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Offline vs. Online Backups
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One of the first decisions you ll need to make about your backups is how the data will be stored. Offline, or cold, backups are performed when the database is shut down and users are not connected. Because the files are not marked as in-use, the database files can be backed up like any other OS files, with standard backup software (such as the backup utilities included with Windows NT and Windows 2000). Offline backups are useful for environments in which it is possible to shut down the database server for the period of time that is required to back up the database files (including the transaction log). Provided that no changes occur to these files during the backup, all information will be left in a consistent state. After the backup is completed, the database can be restarted. Offline backups leave much to be desired. First, it is not always feasible to stop database servers every time backups must be performed. Second, starting and stopping database servers can decrease performance as the procedure and data caches are reset. A good alternative is to use online, or hot, backups. Administrators perform online backups when the database server is online and is being accessed by users. Although it is likely that performance will be decreased during the operation, it is not necessary to stop the database server during the operation. To perform online backups, software that is aware of database issues must be used.
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CAUTION: You should never use a tool that claims to back up open files to protect SQL Server data. Although the files themselves may be backed up, they will likely be left in an inconsistent and unusable state due to changes that occur during the backup process.
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As we saw in 5, most backup packages allow for saving information to disk, tape, or network devices. Although tools that support this operation can perform online backups, there is another alternative: Make regular database dumps to disk devices and then back up the dump files. The whole operation involves the creation of a database dump (which is, essentially, an export of all the data and objects in a database) to a file system file. This file can then be backed up using normal tape-backup software, since dump files are not marked as in-use and are stored as logically consistent at a specific point in time. The main advantages to this method of data protection are that no special database options are required for the backup package, and database and OS backups can be combined in the same backup sets. The drawback of performing database dumps is that they can require excessive disk space (usually equal to the size of the database plus the transaction log at any given time). Figure 6-6 shows the flow of data in a database dump scenario.
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NOTE: As we ll see later in this chapter, SQL Server 7 includes features for performing online and offline database backups, as well as dumps of data to disk files.
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The overall goal of performing database backups is to protect all of your information. Based on time, resource, technical, and financial constraints, however, it might not be possible to back up all of the information as frequently as desired. In many environments, for example, the volume of information that must be stored is simply too large. In others, limitations on the capacity of hardware devices and media have placed restrictions. Fortunately, there are several different ways to perform backups that can work within such constraints. In this section, we ll look at how we can use the types of backup operations that are available for administrators of SQL Server 7.
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Figure 6-6.
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