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Adding a dedicated filegroup for nonclustered indexes
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To enable us to eliminate nonclustered indexes from our backups via filegroup backups, we must first move our nonclustered index ncix_Table1 from the PRIMARY filegroup to another filegroup, allowing the PRIMARY filegroup to be backed up in isolation from any index filegroups. We must first create another filegroup, which we ll dedicate to the storage of nonclustered indexes. To create a nonclustered index only filegroup, run the following command:
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ALTER DATABASE BackupTest ADD FILEGROUP NCIX_FG;
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This creates another filegroup within the database named NCIX_FG (short for nonclustered index filegroup). But we must also add at least one physical operating system file to the filegroup before database objects can be stored within it (alter the FILENAME path as appropriate for your filesystem):
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ALTER DATABASE BackupTest ADD FILE ( NAME = N'NCIX_FG_F1' , FILENAME = N'C:\ NCIX_FG_F1.ndf') TO FILEGROUP NCIX_FG;
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Moving nonclustered indexes into the new filegroup
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Now that we have created a nonclustered index only filegroup to store our nonclustered index, we can relocate the nonclustered index into it. To accomplish this, we reissue the CREATE INDEX statement, with two additional options, DROP_EXISTING and ON NCIX_FG:
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Efficient backups without indexes
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CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX ncix_Table1 ON dbo.Table1 (Col1) WITH DROP_EXISTING --, ONLINE = ON ON NCIX_FG;
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The DROP_EXISTING option causes the newly created index to be created as the replacement of the existing index, without needing to explicitly drop the existing index (which could damage query performance for queries that might be in flight, while the index is dropped). The ONLINE option can be used to further reduce concurrency impact with SQL Server 2005 or 2008 Enterprise Edition. The ON NCIX_FG clause is the main focus of our attention in this statement, which defines the new location for the nonclustered index.
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Backing up only the PRIMARY filegroup
Now that we ve successfully separated our nonclustered indexes (one only) from the PRIMARY filegroup into a separate filegroup, it s now possible to perform a tables-only filegroup backup. Instead of issuing a standard BACKUP DATABASE command, add a filegroup specification to back up only the PRIMARY filegroup. For example:
BACKUP DATABASE BackupTest FILEGROUP = 'PRIMARY' TO DISK = 'E:\BackupTest_Primary.bak'
SQL Server will then perform a filegroup backup of the PRIMARY filegroup only, without copying any contents from the newly created NCIX_FG to the backup set.
NOTE
Although no data is backed up from NCIX_FG, the backup still contains definitions of nonclustered indexes because index metadata information is stored in system tables, which are located in the PRIMARY filegroup (sys.indexes, sys.index_columns and so on). This means that we can recreate the nonclustered indexes in the restore process from their definitions, even though we don t have their allocated data structures in our backup file.
Restoring the PRIMARY filegroup backup
The process required to restore the database from the PRIMARY filegroup backup differs depending on whether you re restoring only to perform data extraction purposes (re-creation of indexes not required), or whether you intend to bring the database fully online (re-creation of indexes is required). Restoring from the PRIMARY filegroup backup to perform data extraction is simple and faster than restoring a full backup. On the other hand, restoring the database back to its full state to bring it back into a production role including a rebuild of all nonclustered indexes requires more steps than from a simple full database backup. Let s quickly review both of the steps required in each scenario.
Restoring the PRIMARY filegroup backup
Restoring for extraction only
When restoring a database from the PRIMARY (tables-only) filegroup for data extraction/examination only, you include FILEGROUP and RECOVERY (or NORECOVERY if you also wish to restore a chain of log backups) clauses in your RESTORE command, as follows:
RESTORE DATABASE BackupTest FILEGROUP = 'PRIMARY' FROM DISK = 'E:\BackupTest_Primary.bak' WITH RECOVERY
SQL Server will then restore the PRIMARY filegroup and recover the database, bring-
ing it online and available for querying. This allows extraction of data by executing SELECT commands, but INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE commands will fail with error 8607:
Msg 8607, Level 16, State 1, Line 1: The table '[Tablename]' cannot be modified because one or more nonclustered indexes reside in a filegroup which is not online.
It s also possible that SELECT statements might fail if a nonclustered index is used to process the query, either via selection by SQL Server s query optimizer or explicit index hint. In this case, error 315 will be returned:
Msg 315, Level 16, State 1, Line 2: Index "[IndexName]" on table "[TableName]" (specified in the FROM clause) is disabled or resides in a filegroup which is not online.
In this scenario, you might need to either remove index hints, or explicitly hint SQL Server to access the table via its heap or clustered index storage, instead of via the nonclustered index (which is offline).
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