dollar short still better to be late then never.

  17. Matin says:

    This is really a great achievement (no doubt) in compare with the traditional API based backup when you consider quick restore. However, there are some real time scenario with the examples start to finish would help a lot for the customer who would like to proceed now with the technology.

  18. Peter says:

    Just today I ran into a situation that is exactly the reason we need a native backup of Exchange.

    For a still unknown reason my third-party Exchange 2003 backup application wasn’t running properly.  The logs weren’t being cleared and the log drive filled up.  I don’t have to tell you what happened next.  Rather than spend the time diagnosing the actual problem, I was able to run an NT backup, clear the logs and get everyone working again.  

    If I was running Exchange 2007, this would have been a much more serious problem that would have resulted in much more downtime.

  19. Eric says:

    I think the Exchange teams and Windows teams need to get together to put the functionallity back into the NTBackup solution that was there before. Selling new product to management with less features is less than an easy job. If they were able to do an Exchange backup in the last three versions of Windows why can’t they do it now!

  20. Out_theback says:

    Thank god you do listen.

    Today a company directory Moved (instead of copying)3 public folders in his contacts, because he was travelling and wanted a copy.

    They do not have a 3rd party backup solution…this type of stuff up is common.  Microsoft must product sensible backup solutions to Exchange and especially SharePoint…and all it’s configurations.

    Otherwise we will be exmerg and exporting to more solutions.

    SBS 2008 and EBS will need all the backup options they can get.

  21. Paul H says:

    Thanks for listening to your customers.

    I had to resort to an alternate solution for doing my exchange

    backups. There are a number of VSS aware solutions on the market

    but not all of them are exchange aware in that the log files get

    trunct after a good backup.

    I think having this Plugin for the windows server 2008 backup will

    be a god send to alot of people deploying exchange on windows server 2008.


  22. Phil Carter says:

    NTBackup still works when loaded in Windows Server 2008, and backing up Exchange 2008 SP1. I’ve tested backups and restores of the storage groups. Here’s how I did it:

    Copy ntbackup.exe, ntmsapi.dll, and vssapi.dll from Windows 2003

    into a folder on your Windows 2008 server. Make sure to match x32 or x64 binaries! Once these 3 files are in the same folder, ntbackup.exe will

    run just fine on Windows 2008, and even allow the Exchange services to be backed up. Life goes on for Windows admins.

    Of course, this is NOT a supported configuration by Microsoft.

  23. Phil Carter says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention and echo what others are saying in this discussion. THANK YOU or listening to us and for putting basic backup functionality back into Windows! I don’t expect anything fancy; that’s what commercial solutions are for. Just something that works as good or as basic as the old NTBACKUP does on 2003 server.

  24. pesospesos says:

    any update on this?

    also, are there plans to allow backups of SCR targets in the future?  that would be huge!

  25. Bill O'Sullivan says:

    I was disappointed to learn I could not backup exchange with windows backup, but you have provided me a new hope for the future.  I just need a simple solution, and a backup product should backup the entire server.  This is my expectation, and I am looking forward to the changes.

    Semper Fi!

  26. Sébastien PLUME says:

    Great !!! I need it !!!

    Thanks !

  27. Andrew Stegmaier says:

    The decision to develop this plug-in was only recently made, yet it has been known for a while that the Windows Server Backup tool included in Windows Small Business Server 2008 would support Exchange-aware backups. What is the relationship between these two tools? Will the exchange backup and restore experience in SBS2008 be as full-featured as NTBackup, or will it have the same limitations as this plug-in?

    Does anyone on the team know the answer to this question? I’m looking at the possibility of upgrading to SBS2008 from SBS2003, and I want to understand the implications for backup.

  28. Adrian T says:


    Light at the end of the tunnel?

    It never crossed my mind that MICROSOFT will release an application server so important (Exchange) without any (ANY) possibility for a backup.

    I implemented it in production. I can’t roll-back now. I am using circular loggin and I am praying every day on the health of the server.

    Does anyone have a solution – any solution? Even if I have to take the database offline, I will do that.

  29. PatRick says:

    Any news about the release date of the plugin?

  30. bfedor says:

    Nino, thanks for the great news on the plug-in. As you can tell, there many people out there aching to get this plug-in, including myself. Can you take a moment to post an update to this page as to when the anticipated release date will be?

  31. Toby says:

    I have several small business clients waiting on this who were VERY disappointed with Microsoft’s initial decision to exclude the functionality. Thank you very much; I can’t wait!

  32. Jacob Harrington says:

    After having four different customers have near total loss (90% plus) of their Exchange data I caution all of you against its use.  The features are great, but the price is too high.  Having to explain to people that despite having several backups, the top tier support from Microsoft, and a secondary server available for immediate recovery that they are going to lose all but a tiny sliver of their data is just not a business solution.  I’d take the blame myself if it weren’t for the fact that I had Microsoft making sure I did every step by the book.  In their own words they remained surprised every time it happened.  The four setups were using these versions:

    Exchange 5.5, 2000, 2003, and 2007

    Each customer employed a different backup system, each authorized for use with Exchange ranging from Tapes and RAID 5 arrays, Microsoft Backup, to HP’s Backup Suite for Exchange.  In each case the backup system produced a reliable backup of the data and the Exchange recovery process failed to recover the majority of the information.

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