Problems Using NTBackup with Exchange

We typically use a third-party backup utility for our Exchange Server systems. However, we recently built a new server and started using Windows NTBackup on it. Since then, we haven't been able to take a complete backup of the Exchange data on that server; the backup fails with event ID 8019, which claims that a backup is already in progress. Reboots don't help. What's causing this error, and how can we fix the problem?

Windows Server 2003 includes Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which lets compatible backup software make point-in-time copies of Exchange Server 2003 storage groups (SGs) and databases. VSS uses application-specific writers to capture application data. Exchange 2003 ships with a writer, and Windows 2003 includes a writer that can capture system state data. The Windows 2003 version of NTBackup also supports VSS, in addition to supporting the Exchange Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) backup API.

The problem you're running into occurs because NTBackup uses the VSS API to capture system state data. When you use NTBackup to back up both system state and Exchange data in one backup job, NTBackup starts by using VSS to back up the system state data. At that point, NTBackup notifies all the installed VSS writers that it's ready to start the backup. When the Exchange VSS writer receives that notification, the writer sets a flag that indicates that a backup is in progress. NTBackup then proceeds to call the HrBackupPrepare() routine from the ESE backup API—and that call fails because of the existing flag.

To fix the problem, don't try to use NTBackup to back up system state and Exchange data in the same backup job. Either use a third-party backup program, or use NTBackup but split the backup job into two parts. (For more information about NTBackup problems and their solutions, see "NTBackup Won't Work?" November 2004, InstantDoc ID 44114.)

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