Windows Server Backup Sucks

   December 5th, 2009

This article is referring specifically to Windows Server Backup 1.0 that comes with Windows Server 2008 R2.

I recently had the pleasure of another horrid Server 2008 product.  This time around it’s the built in backup utility causing my head aches.

What’s the problem with it?  It’s slow.  I don’t mean takes a few extra hours slow… I mean it takes 18 hours slow.

First let me give a quick over view of the equipment being used… as this is definitely NOT a hardware issue.  It’s a poorly-written half-assed software issue.

The server is 2U rackmount HP Proliant DL380, running 2 Intel Xeon E5540 CPU’s at 2.53Ghz.  Each CPU has 4 cores with hyper-threading, giving it a total of 16 processing cores.  It has 24gb of ram (6gb free when in production).  For HD’s it is running 8 300GB 10,000 RPM SAS hot-swappable drives in a RAID 10 configuration.  This server is no slouch.  The server’s sole purpose is a Hyper-V server.  It runs 4 virtual machines, all Server 2003 machines with 4 gb of ram each.  In total, the virtual server has 746gb of data that needs backed up.

The server is connected via gigabit ethernet to a switch.  The switch is connected via fiber to another switch, where lives our backup server that is also connected at gigabit and has 2tb of storage space for the server backup.  Using straight file copying over network shares I have verified full gigabit transfer speeds.

It all sounds good right?  Well, it actually all is pretty nice… until you throw Windows Server Backup in to the mix.  What a piece of shit program this is.  I’ll save you the hours of configuration it took to get it to play nice in setting the backup to go to the network share and to play nice with the Hyper-V virtual machines.  Mind you this is a production server, so shutting down the 2003 servers for a couple hours isn’t an option.  Luckily volume shadow copy services comes to the rescue here, but again, I’ll spare you the explanation on that as this isn’t the point.

The point is that 746gb of data transferred at gigabit speeds should take just under 2 hours according to my handy dandy file transfer time/speed calculator.  The backup was scheduled for 9pm, so imagine my shock and horror when I came in and checked in on it at 8am the next day and see that the transfer was 70-something-% done.  WHAT?!  The backup did eventually complete around 3pm the next day.  That is 18 hours.  18 HOURS.  18  Hours to transfer 746gb of data over a gigabit/fiber connection.  This is just insane.  How could Microsoft have let a product out the door with such a disgusting, fatal, problematic flaw?!  And trust me, Iamnotalone.


The problem it seems is due to the way it compresses the files in the backup.  Apparently Microsoft has decided it is best that each file be compressed to it’s maximum amount.  Nevermind the fact that some people might actually have storage space to store backups uncompressed… nevermind the fact that the NTFS file system has built in file compression that works quickly.  It’s another one of those things that Microsoft let out the door and obviously never seriously tested, which being a corporate server product, you would THINK Microsoft would actually care about the code and programs going in to it.  Apparently this is not the case.  I’m about over Microsoft’s bullshit.

14 Responses to “Windows Server Backup Sucks”

  1. Ryan C  Says:

    Microsoft backup has always been half assed. I was hoping for more. Here is the thing, the server has 8 cores of 45nm Intel fury and is under almost no load. None of the core maxes during the backup. So even though it compresses, it is not utilizing the hardware available. It is just shit, plain and simple.

  2. KrAzE  Says:

    symantec ghost tiem?

  3. Nick - Author Comment:

    Symantec ruined Ghost like they ruin every other product they touch.

  4. Jon Webb  Says:

    Thankyou. I have been fighting with 2008 for a few weeks, and i just couldnt figure out what i was doing wrong. We’ve got new hardware, new software, new cables, new pants, new everything. But its all slower and more difficult than 2003.

    I’ve seen complaints that the new commandline version isnt really pure commandline. Yes that sucks. And some of us want the GUI, but this sucks too – i permanently live inbetween: typing commandline code into GUIs .
    Microsoft: Just what are you playing at. 2008 is going to tickoff everyone.

