Backing up your data sounds like a simple process doesn’t it? You copy it from one place to another so you have a secondary location where you can restore it should the need ever arise.

Simple right? Not so fast.

As computers became more prominent in our daily lives, their activity usage sky rocketed. Email servers were constantly sending and receiving emails. Database servers were constantly searching and retrieving queries. And web servers were constantly processing and displaying websites.

How then, are you supposed to back up your data if it’s constantly in use?

In the old days, you had to manually stop all services during the entire backup process. Then you had to coordinate components from many different vendors including the OS, the backup software, the database, the SAN and a host of others.

This made backing up data a very time consuming and complex process.

It was clear that a solution was needed to facilitate the coordination between all these components that would allow them to work better together.

That’s where VSS comes in.

First introduced in Windows Server 2003, Microsoft unveiled a new technology called Volume Shadow Copy Service or VSS for short.

It works by coordinating all the actions required to create a shadow copy (also known as a snapshot or point-in-time copy) of the data you want to back up.

You can then use those shadow copies as your backup or take them to another hard drive or tape as required without affecting any of the applications that are currently running.

This allows you to create flexible backup solutions that can be easily protected without having to manually stop servicing clients which would then cause outages and prolong downtime.

VSS was great. But there was a catch.

In order for it to work properly, everything had to support it. For instance, your backup software might support VSS but if you were using Exchange Server 2000, it didn’t.

Luckily that is no longer an issue today as most software and hardware manufacturers quickly jumped on the VSS bandwagon since the benefits of it were just too good to ignore.

So the next time you run a backup, just think how complex and time consuming the process would be if you didn’t have VSS technology. I wouldn’t want to go back to a pre-VSS era. Would you?