MS SQL Server 2000: Create an Off-site Standby Server

This post is an extension to the “Poor Man’s Log Shipping” post written earlier on this blog. To summarize, the main server uses log shipping to maintain a standby server on-site. It also creates a nightly full backup and periodic backups of the transaction logs. I wrote a batch script to FTP these log backups once a day to an off-site location.

The reason for this was to create an off-site standby server. With daily log backups being received at this site, I just brought one of the nightly backups here. First things first: how do I get a multi-GB backup file to FTP over the Internet on a high-speed connection? It would take a long time. I could look at several options: FTP, BitTorrent, HTTP, or more. What I liked was the simplicity of FTP. All I had to do was compress the backup file and send it. However, even after compression, the size was multi-GB. So I used 7-zip to compress and also split the resulting file into 100MB chunks. Using the built-in command line FTP client in Windows and the mput command, I was able to transfer the data easily over a period of time. At the receiving end, I again used 7-zip to uncompress the data.

The next step was to restore the backups. First I needed to restore the full backup. I went with the GUI method through Enterprise Manager. All the options required are there but I wanted to understand the process and control it. Therefore, I abandoned the idea and tried the T-SQL approach. This was exactly what I was looking for. I got the best help from Microsoft’s Transact-SQL Reference for Restore.

First thing I needed to do was to get the names of the logical files in the full backup. This is necessary because of some reasons excellently mentioned in the Copying Databases article. The reason for me to do it was the directory structure was different in this server from the server where the backup was created. But how to do it? I got help from RESTORE FILELISTONLY. The actual command I used was this:

RESTORE FILELISTONLY FROM DISK = 'e:\fulldbbackup.bak';

It showed me logical files as well as the full path where the database would actually put the physical files. Since the path on this server was different from what the backup wanted, I had to make sure the database was restored to the correct path for this server. I had to specify exactly where to put the files during restore. The restore script I used was:

FROM DISK = 'e:\fulldbbackup.bak'
MOVE 'datafile' TO 'e:\dbdata.mdf' ,
MOVE 'logfile' TO 'e:\dblogs.ldf' ,
STANDBY = 'e:\undofile.dat' ,
STATS = 10

I used STANDBY because I needed to restore subsequent transaction log backups. It took some time but the restoration completed. Then I needed to restore the log backups. One thing to remember is that logs need to be restored or applied in the sequence they were created. During my explorations, I noticed that if you try to apply a log backup that was created before the full backup was created, SQL Server will give an error and not proceed. If you apply a backup that has already been applied, it will process the backup but will also say that zero pages were processed. So it is my opinion that even if you make a mistake in applying the wrong log backup, it will not destroy your database. Of course, I did not skip a log backup and apply the next one so I cannot say what will happen if you do something like that. The script to restore one log backup is:

RESTORE LOG mydbname
FROM DISK = 'e:\logs\log1.trn'
WITH STANDBY = 'e:\log_undofile.dat',
STATS = 10

I had approximately two weeks worth of transaction log backups that needed to be restored. I could not manually change the name of the log file for each backup. So I thought of writing a script in Python to read the contents of the ‘e:\logs\’ directory and run the script each time with each file name in the directory. Since I am lazy, I sought an easier way. So I did the following:

In Windows command line, I ran:

dir e:\logs\ > e:\allfiles.txt

This created a list of all the files in that directory. But the format was what you would normally get using the dir command. So I used the find and replace feature of my text editor to replace all spaces with a semi-colon. Then I replaced multiple semi-colons with a single semi-colon. Something like:

Find: ‘ ‘ (it means a single space but without the quotes)
Replace: ;

And then

Find: ;;
Replace: ;

I continued replacing multiple semi-colons with a single semi-colon until I got just one after each data. I then opened this csv-type file in Excel (actually, it was’s Calc), copied the column with the file names, and then saved it in a text file.

Again find and replace came to help out. Each file was named like log1.trn, log2.trn, and so on. So I did this:

Find: log
Replace: RESTORE LOG mydbname FROM DISK = ‘e:\logs\log

And another find and replace was:

Find: .trn
Replace: .trn’ WITH STANDBY = ‘e:\log_undofile.dat’, STATS = 10

This created a file with scripts like so:

RESTORE LOG mydbname FROM DISK = 'e:\logs\log1.trn' WITH STANDBY = 'e:\log_undofile.dat', STATS = 10
RESTORE LOG mydbname FROM DISK = 'e:\logs\log2.trn' WITH STANDBY = 'e:\log_undofile.dat', STATS = 10

I saved and opened this file in SQL Analyzer and ran the script. Since there were a whole bunch of the log backup files, it took quite some time to finish the process.

After all the current backups were restored, I made a habit of collecting a week’s worth of log backups and applied them in a similar fashion.

I know this is a very manual process and I could write a Python script once to do all this stuff for me. I intend to write such a script but right now I do not have the time. Besides, this procedure was just for me to learn how to restore backups and then apply transaction log backups.

Some good resources include: (a) Using Standby Servers; (b) SQL Server 2000 Backup and Restore; (c) SQL Server 2000 Backup Types and Recovery Models;

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