Building a Storage Box – Part 2 – Testing Windows Server Backup to Restore a Storage Pool Configuration

Note: Don’t do anything you are about to read in production without testing it extensively. I make no guarantees about the best practiness or supportability of the procedures that follow.

After poking around the internet a bit, I found a Windows Server Feature called “Windows Server Backup” that was the prescribed method for backing up system states and volumes from Windows Server. This feature is not installed be default, so it needed to be installed by me.

Where the Feature resides

Once that was installed, I created a UNC share on a separate server and then created a One Time Backup from Windows Server Backup on the storage box.

This is all I backed up.

The reason I didn’t perform a full backup is because I wanted to see if I could recover the storage pool, virtual disk, and configs from a System State restore in the event my primary volume dies.

To test the process, I used MEMCM (I’m still getting used to typing that) to deploy a Bare Metal task sequence to the server.

Image
Partition and Format, here we come!

Post imaging, I only had the primary volume available. The storage volume was not present. I had expected this.

Nothing up my sleeve, especially a storage volume.

I went through the process of installing Windows Server Backup so I could apply my System State Backup.

I was greeted by various warnings that I was violating best practice regarding restoration policy. It turns out that it isn’t recommended to directly restore from a network path because if network issues occur, the drive could get borked. There was another one that didn’t like that I was applying the system state to a “new” computer, or something along those lines. I forgot to screen grab it. Sorry.

Anyway, ignoring the warnings, I forged on ahead.

Restoring the System State

Admittedly, this process to a lot longer than I thought it would. I don’t know for sure how long it took because I eventually stepped away. Upon completion, it looked like the system hung after explorer shutdown. I had to hard power off the box. Yes, that made me really nervous.

After a few reboots, I was thankfully greeted with a login prompt. Unfortunately, the trust between the computer and the domain was bad. I suppose this was to be expected as I applied an older state to a new domain joined computer. Anyway, that was easy enough to fix. I just left and rejoined the domain.

Once I got to the desktop, I opened up Server Manager to see the results of the experiment!

Success! Or as they say in Klingon, Qapla’

The volume was present, mounted, and contained all of the files I copied to the array.

So I was able to prove that I could recover the storage pool and virtual disk, which tells me that I should be able to safely use this technique to protect myself from data loss from a failure of the primary drive. That’s good to know!

The next steps in the storage box odyssey are to install the NVMe drive in the PCI-X adapter and see if the computer will acknowledge its existence – and perhaps boot from it! The adapter came in today, but I just haven’t had a chance to play with it yet.

I should also acknowledge that I heard from a few folks on Twitter about me eschewing cloud backup. Everyone I heard from suggested Backblaze.  Without having yet trying their service, I must say that $6 per month for unlimited storage is really cheap, and I’ll very likely be trying them out once this experiment has concluded.

Until the next installment…

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