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Oracle® Database 2 Day DBA
11g Release 1 (11.1)

Part Number B28301-01
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Database Backup and Recovery Concepts

To back up your database means to make copies of your datafiles, control file, and archived redo logs (if your database runs in ARCHIVELOG mode). Restoring a database means copying the physical files that make up the database from a backup medium, typically disk or tape, to their original or to new locations. Recovery of your database is the process of updating database files restored from a backup with the changes made to the database after the backup, typically using redo log files.

Consistent and Inconsistent Backups

A backup is either consistent or inconsistent. To make a consistent backup, your database must have been shut down normally and remain closed for the duration of the backup. All committed changes in the redo log are written to the datafiles, so the datafiles are in a transaction-consistent state. When you restore your datafiles from a consistent backup, you can open the database immediately.

If the database is in ARCHIVELOG mode, then you can make inconsistent backups that are recoverable with archived redo log files. Open database backups are inconsistent because the online redo logs contain changes not yet applied to the datafiles. The redo logs must be archived and then backed up with the datafiles to ensure recoverability.

Despite the name, an inconsistent backup is as robust a form of backup as a consistent backup. The advantage of making inconsistent backups is that you can back up your database while the database is open for updates.

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Media Recovery

If you restore the archived redo logs and datafiles, then you must perform media recovery before you can open the database. Any database transactions in the archived redo logs not already reflected in the datafiles are applied to the datafiles, bringing them to a transaction-consistent state before the database is opened.

Media recovery requires a control file, datafiles (typically restored from backup), and online and archived redo logs containing changes since the time the datafiles were backed up. Media recovery is most often used to recover from a media failure, such as the loss of a file or disk, or a user error, such as the deletion of the contents of a table.

Media recovery can be a complete recovery or a point-in-time recovery. In a complete recovery, you restore backup datafiles and apply all changes from the archived and online redo logs to the datafiles. The database is returned to its state at the time of failure and can be opened with no loss of data.

In a point-in-time recovery, you return a database to its contents at a user-selected time in the past. You restore a backup of datafiles created before the target time and a complete set of archived redo log files from backup creation through the target time. Recovery applies changes between the backup time and the target time to the datafiles. All changes after the target time are discarded.

Oracle Enterprise Manager Database Control (Database Control) provides an interface to both a complete and a point-in-time recovery in the form of a Recovery wizard. However, this guide focuses on complete recovery.

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Flash Recovery Area

To simplify the management of backup and recovery files, you can create a flash recovery area for your database. The flash recovery area is an Oracle-managed directory, file system, or Automatic Storage Management disk group that provides a centralized disk location for backup and recovery files. Oracle creates archived logs and flashback logs in the flash recovery area. RMAN can store its backup sets and image copies in the flash recovery area, and it uses it when restoring files during media recovery. The flash recovery area also acts as a disk cache for tape.

Oracle Database automatically manages this storage, deleting files that are no longer needed. Periodically copying backups to tape frees space in the flash recovery area for other files. Oracle recommends that you enable a recovery area to simplify backup management. Except as noted, this documentation assumes the use of a flash recovery area.

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RMAN Repository

RMAN maintains a record of database files and backups for each database on which it performs operations. This metadata is called the RMAN repository.

If you back up a file without using RMAN, such as by copying the file at the host operating system level, then you can add metadata about the copy to the RMAN repository. If you later use a command such as RESTORE DATABASE, then RMAN uses the records in the repository to select backups needed for the recovery.

The primary location for the RMAN repository for a database is its control file. The importance of this metadata for RMAN is one more reason why protecting your control file is a vital part of your backup strategy. In some installations, a second copy of the RMAN repository is stored in a schema called the recovery catalog. The recovery catalog is located in a separate database and can store metadata for multiple databases. Use of a recovery catalog is optional and is beyond the scope of this guide.

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