  5. Boomer  Says:

    Leave it to Microsoft to take 15 years to develop an actually viable, stable product that at least works (NTBackup) – then discontinue it and replace it with the joke that is 2008 Windows Server Backup.

    It’s shit like this that makes me hope the zombie hordes of hackers and virus-writers destroy them.

  6. cp1252  Says:

    is there an alternative? this garbage just isn’t going to cut it for me either. Can i instlal the old nt backup perhaps?

  7. Nick - Author Comment:

    You can try some backup product from Acronis, or someone else, but we have been as equally disappointed with all of the other commercial solutions.
    Right now we’re using the built in server backup. Backups take for-fucking-ever, but that is the only answer I have. Oh yeah, and backups will just completely randomly not work for several days, then start working again.
    The reliability is about 50/50 as to whether a backup will complete with any amount of success.

    This is one of the things that REALLY annoys me in server 2008. The built in backup stuff is absolute dog ass. Give me back ntbackup. I never had issues with ntbackup.

  8. Randolph Holmes  Says:

    First I definitely agree that Windows 2008 Server backup is a huge step back from NT Backup in terms of options and its performance leaves much to be desired as well. So lets talk solutions.

    I build using Hyper V in much the same way described here and I use Windows backups ONLY for the bare metal restore of C: on the Hyper V host.
    This cuts down the backup time.

    So what about backing up the HyperV guests you say???

    Check out the program Backup Chain. Its fast VSS aware and can handle your guest servers so you don’t have the headaches of Windows 2008 R2.

    The best thing is Backup Chain is not to pricey. I just set it up for a client and had questions. I called tech support and actually got a person who was helpful.

    Hope this helps someone else out.

  9. Nick - Author Comment:

    Disclaimer: I approved the above comment, despite it seeming a bit spammy, only because I have no other answers in alternative backup solutions. Backup Chain’s website looks like it was designed in 2001, but if the software actually works, then it is at least worth sharing here. If anyone has used this software, feel free to post up.

  10. Dan  Says:

    Holy cow, I am glad I am not the only one that is seeing this slowness. I am backing up only about 600gb to a USB drive and it has been going for 9 hours now and states 40% complete. My first reaction was “oh no, I plugged into a USB 1.1 port!” No dice, it is 2.0

    This is a one-off backup I am doing to pre-seed DFSR data. I wanted to use Server Backup because that would ensure my file hashes would remain intact. Oh well, I do not have another 9+ hours to wait for this abomination to complete. I am just going to have to use Robocopy instead. Thanks for wasting a night of backup for me on a critical project, Microsoft.

  11. Carlos Gonzalez  Says:

    It’s frustrating that every couple of months I find myself spending entire DAYS troubleshooting or working around Microsoft bugs like this one.
    With MS Server Backup I tried everything, network, USB, local disk, doing specific folders, doing whole volumes and this is what I have found:
    I use MS backup for the bare metal recovery because that one seems to work and does not seem that slow.
    I don’t want to backup all my virtual machines because that drive is too big and because some of the VMs are only for testing and don’t have to be backed up.
    At first I tried MS backup and ran into the problem where it is not compatible with Advanced Format (the newer bigger USB drives). Then I ran into the fact that it is unbearably slow.
    I downloaded a backup chain trial based on the comments above and it really is simple and fast. It was taking a while in the “deduplication” stage but it seems that speeds up incremental backups later. I can always turn it off. I also like the fact that I can compress or not and use generic compression algorithms.
    MS Server backup: 1hour 47minutes
    Backup chain: 33minutes

  12. Martin  Says:

    New server, freshly installed. Backup completes at 2GB/minute.
    Add 50GB of data ; backup speed now starts at 1GB/min and gradually slows to 0.1GB/minute ..

  13. Keith Page  Says:

    Completely agree, an HP Proliant wih 24Gb and a USB backup drive. SBS 2011, aka 2008R2, so far, 650Gb is 16% complete after 36 hours. Truly truly a shit product

  14. Nick - Author Comment:

    Veeam now has an Endpoint Backup product that may work better. I’ve been impressed with it in my personal machines at least. I haven’t tried it on a server yet though.

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