Understanding Backing Up Team Foundation Server

You can help protect your deployment from data loss by creating a regular schedule of backups for the databases on which Visual Studio Team Foundation Server depends. To restore your deployment of Team Foundation in its entirety if a failure were to occur, you must first back up all databases for Team Foundation Server. If your deployment includes SharePoint Products or SQL Server Reporting Services, you must also back up the databases that Team Foundation Server uses within those components. You must synchronize all backups to the same time stamp to prevent synchronization or data mismatch errors. The easiest way to ensure synchronization is by using marked transactions. By routinely marking related transactions in every Team Foundation database, you establish a series of common recovery points in the databases.

Backing Up Databases

You can create backups of the databases that Team Foundation Server uses as a key aspect of protecting your deployment of Team Foundation against loss. The following table and accompanying illustrations show which databases you must back up and provide examples of how those databases might be physically distributed in a deployment.

Database Type


Optional component?

Configuration database

Team Foundation Server


Warehouse database

Team Foundation Server


Team project collection databases

Team Foundation Server


SharePoint Products databases

SharePoint Products


Reporting databases

SQL Server Reporting Services


Analysis databases

SQL Server Analysis Services


Deployment Topologies

Based on your deployment configuration, all the databases that require backing up might be on the same physical server, as in this example topology. This example does not include SharePoint Products or Reporting Services, so you do not have to back up any databases that are associated with reporting, analysis, or SharePoint Products.

Simple topology with databases

As an alternative, the databases might be distributed across many servers and server farms. In this example topology, you must back up the following databases on six servers or server farms:

  • the configuration database

  • the warehouse database

  • the team project collection databases that are located on the SQL Server cluster

  • the collection database that is located on the stand-alone server that is running SQL Server

  • the SharePoint Products administrative databases and the site collection databases for both SharePoint Web applications

  • the databases that are located on the server that is running Reporting Services

  • the database that is located on the server that is running Analysis Services

Example: complex distribution of databases

In both of these examples, you do not have to back up any of the clients that connect to the server. However, you might need to manually clear the caches for Team Foundation Server on the client computers before they can reconnect to the restored deployment.

Databases to Back Up

The following list provides additional detail about what you must back up, depending on your deployment resources.


All the databases in the following list are SQL Server databases. Although you can use SQL Server Management Studio to back up individual databases at any time, you should avoid using such individual backups when possible. You might experience unexpected results if you restore from individual backups because the databases that Team Foundation Server uses are all related. If you back up only one database, the data in that database will be out of synchronization with the data in the other databases.

  • Databases for Team Foundation Server   The logical data tier for Team Foundation Server includes several SQL Server databases, including the configuration database, the warehouse database, and a database for each team project collection in the deployment. These databases might all be on the same server, distributed across several instances in the same SQL Server deployment, or distributed across multiple servers. Regardless of their physical distribution, you must back up all of the databases to the same time stamp to help ensure against data loss. You can perform database backups manually or automatically by using maintenance plans that run at specific times or intervals.


    The list of databases for Team Foundation Server is not static. A new database is created every time you create a collection. When you create a collection, make sure that you add the database for that collection to your maintenance plan for backing up Team Foundation Server databases in SQL Server.

  • Databases for SharePoint Products   If your deployment uses SharePoint Products to host team project portals, you must back up several databases. These databases include the administration database for each SharePoint Web application that your deployment uses and the site collection databases that host team project portals. Ideally, your deployment has been configured to use a separate site collection for each team project collection in your deployment. Just as team project collections can be backed up and restored as a unit in Team Foundation Server, site collections can be backed up and restored in SharePoint Products. If one or more collections in your deployment are using sites or sub-sites instead of site collections as their root site, you might not be able to fully back up and restore the collections. For more information, see Organizing Your Server with Team Project Collections.


    You might assume that you must back up both databases and Web sites for the team project portal pages. However, SharePoint Products dynamically generates the Web sites from the databases. So when you back up the databases, you also back up the sections of the team project that appear as Web sites. If you have created custom site collections, site templates, or Web parts in SharePoint Products but outside Team Foundation, you must back them up separately. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Choose backup and recovery tools (Windows SharePoint Services).

  • **Databases for Reporting Services and Analysis Services   **If your deployment uses SQL Server Reporting Services or SQL Server Analysis Services to generate reports for Team Foundation Server, you must back up the reporting and analysis databases. However, you must still regenerate certain databases after restoration.

  • Encryption key for the report server   The report server has an encryption key that you must back up. This key safeguards sensitive information that is stored in the database for the report server. You can manually back up this key by using either the Reporting Services Configuration tool or a command-line tool. For more information, see Back Up the Reporting Services Encryption Key.

