Home > Blogroll, MOSS, MS SharePoint Sever, sharepoint, sps, Uncategorized > Approaches to Backup and Restore a Sharepoint Farm

Approaches to Backup and Restore a Sharepoint Farm

It is important to understand the differences between MOVING, MIGRATING or UPGRADING a farm:


I’ll slightly touch these at the bottom of this article. Mainly, I am going to discuss approaches how can you MOVE from one farm to another.

MOVING to another farm:

If you are moving from a test farm to a production farm, this  involves MOVING a farm. You must have similar hardware (32-bit or 64-bit which ever) and you must have similar software (version of sharepoint, windows, all software updates) and you must have similar topology (server names, number of servers) on the farm you are MOVING to.

The reason is becasue the configuration database and the Central Admin database contain computer-specific information. For that reason, you can only move to a new farm if you can configure it to be exactly the same as your original farm. Configuration database will not work for a new environment where topology, server roles or software updates are different.

Okey, if you do not have the same hardware, software or topology, then what to do? Then you should move everything in the farm except Configuration and Central Admin databases, and configure the new farm on your own, wihout expecting this to be done by the restore procedure, since we are not restoring configuration database. OR, you should consider MIGRATING or UPGRADING:


So, let talk about MOVING to another farm. Microsoft says this is the way to “Move to another farm”:


This page has a lot of information, hidden and obvious, I wish to consolidate it here:

There are three possible ways through which you can Backup and Restore your farm (note that I said backup/restore, not move):

  2. Central Admin
  3. Sql Server (lets ignore DPM and the others for the time being)

But there is only one way to MOVE your farm to another farm and that is:

  • Sql Server (tools)

MIGRATING to another farm using STSADM and Central Admin (tools) is regarded as obsolete. That means if you are moving to a new or different farm, you should not use Central Admin or STSADM command. So, moving or migrating whatever you may want to call it (because here it just means moving to a different environment), STSADM and Central Admin approach is obsolete. (I couldn’t find anywhere where Microsoft supports/permits you to MOVE to another/different/new farm using STSADM or Central Admin). 

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262281.aspx (Migrating through Central Admin (Obsolete))

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc263236.aspx (Migrating through STSADM (Obsolete))

We can restore our farm using STSADM and Central Admin, only on the SAME farm from which the backup was taken i.e. no new farm is involved at all:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc261704.aspx (Restore using STSADM)

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262928.aspx (Restore using Central Admin)

If you will use Central Admin, you will select “Same Configuration” option for the “Type of Restore” radio button. And for STSADM, you will use “overwrite” value for “-restoremethod” parameter. Using Central Admin, you can take farm level backup but it will not let you restore Central Admin and Configuration databases saying that “Central Admin and Configuration databases cannot be restored from this user interface”.

 Now the only way left while moving to a new farm is SQL Server (tools):


After we have reached this decision, remember that there could be two possibilites:

  1. Your new farm on which you are restoring may have different specs from the farm from which the backup is taken from. Specs means server names, software updates, number of servers.
  2. Your new farm may have exactly the same specs as the farm from which the backup is taken from.

If you plan to move Config and Central Admin databases, your new farm MUST have the same specs. If your new farm has different specs, then you should not move Config and Central Admin databases.

“Move to another farm” (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc261918.aspx) provides a step by step procedure to move to a new farm, and it assumes that sharepoint is already installed on the destination farm, which essentially means that Configuration and Central Admin databases are already created. So, if you have the same specs for your new farm, you can go ahead and overwrite Config and Central Admin databases, this will restore the configuration from the backup set.

Now it could be the case that you can live without moving Configuration and Central Admin databases to the new farm i.e. you will configure the new farm by yourself and you dont need to transfer Config and Central Admin databases from your old farm. So, what will you move then:

  1. Content Databases
  2. SSP Databases
  3. Search Databases for SSPs
  4. Search Databases

However, above databases can also be restored using Central Admin and STSADM approaches.

Summary: Moving to a new farm involves SQL Server and a farm with similar specs, otherwise do not move Config and Central Admin databases.

If you are looking to Move only the Content Databases, here is the one stop shop:


MIGRATING to another farm:

If you are changing from 32-bit hardware to 64-bit hardware, this will also be a MIGRATION process (i.e. change in hardware specs as mentioned earlier). If you are planning to change your existing SharePoint Server 2007 platform to Windows Server 2008 (platform), you might have to change to 64-bit hardware. And to upgrade Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to a 64-bit environment, you must migrate existing servers to a new farm. You cannot upgrade Office SharePoint Server 2007 directly from the 32-bit edition of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to the 64-bit edition.



 Upgrade is when you are moving to a different version of SharePoint Server e.g. from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007.

 If you are moving just the database server (all databases including Config and Central Admin) and not the whole farm, look here:


If you wish to ditch the farm level backup/restore and just move your website (site collection) to the new farm (and save yourself a lot of hassle), have a look here:


After release of SP2 and CU for April, you can safely backup and restore your site collections to a new farm, without worrying about absolute URL issues:


Hope this helps….

  1. peter
    February 9, 2010 at 12:36 am

    thank you for the info.

    i really appreciate the content of the procedures.

  2. Zorro
    January 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

    you are awsome , many thanks for this useful information

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