I’ve recently been delivering an educational presentation on the drive imaging features in Windows Server 2008. I’ve been very impressed by its capabilities, especially given that it is built into the OS. Hardware Independent Restore (HIR) has worked just great in all our testing, even in absurd situations (eg. backup an Intel Server 2x dual core CPUs, restore on AMD desktop 1x quad core CPU).
However, the built-in wizards really struggle in many situations. They do not allow users to schedule backups to anything other than USB or Firewire HDDs – meaning that newer popular technologies are not supported – like eSata.
I’ll blog about the other limitations on the built-in Wizards in Server 2008 – and how BackupAssist fixes them – but this post is specifically about eSata support.
There are a number of problems with eSata that you’ll likely encounter if you are not using BackupAssist.
Firstly, Server 2008’s wizard does not support backing up to an eSata disk. This is because eSata looks like an internal hard drive. SBS 2008’s wizard will allow you to add an eSata disk to the backup pool (when you click on the “show all devices” checkbox), but from my testing, it still won’t work reliably.
This is partially a Windows problem and partially a motherboard problem.
eSata drives are not Plug-and-Play by default. Instead, you need to enable AHCI support in your motherboard BIOS, change a registry setting in Windows, and reboot. Then, *perhaps* it will work. However, in half the test machines we tried this on, after enabling AHCI support on the motherboard, Windows wouldn’t boot (blue screen of death).
This means that AHCI is NOT a recommended solution to fix this problem.
However, BackupAssist does correctly handle eSata disks. This is because before each backup, BackupAssist will scan for newly connected hardware devices, find the drive, assign the drive letter, and then start the backup. After the backup has finished, BackupAssist will then perform the equivalent of a Safely Remove Hardware so that the device can be disconnected with no danger of uncommitted buffered data.
So in this case at least, it’s not all Microsoft’s fault. But the good news is that BackupAssist should make the process seamless. I wrote the code for this about a month ago, and it’s been released in the new v5 of our software.