Not many disaster recovery or SQL migration/upgrade scenarios require the SQL Server instance service master key to be restored.
Recently, by far the most frequent and common disaster recovery scenario for my clients has been the need for a complete, bare-metal rebuild or restore of the master database. Not hardware failure but ransomware (crypto-locking file) attacks have been the cause.
You should consider complimentary backup solutions that backup/snapshot the entire server (or VM) for SQL Server, but sometimes these technologies are limited or have too much of an impact on the server. A whole VM snapshot for example that is reliant on VSS could incur an unacceptable long IO stun duration when it occurs.
Regardless, in all cases, SQL Server backups of each database should be taken regularly. This is a conversation for another blog post but a typical pattern is weekly full backups, nightly differential backups, and in the case of databases not in SIMPLE recovery model, 15 minute transaction log backups.
In the case of SQL Servers needing a rebuild from nothing but SQL Server backups, some of the key pieces of information from this checklist will be helpful:
1. The exact SQL Server version of each instance to recover, so that you can restore system databases and settings. Storing the output of the @@Version global variable is helpful. Store this in server documentation.
2. The volume letters and paths of SQL Server data and log files would be helpful too. Output from the system view sys.master_files is helpful so that you can recreate the volumes. Store this in server documentation.
3. The service master key backup file and its password is needed to restore certain items in the master database like linked server information. Though the master database can be restored without restoring the service master key, some encrypted information will be unavailable and will need to be recreated. This is very easy to do, but the catch is making sure that the backup file created and its password are stored security in an enterprise security vault software. There are many options out there for something like this, I won't list any vendors, but you should be able to store both strings and small files securely, with metadata, and with enterprise security around it, like multi-factor authentication.
BACKUP SERVICE MASTER KEY --not actually important for TDE, but important overall and should be backed up regardless. TO FILE = 'E:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.SQL2K17\MSSQL\data\InstanceNameHere_SQLServiceMasterKey_20120314.snk' ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'complexpasswordhere';
4. In the event they are present, database master key files. Here's an easy script to create backups of each database's symmetric master key, if it exists. Other keys in the database should be backed up as well, upon creation, and stored in your enterprise security vault.
exec sp_msforeachdb 'use [?]; if exists(select * from sys.symmetric_keys ) begin select ''Database key(s) found in [?]'' select ''USE [?];'' select ''OPEN MASTER KEY DECRYPTION BY PASSWORD = ''''passwordhere''''; BACKUP MASTER KEY TO FILE = ''''c:\temp\?_''+name+''_20200131.snk'''' ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = ''''passwordhere''''; GO '' from sys.symmetric_keys; END'
5. Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) certificates, keys and passwords. You should have set this up upon creation, backed up and stored them in your enterprise security vault. For example:
BACKUP CERTIFICATE TDECert_enctest TO FILE = 'E:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.SQL2K17\MSSQL\data\TestingTDEcert.cer' WITH PRIVATE KEY ( FILE = 'E:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL14.SQL2K17\MSSQL\data\TestingTDEcert.key' , --This is a new key file for the cert backup --, NOT the same as the key for the database MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = '$12345testpassword123' ); --This password is for the cert backup's key file.
6. Shared Access Signature certificates, in the cases where your SQL Server has been configured to use a SAS certificate to, for example, send backups directly to Azure Blob Storage via the Backup to URL feature. You should save the script used to create the SAS certificate when it is created, and store it in your enterprise security vault.
7. Integration Services SSISDB database password for the SSIS Catalog. You created this password when you created the SSISDB catalog, and stored in your enterprise security vault. You can always try to open the key to test whether or not your records are correct:
OPEN MASTER KEY DECRYPTION BY PASSWORD = N'[old_password]'; --Password used when creating SSISDB
More information here on restoring the SSISDB key: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/sql-server-integration-services/ssis-catalog-backup-and-restore/ba-p/388058
8. Reporting Services (SSRS) encryption key and password. Backup and restore this key using the Reporting Service Configuration Manager, and store them your enterprise security vault.
In the comments: what other steps have you taken to prevent or recover a SQL Server from a ransomware attack?