Using ASR (Automated System Recovery) for Disaster Recovery

With the ASR, we can create sets of regular “backups”, which may be part of a plan to “Disaster Recovery”, and can be used as a last resort in cases of failure, after we have already exhausted other alternatives recovery.

Imagine the following situation: Monday morning, you just install new software or application on a dedicated server, maybe even a domain controller. After installation, during boot, the following message appears: “NTLDR is missing. Press any key to continue.” Butterflies in your stomach, you try a new boot, now in safe mode, then last mode known as good configuration, and nothing. Your server does not want to cooperate … And you need it working ASAP. Well, it seems that the only solution is to reinstall Windows again, patches, applications, drivers, security templates, etc, etc, etc ….

For such critical situations, ASR – Automated System Recovery is something that really fit the requirement, feature first implemented in Windows XP, and made available to the servers from Windows Server family.

With the ASR, we can create sets of regular “backups”, which may be part of a plan to “Disaster Recovery”, and can be used as a last resort in cases of failure, after we have already exhausted other alternatives recovery.

As the ASR works

ASR works with “Windows Setup” to rebuild the storage settings and physical disks of a server, including partitions and files “boot” and “system”, allowing the server to operate properly again. This process includes the use of a “ASR floppy disk,” which store information before the disaster, which are used to restore the server. After a complete restoration of ASR, you simply restore the user data or application files.

┬╗Attention

The ASR does not include files or partitions that are not in the “boot” and “system” partition. Thus, any user data that may have been lost, must be restored through a backup policy. The ASR does NOT replace the backup policy users data or other information. It should be used in conjunction with such procedures.

Creating ASR backup Solutions

The ASR can be divided into two components: backup and restore. The “backup” component can be accessed through its own backup tool for Windows (ntbackup.exe), selecting the “Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard”, as illustrated below:

asr_1Figure 1

The next step is to define where the backup file (. Bkf) will be recorded as shown below:

asr_2Figure 2

The Generated File Contains The Following Information:

– System State: set of information pertaining to the operating system essential for its proper functioning. Include the registry, COM + based, file system and boot files and Windows File Protection. The System State may also include base Certificates, the base Active Directory, plus the SYSVOL folder (if the server is a domain controller), cluster information (if it is node of a cluster) and the IIS Metabase (if IIS is installed).

This file can be generated or copied to removable media (CD media, for example), so that the restoration process occurs correctly.

After generation of the backup file (. Bkf), the “Wizard” in requesting a diskette. This diskette contains information about the backup, the disk configurations (including basic disks and dynamic volumes, and how to proceed for a restore). A message, as shown below, indicates that the process was completed correctly.

asr_3Figure 3

The illustration below shows the content generated by the ASR floppy disk:
 
asr_4Figure 4

Restoring an ASR backup

The component “restore” the ASR and accessed as follows:

  • Restart the server with the installation CD of Windows Server;
  • During the text-mode setup, press F2 ;
  • ASR then reads the information from the server’s disk from the floppy disk and restores all generated signatures, volumes and partitions needed for the server can be started correctly (these discs are known as “hard critics”)
  • ASR then makes a simple installation of Windows and automatically starts the system restore from the archive. Bkf created by “Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard”. All devices “Plug and Play” are also detected and installed.
  • After this installation, if necessary, should do a restore of user data or other information that is not in the system or boot partitions.

Tips and Best Practices

  • Perform ASR regularly, if possible in an automated fashion (this can be done through the “Schedule Tasks” within Windows Server);
  • Make sure that the media containing the file. Bkf will be available in case of need for a restoration (would not be very logical to let this file name, for example, the system partition of the server …);
  • Remember that the ASR does not back up partitions or volumes other than the boot or system. So, have a backup policy for such information. If you are using your own backup of Windows Server, the option “All information on this computer”, the “Backup Wizard” and copy all files and user data, also generates the ASR backup.
  • Make sure that Asr.sif and Asrpnp.sif are generated by ASR diskette, available and protected. If the floppy disk that contains these files are damaged, you can recover them from the systemroot \ Repair. These files can also be manually copied to another location, to increase the level of protection.
  • As a disaster recovery policy, the service RIS (Remote Installation Services) may be used in conjunction with the ASR to provide a completely automated process to recover.

Conclusion

We can conclude that the ASR in any way replace a good backup policy (including recovery testing) of critical data, including user information. However, if planned with this policy, becomes a powerful tool for disaster recovery, and can restore a crashed server in minutes. And of course, it will save a good effort of network administrators and systems.

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