Backup Compression with SQL Server 2008

No need to turn to third-party tools to keep your databases as small as possible. It's in SQL Server 2008 now.

SQL Server 2008 provides a feature, which, in my opinion, has been far overdue -- backup compression. For too long, if you wanted the benefit of compressed backups, you had to look at a third-party tool. Now, backup compression is built right into SQL Server 2008, and what's even better is that it's easy to use. All you have to do is append the WITH COMPRESSION option to your backup statements and you are off to the races. This bit of code will back up the AdventureWorks2008 database using compression:

BACKUP DATABASE AdventureWorks2008
TO AdWorksBackup
WITH COMPRESSION

Using compression with SSMS is just as easy. Simply set the compression option on the Options page of the Back up Database dialog.

You may be asking yourself: How effective is this compression? The answer can be tricky because it depends on the structure of your database and the type of data being stored. When I backed up my copy of the AdventureWorks2008 database, which is using about 700 MB of disk space, I got a 147 MB compressed backup file. Compare that to the 636 MB file I got when not using compression.

Here's what else is cool: You can change the default compression behavior of your entire server. On the Database Settings tab of the Server Properties dialog, you can select the option Compress Backup. Alternatively, you can run the following t-SQL code:

EXEC sp_configure 'show advanced options', 1
RECONFIGURE
EXEC sp_configure 'backup compression default', 1
RECONFIGURE

The first command enables advanced options and the second will make compression the default for all backups. If you go this route, you won't have to change a thing about your backup scripts in order to take advantage of compression. Now, just a simple BACKUP DATABASE statement will use compression. To run a backup without compression when it's the server default, simply use the WITH NO COMPRESSION option.

SQL Server 2008 finally offers backup compression natively and I hope you find it to be a useful feature. It's great for saving disk space and you no longer have to zip backup files before moving them over the network just to improve the copy time.

About the Author

Eric Johnson, SQL Server MVP, is the owner of Consortio Services in Colorado Springs providing IT systems management and technology consulting. He is also the President of the Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group. He can be contacted at www.consortioservices.com.

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