How do I reduce transaction log backup size after a full backup?

Solution 1:

Some interesting suggestions here, which all seem to show misunderstanding about how log backups work. A log backup contains ALL transaction log generated since the previous log backup, regardless of what full or differential backups are taken in the interim. Stopping log backups or moving to daily full backups will have no effect on the log backup sizes. The only thing that affects the transaction log is a log backup, once the log backup chain has started.

The only exception to this rule is if the log backup chain has been broken (e.g. by going to the SIMPLE recovery model, reverting from a database snapshot, truncating the log using BACKUP LOG WITH NO_LOG/TRUNCATE_ONLY), in which case the first log backup will contain all the transaction log since the last full backup - which restarts the log backup chain; or if the log backup chain hasn't been started - when you switch into FULL for the first time, you operate in a kind of pseudo-SIMPLE recovery model until the first full backup is taken.

To answer your original question, without going into the SIMPLE recovery model, you're going to have to suck up backing up all the transaction log. Depending on the actions you're taking, you could take more frequent log backups to reduce their size, or do more targeted database.

If you can post some info about the maintenance ops you're doing, I can help you optimize them. Are you, by any chance, doing index rebuilds followed by a shrink database to reclaim the space used by the index rebuilds?

If you have no other activity in the database while the maintenance is occuring, you could do the following:

  • make sure user activity is stopped
  • take a final log backup (this allows you to recover right up to the point of maintenance starting)
    • switch to the SIMPLE recovery model
    • perform maintenance - the log will truncate on each checkpoint
    • switch to the FULL recovery model and take a full backup
    • continue as normal

Hope this helps - looking forward to more info.


[Edit: after all the discussion about whether a full backup can alter the size of a subsequent log backup (it can't) I put together a comprehensive blog post with background material and a script that proves it. Check it out at]

Solution 2:

You could shrink them, but they will just grow again, eventually causing disk fragmentation. Index rebuilds and defrags make very large transaction logs. If you don't need point-in-time recoverability, you could change to Simple recovery mode and do away with the transaction log backups entirely.

I'm guessing you're using a maintenance plan for the optimizations, you could change it to use a script that does index defrags only when a certain fragmentation level is reached and you would not likely suffer any performance hit. This would generate much smaller logs.

I would skip daily differentials in favor of daily full backups BTW.

Solution 3:

Your final question was: "Other than BACKUP LOG WITH TRUNCATE_ONLY, is there any way to reduce the size of that log backup, or prevent the optimisations from being recorded in the transaction log at all, as surely they will be accounted for in the full backup they precede?"

No, but here's a workaround. If you know that the only activities in that database at that time will be the index maintenance jobs, then you can stop transaction log backups before the index maintenance starts. For example, some of my servers on Saturday nights, the job schedules look like this:

  • 9:30 PM - transaction log backup runs.
  • 9:45 PM - transaction log backup runs for the last time. The schedule stops at 9:59.
  • 10:00 PM - index maintenance job starts and has built-in stops to finish before 11:30.
  • 11:30 PM - full backup job starts and finishes in under 30 minutes.
  • 12:00 AM - transaction log backups start again every 15 minutes.

That means I don't have point-in-time recoverability between 9:45 and 11:30pm, but the payoff is faster performance.

Solution 4:

Easy answer: Change your weekly optimization job to run in a more balanced manner on a nightly basis. i.e. re-index tables a-e on Sunday night, f - l on Monday night etc... find a good balance, your log will be roughly 1/6th of the size on average. Of course this works best if you aren't using the built-in ssis index maintenance job.

The downside to this and it's significant depending on the load your db experiences is that it wreaks havoc with the optimizer and the re-use of query plans.

But if all you care about is the size of your t-log on a weekly basis, split it up from day to day or hour to hour and run the t-log backups in-between.

Solution 5:

You might also look into a third party tool (Litespeed from Quest, SQL Backup from Red Gate, Hyperbac) to reduce the sizes of the backups and logs. They can pay for themselves quickly in tape savings.