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adding a backup server

Posted on 2006-03-24
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Tried to post yesterday but didn't see my post.

I want to install a backup server.  have an identical server.

I need the simplest way possible with the least amount of errors (a tall order I know)

I had heard from several people and put this together:

Install the PC on a regular network connection assigning it's own IP (we have static IP addresses)

We make full daily backups including the system files and program files

Apparently, there is an option in Active Directory to copy the Active Directory over to the new server - do you know where to find this feature?

In case of a hardware failure (other than hard drive) where I can't boot my original server, I would swap out the hard drive or put in a backup drive and boot normally, changing the IP address to the one on the original server

No manual restore of files necessary on the backup server, correct?

Do I apply patches to both server and backup when they come in?

Do I need to regularly manually update the backup server's Active Directory, if so, how often?  or will the Active Directory be on our original server's backup hard drive?

Thank you!
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Question by:texastwostep
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by:jasonduncan76
ID: 16280906
Are you saying you already have a backup server and you want to add another one?
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Lee W, MVP earned 2000 total points
ID: 16280917
Hi texastwostep,
> Install the PC on a regular network connection assigning it's own IP
> (we have static IP addresses)

Static or DHCP, doesn't matter - all it has to be is unique.

> We make full daily backups including the system files and program files

Seems a bit excessive.  On the program files that is.

> Apparently, there is an option in Active Directory to copy the Active
> Directory over to the new server - do you know where to find this feature?

It's called DCPROMO - it promotes a server to be a domain controller.

> In case of a hardware failure (other than hard drive) where I can't
> boot my original server, I would swap out the hard drive or put in a
> backup drive and boot normally, changing the IP address to the one on
> the original server

Absolutely NOT.


> No manual restore of files necessary on the backup server, correct?

Depends on how you do things.

> Do I apply patches to both server and backup when they come in?

Of course.

> Do I need to regularly manually update the backup server's Active
> Directory, if so, how often?  or will the Active Directory be on our
> original server's backup hard drive?

No, the synchronization works automatically every few minutes,




Now, it looks like what you are asking for is a way to have a server standing by in case the main server goes down.  You can't do this without buying server mirroring software, which I believe is fairly expensive.  Further, there's little point to this for MOST businesses (generalized, what does your business do?).  What is FAR more appropriate is to have a second Domain controller. In the event your primary system fails, the second DC will have all the account information and still permit people to log on.  As for your data, you neeed to make regular backups (and should understand the differences with Differential and Fulls and I do not, for most businesses, recommend nightly fulls.  Weekly or every other week, yes, but not nightly.  Differentials nightly).

Cheers!
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by:DolGuldur
ID: 16280929
Hello, you could make this back up server a domain controller too so all the security would synchronize automatically with your other domain controller. In case of a failure of the first you could use the other.

To do it, just log on the back up server Start -> Run and type dcpromo.
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What does it mean to be "Always On"?

Is your cloud always on? With an Always On cloud you won't have to worry about downtime for maintenance or software application code updates, ensuring that your bottom line isn't affected.

 
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Expert Comment

by:jasonkthomas
ID: 16280961
If you have a machine with identical hardware, you could just leave it on standby and pop-in the hardware from the old machine let's say the motherboard fails.

If you are running Windows 2003, here's how you would backup the system state and restore it to another machine:
http://www.petri.co.il/install_dc_from_media_in_windows_server_2003.htm

However, I would suggest something like Double-Take, which wil replicate your DC to a backup server in a realtime.
http://www.nsisoftware.com/what-we-offer/double-take/
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by:Rant32
ID: 16281009
You mean a cold spare server? One you can bring up asap when primary server fails? Assuming here that your servers have hot-swap hard drives.

"In case of a hardware failure (other than hard drive)" : this would mean that you could swap hard drives without doing anything else. Server should boot just fine.

In case you need OS disaster recovery, have a look at Drive Snapshot (http://www.drivesnapshot.de) for a relatively cheap on-the-fly drive image utility. Has worked reliably for me. Restoring a backup of the OS partition from a spare harddrive takes 3 minutes, or bootable DVD requires about 10 minutes.

Whether you need to restore Active Directory depends on the age of the OS image you're using. A one or 2 day old backup is usually acceptable in a small environment, but you could still run into issues like computer account passwords that have changed in the mean time. Running a second domain controller is absolutely preferable. Copying the AD is not recommended, I'd use a full system state backup and restore that in AD restore mode.

Do you have any more details on the functions of the server and the hard drive setup you're using?
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by:Rant32
ID: 16281107
Forget about the computer account passwords. Windows 2003 keeps a history of passwords just in case. Other problems with older AD-backups could arise, though.
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by:pseudocyber
ID: 16281386
We used to (still have them) Radware Web Server Directors to do load balancing between servers, or to failover to hot standby servers.

