Configuration Manager

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager: How to Test Backups and Restores

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I’m sure that most organizations perform some sort of backup of their System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (CM12) sites, however, how many of them have actually tested their backup?

Probably very few, as it can be very difficult to simulate a failure in production and perform a site recovery. Backups are good. Backups that you know you can actually restore from are better.

This post is intended to give the reader an understanding of the general case backup requirements of CM12, a sample backup strategy, and how to test the backup by simulating a failure and performing a restore of the database portion of the site. I typically walk my clients through this process before handing them the keys to their new CM12 environment.

The instructions provided here are based on System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 and MS SQL Server 2012 SP1.

The Scheduled Backup Task

CM12 has a built in maintenance task call Backup Site Server. It performs synchronization between the database and the site control file and other key configuration elements of the Configuration manager site. Although a restore from a database backup is also supported in CM12, this post will only address using the Configuration Manager scheduled backup task as most administrators should be familiar with it.

As part of the site configuration, the maintenance task to perform a site backup should be configured to perform a daily backup stored in an easily accessible location. For the purposes of this post, let’s use E:\CM12_Backup

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Figure 1 – Configure Backup Maintenance Task

The success of the backup task can be verified in the following ways:

  1. Review the timestamp on the SMSBKUP.LOG file that the Backup Site Server maintenance task created in the backup destination folder. Verify that the timestamp has been updated with a time that coincides with the time when the Backup Site Server maintenance task was last scheduled to run. Review the log files for errors.
  2. In the Component Status node in the Monitoring workspace, review the status messages for SMS_SITE_BACKUP. When site backup is completed successfully, you see message ID 5035, which indicates that the site backup was completed without any errors.
  3. When the Backup Site Server maintenance task is configured to create an alert if backup fails, you can check the Alerts node in the Monitoring workspace for backup failures.
  4. In <ConfigMgrInstallationFolder>\Logs, review Smsbkup.log for warnings and errors. When site backup is completed successfully, you see Backup completed with a timestamp and message ID STATMSG: ID=5035.

The backup files in E:\CM12_Backup should be moved to an archival media as per corporate standards. Multiple copies should be maintained in the event that one copy is corrupted or unavailable as it is preferable to restore from an older backup that to recreate the entire infrastructure manually if the latest backup is unavailable.

Additional Items to Backup

The Backup Site Server task is intended to backup key elements of the Configuration Manager site that require synchronization, or other special attention.

Items that are not backed up by the Backup Site Server maintenance task that should be considered for inclusion in any supplementary backup tasks are listed below:

  1. Any custom reports and extensions used to create them (models, views, tables, etc.)
  2. The content library stored in the <drive:>\SCCMContentLib folder
  3. Package source files
  4. User State Migration Data

Site Recovery

To restore a Configuration Manager Site Server, follow these steps:

  1. Run the Configuration Manager Setup Wizard from installation media or a shared network folder. For example, you can start the Setup wizard by using the Install option when you insert the Configuration Manager DVD. Or, you can open Setup.exe from a shared network folder to start the Setup wizard.
  2. On the Getting Started page, select Recover a site, and then click Next.
  3. Complete the wizard by selecting the options that are appropriate for your site recovery

Once the site has been successfully recovered, the following tasks need to be performed:

  1. Re-enter the passwords for any accounts that are used by site systems (refer to the Configuration guide for a list of accounts – you have one right?)
  2. Reinstall and hotfixes or Cumulative Updates applied to the site since the initial build
  3. Restore the Content Library
  4. Restore the Package Source Files
  5. Restore the User State Migration Data

Partial Recovery – Database Only

The site recovery wizard will run the same prerequisite checks that a full install will perform. If a full rebuild of the server OS was not performed and only a database recovery is required, the restore process may fail on the detection of a dedicated SQL instance with the following error:

Dedicated SQL Server instance Failed

The same error may be encountered during a test of the restoration process due to remnants of the site in the registry that may indicate a previous installation.

To remedy this error, delete the following registry keys:

  1. [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Components\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP
  2. [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Operations Management\Components\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP
  3. [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Tracing\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP

The same issue may also arise when testing the DR process. The same resolution method can be used. I have created a batch file that I use to speed up this process. Here is the source for my DelKeys.bat file:

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Performing a Database Only DR Test

As the base OS, SQL Server and, Configuration Manager Application software can all be rebuilt from generic source media, the most important part of a DR test is to verify that the site configuration and database can be restored as these items will be specific to your organization. The following method can be used to simulate a failure and restore.

  1. Create one or more objects (such as collections) and make some configuration changes (such as a boundary).
  2. Perform a site backup.  To quickly start a site backup without modifying the backup schedule, use Service Manager to start the SMS_Site_Backup service.
  3. Once the backup has completed, delete the objects and configuration changes made in step 1
  4. Use the command PREINST.EXE /STOPSITE to stop all CM12 services. Browse to “\Program Files\Microsoft Configuration Manager\Bin\x640000409” to find the executable.
  5. Use SQL server Management Studio to Detach the site database

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Figure 2 – Detach Configuration Manager Database

  1. Rename the <DB_Name>.MDF and <DB_Name>.LDF files which are found under \Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10_50.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\DATA
  2. Delete the following three registry keys:
    1. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Components\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP
    2. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Operations Management\Components\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP
    3. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Tracing\SMS_SITE_SQL_BACKUP
  3. Perform the Site Recovery task and select restore database from backup.
  4. Browse to the location of the database backup.
  5. The site recovery details will be pre-populated.
  6. Browse to the location of the downloaded prerequisites from the initial installation process.
  7. The pre-requisite check will run and complete and then the installation will begin.
  8. Site and installation settings will be pre-populated as will the database information.
  9. Once the process is started it will appear as the original installation. Refer to the Server Build Guide for more details.
  10. Once the recovery is complete, verify that the objects and configuration items that you created in Step 1 are recovered.
  11. Remove the Test Objects and configuration items.
  12. Additional information about the restore can be found in the c:\ConfigMgrSetup.Log file

Now go test those backups.

