One of the most significant limitations in Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) administration is the limited backup/restore capability. The existing GUI backup feature on the SharePoint Central Administration site only lets you back up or restore manually, with no scheduling support. You can create a batch file containing the STSADM command to back up SharePoint, and use Windows Scheduled Tasks to schedule the batch file—but you have to code the batch file manually. In addition, using an STSADM command lets you perform a backup only at the SharePoint site or site collection level; you can’t back up just a document library or a file in the document library.

I came up with a solution using Windows Server 2003’s NTBackup utility and the shareware application NetDrive (www.netdrive.net). NetDrive is $29 per PC (free for noncommercial use); this cost is only a small fraction of a commercial SharePoint backup application.

Download NetDrive and install it on your SharePoint system. Create a new SharePoint site, and enter the appropriate information, as Figure 1 shows. The site name is any user-friendly name you want. The site IP or URL is the IP address or name of the SharePoint server. The default port is 80; change it to match your SharePoint site. The server type is WebDav. Be sure the Connect as anonymous check box is cleared, so you can enter the site owner’s credentials. In the Account text box, enter the site owner’s user name. In the Password text box, enter the site owner’s password.

Click Connect to establish a connection and create a map drive. (Note that if you get a WebDav unauthorized error, you need to enable basic authentication for the SharePoint site and use IIS Manager to allow WebDav web service extensions.)

Launch NTBackup from the command console, as follows:

ntbackup backup <sharepoint_mapdrive>:\docs\ /snap:off
  /f <destination>

Replace sharepoint_mapdrive with the map drive letter created in NetDrive, and replace destination with your desired destination backup location.

The reason for running NTBackup from the command console is to turn off Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which would cause the SharePoint WebDav backup job to fail. The GUI option to accomplish this task is disabled in Windows Server 2003 SP1, so you must use the command line.

You can enhance the NTBackup command to include scheduling, or performing an incremental or differential backup. For more information, go to a command prompt and enter

ntbackup /?

Note that before you employ my solution, you might want to back up your network to avoid any potential data loss.