We're about to forklift upgrade them to Cisco CSS 11500's.  http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/contnetw/ps792/index.html
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by:texastwostep
ID: 16281822
Gee that 500 points works (but this is a tough one)

Okay, I'm going to try to answer your answers with questions by directing them at each of you who (thankfully) have responded:

jasonduncan:
No, i do not already have a backup server - I am trying to add my first to the main server


leew:
About it being excessive to backup the program files, are you suggesting we would have to reinstall all program files on the backup server or simply back up the programs once and then use a Program Files backup drive to reinstall the programs?  In order to get the proper 'installation' where a program may install code in the sys or root (I may be totally confusing you here and off the mark).
On your response about DCPROMO, do I copy the Active Directory then run this now, or do I only run DCPROMO when the main server is down?
Our users were not set up in groups (before my time here).  They are set up individually.  Would this mean re-pointing all their user configs to the backup server or will the DCPROMO do that?
You mention the synchronization works automatically every few minutes.  Is this because I have set it as a backup server in the main server's Active Directory, and is that what DCPROMO helps with. So, in effect that would mean running DC promo upon connecting the backup server, correct?
I'll look at Drive Snapshot, but isn't this redundant if I'm syncing up the backup server every few minutes?
Our server is PC - Dell PowerEdge 1800 200GB, 4GB memory.  Don't know about the processor.  
Our server is currently used mainly to run email programs, antivirus, user accounts, backups of clients workstations which files are shared to the server.  We only backup about 65 MB per night.


jasonkthomas:
if it's in standby mode, will it still sync up every few minutes?


Rant32:
Yes, a server I can bring up when primary server fails.  I have a new machine for a backup server in case a different component fails.  Not hot swappable (and not my idea on that!)


Okay thanks.  I look forward to your answers, especially leew.

PS is the grandfather system still the standard for backups?
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by:jli168
ID: 16282270
I think you want to replicate your AD. The best way is to promote the other server as a DC. It will have all the security and login information. If this your server is you file server, you want to backup all the data. If you have login script for mapping drive, just modify the script to map to the create path where you data is stored.

You can swap hard drive with another server if that server has exactly the same spec. (done that with my exchange server) If you have raid 5 make sure all the drives follow exactly the same order as the failed server.

JL
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Author Comment

by:texastwostep
ID: 16282418
will the raid 5 settings copy over as well?
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by:jli168
ID: 16282456
yes, like i say all hardwares must be exactly the same.
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by:Rant32
ID: 16282851
In the case of a RAID array, the configuration is probably on the drive CONTROLLER (but not always), so this would also require a backup of the array controller configuration, identical firmware on every single component of the server (mainboard, backplane, drive controller, network components).

Considering the functions of the server and the low volume of data (do you really mean 65 Megabytes?) then I think your best bet is identical hardware and firmware, a proper imaging/disaster recovery solution and daily backup. If budget allows, spare parts are vital for continued operation, especially if components start breaking two years from now.

If you get to practice sometime on this scenario (you don't even have to shut down the server for this, because the Drive Snapshot I mentioned will do it all while online) then you'll be able to recover your server in under half an hour.
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Author Comment

by:texastwostep
ID: 16282904
I meant 65GB.  doh!  Do I actually have to configure the HDD to Raid 5 myself, still unclear on that.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16283233
Wow... you really need to understand how Windows and your services work before deciding what you are going to do.  

Do you know DNS is an ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL service in a Windows Environment?  Are you familiar with FSMO roles?  Global Catalog?

I think you will be doing a disservice to your company if you don't spend a good 4-8 hours simply READING about how these things are intended to run and work.  Trying to go about it thinking that it's just a server and nothing special is more likely to cause you problems in future.

Will imaging work?  To a point, yes, but I never considered imaging an appropriate method of backup.

Unfortunately, I cannot help you further this minute and might not be able to contribute much more to your question until Monday - so others will likely beat me to the punch - which is good for you... but you really need to understand how Windows works before you proceed.
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Author Comment

by:texastwostep
ID: 16283312
well, leew, i just got my windows 2003 server bible off amazon so i guess i'll be doing some reading!  thanks.
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by:Rant32
ID: 16283362
Agree with leew on the knowledge-thingy, it makes it easier to discuss things as well. Good luck on the bible, had to digest a couple of those myself ;-)

Of course, imaging is meant for disaster recovery purposes (so you don't have to install the OS and applications from scratch) but a decent backup plan is far more important. Users inadvertingly deleting folders or otherwise screwing up data happens more often than a server burning down.
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