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Managing 32 bit and 64 bit versions of applications using Global Conditions, Requirement Rules and Deployment Types

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In CM07 (System Center Configuration Manager 2007, or SCCM 2007) collections were used to determine any installation prerequisites. If different architecture versions of the same application needed to be distributed, two separate collections would need to be maintained as targets for the advertisements.

CM12 (System Center 2012 Configuration Manager) makes this simpler by including the concept of requirement rules that are evaluated at install time. Creating requirement rules eliminates the need for multiple collections to manage targeting of x86 and x64 versions of the same application.

We can simplify the administrative overhead even further by incorporating global conditions into the requirement rules.

This method is easier than using collections for target as the OS version is detected at install time. Additionally, using global conditions is easier than creating requirements rules for each application deployment type.

Before I walk you through an example, consider the following scenario:

  1. You are running CM12CU2
  2. You have ten applications that each use a requirement rule that addresses x64 versions of Windows XP and Windows 7
  3. You update to CM12SP1 which includes support for windows 8
  4. You now have to update all ten applications requirement rule to support Windows 8 x64
  5. If you had used global conditions instead, you would only need to update the one global condition and all of the applications requirements would automatically be updated to support Windows 8 x64

Let’s try an example with 7-Zip since it has both x86 and x64 versions, we can create a single application with two deployment types, each using a requirement rule and each requirement rule uses a global condition that specifies that the deployment type should only run on the specified architecture version of specific operating systems. In the images below, I have already upgraded my system to SP1 so support for Windows 8 is already visible in some of the screen shots.

Overview – Creating Applications with Global Conditions, Require Rules and Deployment Types

This overview assumes that you are already familiar with Applications and Deployment types.  More details are provided on Global conditions and Requirement rules.

Create the Global Conditions

  1. Create Two Global Conditions for OS Architecture (one x86 and one x64)
  2. Navigate to Software Library\Application Management\Global Conditions
  3. Click Create Global Condition
  4. Provide a Name such as OS Architecture x64
  5. Provide a Description (Optional)
  6. Change the Condition type to Expression
  7. Click Add Clause

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  1. Set the Category to Device
  2. Set the Condition to Operating System
  3. Set the Rule Type to Value
  4. Set the Operator to One of
  5. Select all of the x64 OS versions that you want to support with this GC (if you are running CM12 SP1 or later, you can also select Windows 8 versions)
  6. Click OK
  7. Validate the Global Condition and then click OK
  8. Repeat the process for x86 Architectures

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Create the Application and Deployment Types

  1. Create a source folder with both x86 and x64 MSI versions on the application. For my example I used 7-Zip
  2. Create an Application and select the x64 version of the MSI
  3. Create a new Deployment Type of x86 and select the x86 version of the MSI
  4. Add the new Global Conditions as requirements for each Deployment Type

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If you created the GC before installing SP1, you can simply update the Global condition to support Windows 8 x64 once SP1 is applied.

This same method can be used to support RT (ARM) and x64 versions of Windows 8 applications.

Book Review – Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager: Administration Cookbook

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Also available as an eBook

Over the years, I have read many books about Systems Management Server (SMS), and Configuration Manager (CM).  Most of them have been focussed on preparing readers for the relevant Microsoft certification exam or theoretical explanations of how the system works and how to configure it for basic functionality.  These types of publications are great for new users of products looking to get a basic working knowledge of CM.

This book is different.  It I written by professionals who have years of in depth experience with the technology in some extreme use case scenarios.  This background gives them some rather distinctive perspectives on how to get more out of a CM infrastructure.  Whereas traditional books on the subject focus on the “What” and the “How”, Brian and Greg also include the “Why”.  For example, they include decision making frameworks that help the reader decide what is best for their particular implementation, use case scenarios, and other objectives.  In situations where the best practice might prove impractical, they provide rationale for making trade-offs (E.g. budget vs. performance, Application Catalog vs. Software Center).

CM is a complex product.  Each of its modules could easily be a product in itself.  There are dozens of point solution products aimed specifically at a sub feature of CM.  As such, this book is not targeted at somebody who is new to the technology.  There aren’t a lot of pages spent on how to install the software or the basic functionality.  Rather, the writers assume a basic understanding of the feature set (easily obtained form on of the dozen or so traditional books available on the subject) and provides a series of in depth modules intended to help a generalist administrator get more out of a specific feature as the need arises.

The organization of the book into a series of recipe cards lends itself to be easily consumed.  You don’t need to read it cover to cover.  You can jump right in to the topic that you currently need to learn more about.  Each topic is organized into the following sections:

  1. Getting Ready – What’s you’ll need before you start
  2. How to do it – Step-by-step instructions
  3. How it works – An explanation of the mechanics of the product
  4. There’s more – Additional information should your requirements be a little more complex
  5. See also – Additional resources if relevant

This recipe book firmly establishes Greg and Brian as CM Iron Chefs.  I will be recommending this book to all of my customers.  Buy it directly from Packt Publishing.

Full disclosure:  I have met both Brian Mason and Greg Ramsey multiple times.  They did not approach me to review this book.  I was asked by the publisher to review this book.  As a token of their appreciation once my review is completed, I will receive a free eBook from Packt Publishing.