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I am looking to clone several servers periodically as part of a backup scheme. Is it possible to clone a server that is in use using clonezilla or other foss product? One of these servers is running an sql database, I'm not sure if this would add an additional variable to this situation.

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what OS? there's different methods for different OSes. – Journeyman Geek Apr 19 '11 at 1:50
Sorry, the machines I would like to back up are running server 2008 R2 and server 2003 – sound2man Apr 19 '11 at 15:14
the sql database is used for our estimating software - I work for a general contractor in the construction industry. This database remains static throughout the night, but it isn't actually stopped - it stays running 24/7 – sound2man Apr 19 '11 at 15:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Tricky as there will be issues with open databases and other files. The VMware Converter can in theory clone running machines but in my experience this is a bit hit and miss. Beyond that you are looking at specific apps and procedures as Journeyman Geek hints - and these can be a bit pricey. If the servers can be shut down for a short period you could run Clonezilla on the disks to make copies and then use 'regular' backup tools to keep backups of what's changed since the drives were cloned.

Our backup strategy for some servers is to make virtual copies of them (using the VMware tools) that can be fired up at a moments notice and then have a regular backup of the changed data restored to them very quickly.

Ultimately your implementation choice will depend on the amount of service continuity you need - and the depth of your pockets - give us some more info on your scenario.

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I have a domain controller running server 2008 and an application server using server 2003. These are both critical systems, but I can afford to have up to 4 hours down time if needed - the budget is rather tight. We are about to do a complete infrastructure upgrade, so what I was proposing to do, is purchase 3 identical servers and use one of these for redundancy, it only regular task being that it needed to clone the other two servers. I'm just not sure that this is a valid method. – sound2man Apr 19 '11 at 15:25
If the new servers are pretty identical to the running ones then a cloned disk should fire up in them - but you'd need to try it. Have you considered virtualisation - you don't have to use the paid-for tools. – Linker3000 Apr 19 '11 at 21:05

With windows, there's one thing you absolutely need to have in a backup solution where you don't want to shutdown a system- volume shadow copy. Windows backup on windows 7 (which 2008 r2 is based on) supports it natively - so i'd probably go for the native backup solution on that.

For the windows 2003 system, any decent disk imaging software such as acronis should probably do the trick. I've not actually had much luck or experience with the built in backup system on xp or 2003, but i believe they do volume shadow copy as well.

The reason people generally take down a server for backup is database consistancy- you want your pre-backup database and your restored database to be the same - if you have a few hours where there's no data added to the DB, you should be fine, as long as the backup takes place before that period ends.

If you have the time, you absolutely should try running a test run of the backup/restore procedures, and keep a duplicate offsite copy of any backups if possible - that way, even if your main backup goes pear shaped, or gets destroyed you have a backup.

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