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NOTE: In 2, Developing the Data Protection Plan, we examined the various types of backups available at a basic level. They included full, incremental, and differential backups. If you re unfamiliar with those types of backup procedures, now would be a good time to review that information.
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The easiest type of backup to understand is a full database backup. As its name implies, a full backup operation stores all the data and objects that are currently part of a database. This includes the information stored within tables, as well as the definitions of objects, such as triggers, stored procedures, views, and user permissions. Each full backup is consistent up to the time of the end of the preceding full backup. Additionally, full backups are the only type of backup that can be performed on the master database. A full backup is performed according to the following sequence: 1. The backup operation starts at the beginning of the storage of a database and makes note of this time. 2. The data and objects stored in the data pages are read from the media serially. At this point the backup process does not track any transactions that may modify the files during the process itself. The pages are written to the backup media, as they are, until all the information has been stored. The result is a fast backup operation, but the pages are consistent to different points in time. 3. After all data pages have been copied, the backed up data must be made consistent to a single point in time. Any changes made to the data since the beginning of the backup operation are now obtained from the transaction log and recorded at the end of the backup file. The result is a database backup file that is consistent up to the time of the end of the backup operation. This process, diagrammed in Figure 6-7, is more efficient than it was in previous versions of SQL Server, mainly because the backup operation does not wait for transactions and other database modifications to finish. It reads the data pages serially and copies the data in sequence, then records all the changes at the end of the process.
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REMEMBER: Although full backups do store information from transaction logs, they do not truncate the log itself at the end of the operation. Therefore, if you are using only full backups in your data protection plan, you must periodically truncate the transaction log as a separate operation. For ease of administration, you can schedule this job to occur automatically. Or, if you are sure that other types of backups will not be required, you can set the Truncate Log on Checkpoint option for your database.
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As we saw in 4, the transaction log is critical for the normal operations of the database. This logical file is used to improve performance and to ensure database integrity by storing a record of all the changes that occur to a database before they are made. In
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Figure 6-7.
Backing up a full database
SQL Server 7, as in most relational databases, you can choose to back up the transaction log only at specific points in time. Backing up the transaction log provides two main functional advantages: w The amount of information stored in transaction logs will likely be much less than the size of the entire database itself. Because of this, backing up the transaction log can take less time. The use of transaction log backups can allow for point-in-time recovery. This feature allows database administrators to recover databases up to a specific time during the day. If, for example, a user ran a SQL command that deleted all the information in a table at 3:15 P.M., the table could be restored up to its current state at 3:14 P.M.
NOTE: By default, the transaction log is truncated after it is backed up. If you have special requirements (for example, if you re creating multiple backups of the transaction log), you will want to disable this option.
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