New to RAID: Need to Repartition RAID5 for Win03 OS

Hello experts.

I'm very new to RAID configurations and have a new client whom I've just upgraded to Win Server 2003 from NT4.  Problem is that the NT4 partition was only 2GB on the HD.  With my full installation of Server03 (AD, PDC, DNS, DHCP), I only have about 350 MB of HD space left on the OS partition.  I still have to install server AV solution and some other software.  I really need to rebuild the HD and get the partitions set the way I want them.

The server has 3 20GB SCSI's with RAID5 and LSI hardware controller.  The data partition has mission critical data and cannot be wiped out without some sort of RELIABLE backup.

My question is this:  What is the best possible way for me to backup my existing data from the data parition AND then reformat/repartition the primary HD?

In a RAID config, when I wipe out the primary, do all the drives get erased as well?

I need a good plan and don't really have one at this point.
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Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
There's nothing wrong with what Rindi said, but I'd like to ask, what would happen right NOW if all the disks in the server died.  Where's your backups NOW?  If you can't answer that question or you have nightmares about it, then you really need to work on your backup strategy.

Robocopy is nice for transferring files from one disk to another, but I personally don't consider it a backup tool.  I would suggest use a real backup tool, preferably veritas or arcserve, but even the built in backup will do nicely.  Among other things, Robocopy doesn't do system state backups.  That's something you'll want to have.  USE the built in backup tool, it backs up security, files, and (if you tell it) the System State which includes the registry, key system files, and if you have it on the server, Active Directory.

Also, while 2GB is small, and yes, I'd want more space there, is it necessary?  Did you move the pagefile off C:?  Often that can be huge and provide lots of free space when moved.
rindiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
A reliable backup is one you have tested. Probably the easiest would be to attach an external drive, maybe a disk which you put into a USB case, or just any disk which you can attach to a IDE connector. Then use robocopy to get your data from the raid system to that disk. Robocopy is a commandline copy program which is free but very powerful. It is part of M$'s resourcekit tools.

After having done the backup, it is important to restore some files and test them using the original application.

If it wasn't just files on the server, you will need a special backup solution for that. Exchange you could create individual pst files of the mailboxes, SQL Server you could dump your data to disk, or you need a special backup program like veritas backupexec along with the agents for that program so that an online backup could be done.

In a raid config, wiping out the primary partition is like wiping out a partition on any drive, you just wipeout that partition and not the others.

If you have some unpartitioned space on your array, you could try using the comandline utility "diskpart" to extend your primary partition. Get help on diskpart by entering
diskpart /?
or just starting diskpart, then entering ?

You can also use one of the commands that get listed with another ? to get more info on that command.

If you prefer not wipe out the whole array and rebuilding from scratch (I'd probably do that if I knew the backup was good), you can try acronis disk director suite to change your current partitions.

But also here you need the backup to be safe, and probably a new install from scratch is the cleanest and fastest way to get where you want to go.
stephenm93Author Commented:
Thanks, Rindi.

I have read various articles on using diskpart and I gather that I cannot extend a basic disk boot system partition.  Is this correct?  

Also, in a RAID config, when I erase the contents of SCS1 #1, do SCSI's #2 and #3, also get erased?  I'm guessing they do since the OS sees the array as one disk.

I already have an IDE attached to the machine so I'll look into Robocopy.

Next question maybe more OS related, but if I'm using hardware RAID, can I (and should I) convert to software RAID using the win03?  

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I myself haven't actually used diskpart yet, as I have other tools at my disposal, like acronis which I mentioned above. My guess is just to try it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't.

In a Raid5 system, you should look at all disks as one, and not as SCSI#1, 2 or 3. The Raid controller does that (or if you were using software raid, the raid software). You normally have a utility which you can enter similarly to the PCs BIOS, and this utility you would use to manipulate your raid. Normally you will also have a utility software which you can install on your OS to do the same. In a raid5 you need at least 3 disks to build the array, but I suggest more than that. One disk in a raid5 array is always lost (as disk space, I mean). If one disk goes down, your data is still accessible, only slower. If you replace the defective disk, the array will be rebuilt and once the rebuild has finished, the array will again run at normal speed. The data is allways distributed among the disks, so the more you have the faster your access will be, as data will be accessed from many disks at the same time. You can partition an array as you want, this partition is distributed equally among the disks.

You can't convert a hardware raid to a software raid on the fly. You'd have to break the array using the utility I explained above, and then you wouldn't be able to access any data on the disks anymore. If you had the OS itself on that array, you wouldn't be able to boot anymore either. I don't at all advise you in using software raid. It is much slowwer as it won't be using the array controllers processor, but that of your CPU, and you will also have to install the OS on another, single drive, as you can only build a software array once the OS is running.

A further advantage of a hardware raid 5 system is that you can add disks to the array, use the utility to expand it, and if nothing goes wrong, you haven't lost any data along the way.
stephenm93Author Commented:
Excellent response leew.  If the array died now, so would I as soon as the Owner caught up to me.

Before moving to 03, backups were sent to tape using an old edition of Veritas. Since upgrading, tape drive is not recognized and backups are going nowhere.  It's an old Seagate SCSI tape drive and I'm not sure how to get it up and running again.  Yes, I am having some nightmares about it until I can get things back the way I want them.

I really do need to backup the system state, so I'll look for documentation on win03 backup utility.  I have not considered moving the pagefile off of c:, but will do so and see how much space that frees up.

I guess ideally, from what I'm reading from these comments, with the tools that I currently have with the OS and hardware, I can should be albe to utilize the IDE HD for system backups using the OS tools.    If I can get the tape backup working again, then that will also provide another medium.

Please let me know if this is a correct assumption.  I'm checking on the cost of the Veritas and Arcserver solutions now.

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you can't do backups to tape (which, for a small server, I don't think is the most economical anyway), get yourself some USB/Firewire hard drives (2 or 3 will do) and use the built in backup tool to backup the system to those.  You only have 40 GB of data, you could do 10 full backups to a 400 GB hard drive - more as I doubt your using ALL the space on that 40 GB of available space.  

While it's not the question you asked, you might want to look over the backup ideas here:
You can also use the backup utility to backup to that ide disk, so if the tape drive isn't working that should do the job. The reason I mentioned robocopy is because it is fast and would do a good job as temporary backup system, easy to restore after the systemchange / update. It isn't meant as an ongoing backup solution.

I'd suggest veritas as the "live" backup system. What type of tape system is installed? what is the uncompressed capacity of a tape and what is the expected amount of data you will be backing up?
stephenm93Author Commented:
thanks folks.  I still haven't made the tape drive happy enough to work, but I'm still trying to get it going.  I'm going to go ahead and award the points here.  Thank you both for your responses.

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