Advanced Preparation for Backups

When you deploy Team Foundation, you should keep a record of the accounts that you create and any computer names, passwords, and setup options that you specify. You should also keep a copy of all recovery materials, documents, and database and transaction log backups at a secure location. To safeguard against a disaster, such as a fire or an earthquake, you should keep duplicates of your server backups in a different location from the location of the servers. This strategy will help protect you against the loss of critical data. As a best practice, you should keep three copies of the backup media, and you should keep at least one copy offsite in a controlled environment.


Perform a trial data restoration periodically to verify that your files are correctly backed up. A trial restoration can reveal hardware problems that do not appear with software verifications.

When you back up and restore a database, you must back up the data onto media (for example, tapes and disks). Your backup plan should include provisions for managing media, such as the following tactics:

  • A tracking and management plan for storing and recycling backup sets.

  • A schedule for overwriting backup media.

  • In a multi-server environment, a decision to use either centralized or distributed backups.

  • A way of tracking the useful life of media.

  • A procedure to minimize the effects of the loss of a backup set or backup media (for example, a tape).

  • A decision to store backup sets onsite or offsite and an analysis of how this decision might affect recovery time.

Because data for Team Foundation is stored in SQL Server databases, you do not have to back up the computers on which clients of Team Foundation are installed. If a media failure or disaster that involved those computers were to occur, you can reinstall the client software and reconnect to the server. By reinstalling the client software, your users will have a cleaner and more reliable alternative to restoring a client computer from a backup.

You can back up a server by using maintenance plans in SQL Server to back up the databases that relate to your deployment of Team Foundation. The databases for Team Foundation Server work in relationship with one other, and you should back them up and restore them at the same time. For more information about strategies for backing up databases, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Introduction to Backup and Restore Strategies in SQL Server.

Types of Backups

Full Data Backups (Databases)   A full database backup is necessary for the recoverability of your deployment. A full backup includes part of the transaction log so that you can recover the full backup. Full backups are self-contained in that they represent the entire database as it existed when you backed it up. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Full Database Backups.

Differential Data Backups (Databases) A differential database backup records only the data that has changed since the last full database backup, which is called the differential base. Differential database backups are smaller and faster than full database backups. This option saves backup time at the cost of increased complexity. For large databases, differential backups can occur at shorter intervals than database backups, which reduces the work-loss exposure. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Differential Database Backups.

You should also back up your transaction logs regularly. These backups are necessary for recovering data when you use the full database backup model. If you back up transaction logs, you can recover the database to the point of failure or to another specific point in time.

Transaction Log Backups   The transaction log is a serial record of all modifications that have occurred in a database in addition to the transaction that performed each modification. The transaction log records the start of each transaction, the changes to the data, and, if necessary, enough information to undo the modifications made during that transaction. The log grows continuously as logged operations occur in the database.

By backing up transaction logs, you can recover the database to an earlier point in time. For example, you can restore the database to a point before unwanted data was entered or to a point of failure. Besides database backups, transaction log backups must be part of your recovery strategy. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Working with Transaction Log Backups.

Transaction log backups generally use fewer resources than full backups. Therefore, you can create transaction log backups more frequently than full backups, which reduces your risk of losing data. However, sometimes a transaction log backup is larger than a full backup. For example, a database might have a high transaction rate, which causes the transaction log to grow quickly. In this situation, you should create transaction log backups more frequently. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft Web site: Troubleshooting a Full Transaction Log.

You can perform the following types of transaction log backups:

  • A pure log backup contains only transaction log records for an interval, without any bulk changes.

  • A bulk log backup contains log and data pages that were changed by bulk operations. Point-in-time recovery is not allowed.

  • A tail-log backup is taken from a possibly damaged database to capture the log records that have not yet been backed up. A tail-log backup is taken after a failure to prevent work loss and can contain either pure log or bulk log data.

Because synchronization of data is critical for successful restoration of Team Foundation Server, you should use marked transactions as part of your backup strategy. For more information, see Back Up Team Foundation Server.

Backups for Services (Application Tier)

The only backup that you must perform for the logical application tier is for the encryption key for Reporting Services. You might assume that you must back up Web sites that are used as team project portals. If you integrated SharePoint Products as part of your deployment of Team Foundation Server, the portals will be backed up as part of backing up the databases for Team Foundation Server and SharePoint Products. However, if you specified a Web site that was not created by using an integrated Web application, you must back up and restore those sites manually. In addition, if you have any customizations to SharePoint Products or to services, you must also back those up or otherwise record them so that they can be reproduced on a new server.

Although you can back up an application tier more easily than a data tier, you must perform many steps when you restore an application tier. You must install another application tier for Team Foundation, redirect team project collections to use the new application tier, and redirect the portal sites for team projects.

See Also


Backing up and Restoring Your Deployment

SQL Server and Team Foundation Server