Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

U-Move backs up, restores, and migrates Active Directory environments

Move It!

Article from ADMIN 65/2021
By
U-Tools Software's U-Move promises significantly simplified backups and restores of Microsoft's directory service in the event of a disaster, during migrations, and when setting up test environments.

Backing up and restoring Windows servers is considered a difficult undertaking when it comes to forests and domains in Microsoft's Active Directory (AD) service. Software vendor U-Tools promises to make backing up and restoring AD environments easier with its U-Move tool. Backups are said to take significantly less space than with the native tools, and U-Move promises simpler migrations when switching to a newer version of the Windows Server operating system, cloning or copying an AD environment, or testing an isolated lab environment, as well as for production operations in the scope of a cloud migration.

Before I proceed to investigate whether the manufacturer actually keeps this promise, just one more note: The primary purpose of Windows Server Backup and of U-Move is restoring domain controllers (DCs) or a complete AD environment. Both tools can, in principle, also restore individual elements from an AD but only with disproportionately high overhead.

Licenses from Small to Large

U-Move (see the "U-Move for AD" box) is available as a Small Business license for a forest with a single domain and up to 50 user objects. The Domain type license also backs up a forest with one domain but with no limit on the number of users; finally, the Enterprise license covers any number of domains with no limit on the number of users.

U-Move for AD

Product

  Software for backup, migration, and recovery of Microsoft Active Directory.

Manufacturer

  U-Tools Software LLC [1]

Price

  One-time purchase including support for one year:

      * Small Business around $200

      * Domain $489

      * Enterprise $2,200

  Support extension for one to five years costs 20 percent of the purchase price per year.

System requirements

  Backs up Microsoft Windows Server from version 2003 and Small Business Server in versions 2003 to 2011 [2].

All licenses entitle the user to use the product permanently and also include basic technical support and updates to new versions for one year. The Enterprise variant includes extended technical support in the first year, even outside the manufacturer's business hours and on weekends. On request, the vendor offers support extensions for all license types for a period of one to five years, provided the order for the extension is received up to 60 days before the end of the first year.

Although Microsoft has long since discontinued support for the forefathers of Windows Server, U-Move retroactively supports all editions down to and including Windows Server 2003, including its smaller siblings Small Business Server and Essentials.

Easy Local or Remote Installation

For this article, I used the software in domains with DCs running Windows Server 2016 and 2019. The setup routine presents the license terms and then asks for the target path and license key. I had received a 30-day trial license from the vendor. That was the complete install process – done. The tool took up less than 30MB of hard disk space.

When first launched, U-Move says hello and gives a short introduction to the various possible uses, each with direct links to the appropriate chapters of the very extensive and comprehensibly formulated online help. I was also able to access the Help top left in the window. The Connect link next to it starts U-Move on a remote computer if desired, without the software already having to be installed there.

If U-Move does not yet exist on the target, the U-Move remote agent is installed. For both installation and remote control, the Windows Defender firewall on the target system must allow the rules in the File and Printer Sharing, Remote Desktop, and Remote Event Log Management groups. If so desired, U-Move will use a different user account to log on to the remote system and transfer the license code of the local installation.

Fast and Lean Backups

To begin, I wanted to use U-Move on the local server. The functions are clearly arranged on the six tabs Back up , Restore , Schedule , Clone , Upgrade , and Undo . Each of these actions has an introductory text about its purpose, again accompanied by links to the appropriate chapters of the comprehensive help. The help not only explains how to use the tool but also the technical interrelationships and processes in AD, so less experienced AD admins, in particular, will find great support here.

From the Back up tab, you can manually create an initial backup of the AD. The wizard guides you through the easy-to-follow required steps. First, U-Move asks for a local path for the staging folder , which is the folder in which the software collects all data belonging to the backup. If you already have data from a previous backup in this path, U-Move warns you and asks for permission to delete.

After that, you are able to choose whether U-Move is subsequently to pack the data into a backup archive of the BKF file type or leave it in the staging folder. The BKF archive is the recommended variant. In the next steps, you are prompted for the target path and name for the file and optionally for a password for protection.

In the penultimate step, after right-clicking on the application window, you are taken to the Advanced settings (Figure 1), where you can optionally include Exchange, SharePoint, or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) databases in the backup. However, these options will mainly be relevant for very small environments and installations with Small Business Server because Microsoft otherwise recommends installing these services from the AD roles on separate servers. I opted for the default settings. The wizard then presents a summary of your selected options, and you press Finish to start the backup process – which took only a few minutes and created a file for my backup weighing in at less than 180MB in the target directory.

Figure 1: U-Move optionally backs up Exchange, SharePoint, and WSUS databases.

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