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All backups are stored in Microsoft Tape Format (MSTF). The name is somewhat misleading, because, although it was originally created for storing data sequentially on tape devices, the same format is used for disk devices, as well. MSTF is used for keeping database files and objects in a consistent format regardless of file locations and device types.
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NOTE: Backups from earlier versions of SQL Server are not compatible with those from SQL Server 7, due to changes in the backup format and differences in database file structures.
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When a backup is performed, a database administrator may choose to perform one of three operations. First, if this media has never been used before, it can be initialized. The initialization process writes the appropriate header information to the backup device and prepares it for storing the first backup set. The other two options are available if the device has already been initialized. To preserve the contents of the device and add the backup set to the end, the APPEND option is specified. To delete all existing contents of the device, the OVERWRITE option is specified. (We ll see how to qualify these operations later in this section when we discuss the BACKUP command.)
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One of the last things you ll probably want to see when your data is at stake is a systems administrator fumbling through a pile of media chanting, It s got to be in here somewhere! Avoid this frightening scenario by making sure that your backup tapes are clearly labeled. Keep in mind that it is very easy to forget to change tapes and thus have a full backup overwritten by the last transaction log backup. Organization is extremely important, because you will likely be managing many different pieces of removable media as well as disk-based backups. Fortunately, SQL Server offers ways to help manage media and devices. SQL Server 7 includes a media retention value that can be defined as a server-wide setting. This value specifies the default amount of time that must elapse before backups expire and the media can be reused. The purpose is to protect against accidental overwriting of media files. If you attempt to overwrite data before the retention period has passed, SQL Server will give you a warning. This option can, however, be overridden in the event that you are sure the media is no longer needed. The default setting is to retain media for 0 days (thereby effectively disabling the feature). To set the media retention value using Enterprise Manager: 1. Right-click the name of a server and select Properties. 2. Click the Database Settings tab. 3. For Default Backup Media Retention, select a value for the number of days that the media should be retained. Valid values are from 0 through 365. 4. Click OK to save the setting.
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You can perform the same configuration change from Transact-SQL by using the system-stored sp_configure procedure. (See SQL Server Books Online for details.)
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Another feature designed to help organize backups is the use of media sets and media families. When dealing with multiple tape drives and removable storage devices, it can become very difficult to keep track of backups. A media set is the group of all media that is used in a database backup. For a simple backup to a single tape, the media set consists only of one tape. In the case of multiple tape devices and media, the situation becomes more complex, as shown in Figure 6-11. Here a single large backup job requires three tape devices, each of which uses three tapes. The total media set consists of nine tapes. This concept is important during recovery, since restoring the database will likely involve all the tapes in the media set. A media family consists of all the tapes or other media that are used for backup by a single device, as shown in Figure 6-12. The first tape (or disk, etc.) in each media family is called the initial media, and all others are referred to as continuation media. SQL Server keeps track of the sequence of these tapes. (As we ll see in 7, this information is very important when you re trying to restore an entire database.) When more than one tape backup device is used for backing up a database, multiple media families are combined within a single media set. (Notice that the media set shown in Figure 6-11 contains three media families, each with one initial media tape and two continuation media tapes.)
Figure 6-11.
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