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Forklifting SBS

Posted on 2007-03-23
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Last Modified: 2010-04-19
Here's the scenario (names changed to protect the guilty / details altered for clarity, etc.) I recently picked up a new client who's previous IT guy set them up with a severely misconfigured and inadequate 2003 SBS solution. The problem really boils down to hardware and there's just no way the current box can handle the job. They have 20 workstations joined to \\SERVER and in an overnight process I need to down the box, replace it with another (totally different) box, but still have the new box named \\SERVER and NOT have to make any adjustments to any of the workstations. In other words, I need a process to "forklift" the server itself out of the network and replace it with another one in a "seamless" way that accomplishes the following goals:

1) The workstations must not even be aware that the server they are seeing in the morning is not the same one they saw the previous evening. No adjustments to any workstation can be done. (The entire point of this is to make sure I have a solution that can be completely resolved from the server room.)

2) The old server must be "downed" without modifications of any kind. No "migration off" of any roles or such. (I need to be able to down it, work on setting up the new one all night if needed and still be able to choose to NOT deploy the new box at the last minute if I find it isn't ready at 9 AM the next morning.)

Just to be up-front with everyone here, I am aware that 2003 SBS is a very different product than 2003 Server and has some (apparently very severe) limitations in this area, so I'm only looking for solutions to this problem as described, not "use 2003 Server Enterprise Edition" or "migrate the client to Linux/Samba" etc. I'm already considering those as ultimate solutions, so I'm only asking the experts here for a solution that WON'T make me do a complete rebuild of all the elements of the network. Having said that, I should clarify that I certainly AM open to solutions that accomplish #1 & #2 even if the new server isn't 2003 SBS. In other words, if the desktop user still can be authenticated, see their mapped drives & get their shared contacts/calendar in Outlook, etc. I'd be open to a solution that is a Linux box "pretending" to be the 2003 SBS box it replaces (including the Exchange functions, etc.). Again, I'm willing to do pretty much *whatever* in the server room as long as the workstations go on their merry way after the process blissfully unaware that there's been any change at all.

My experience so far has been basically that SBS is something of a "roach motel" where "you can check in, but you can't check out" situation. I haven't had to deal with this in awhile and the last time I just chose to leave the domain on the workstations, rebuild/replace the server, then join the domain again. (Even though the domain was the same name...) It was a huge hassle, and that was a much smaller network. With as many workstations as I'm looking at this time, that strategy would be a complete nightmare.

Additionally, I'm aware of sbsmigration.com already. While I'm open to using that, for the scope of this question here at Experts Exchange (and given the number of points I've put on this question) I'm looking for a fairly specific set of steps describing how someone has done this in the past, not a link to a manual I can buy that I'm already aware of, or a link to a consultant I can hire who knows more than I do. (I may well find that buying either or both of those is my best solution in the end, but I don't really think it's reasonable to expect me to award a lot of points for a "product referral" and not an "actual solution" here.)
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Question by:mcj
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by:NeilParbrook
NeilParbrook earned 80 total points
ID: 18782218
Hello

I once had a problem with a server which went down.
I had to get it up quick so we ghosted the current disk onto a new one in a new box then did a repair install on the new server to bring the drivers back up etc. It did work but it wasn't that easy and required an amount of reconfiguration and time but it did work it has to be said.

The good thing about ghosting the drive is it would leave the old one in tact so you could bring the old server back on line if you needed to.  

IN fact I would recomend ghosting the old drive regardless as a failsafe backup.

I found this artical

http://msmvps.com/blogs/kwsupport/archive/2004/11/14/19180.aspx

Have a look see what you think.

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by:AdamRobinson
AdamRobinson earned 80 total points
ID: 18782343
"Additionally, I'm aware of sbsmigration.com already. While I'm open to using that, for the scope of this question here at Experts Exchange (and given the number of points I've put on this question) I'm looking for a fairly specific set of steps describing how someone has done this in the past, not a link to a manual I can buy that I'm already aware of, or a link to a consultant I can hire who knows more than I do. (I may well find that buying either or both of those is my best solution in the end, but I don't really think it's reasonable to expect me to award a lot of points for a "product referral" and not an "actual solution" here.) "

The product referral you refer to is the best actual solution, so you're shooting yourself in the foot with your disclaimer.  Not everyone here answers solely for points; some people will give you the best answer whether you put 50 or 500.  I'm not sure why you're so hesitant to do the swing migration -- especially if you already know of it and presumably know how to do it -- but it really would be the best thing for you here, especially if you want to avoid downtime.



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by:Shift-3
Shift-3 earned 80 total points
ID: 18782411
One option is to image the server using Acronis True Image Server with the Universal Restore add-on.  This will allow you to easily move the image to different hardware.  It takes care of differences in HAL, RAID, drive controllers, etc.  It's not cheap but it will do what you want.

If you go this route I'd recommend putting in a FireWire 800 card and using an external hard drive which supports it.  The process takes much, much longer over USB.
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by:Zenith63
Zenith63 earned 80 total points
ID: 18785391
You may have already bought the hardware in which case this is useless to you, but have a look at the HP P2P SMP.  It's a piece of software that allows you move the complete data from any server to a modern HP server.  It will copy over everything, then replace the relevant drivers on the destination server with the correct HP ones for that server and you're set.  The only thing limiting how quick it happens is the speed of your network, but I did a 30 or 40gb server over a gigabit network in 2-3 hours.
It's pretty amazing software I think (hence the reason I keep mentioning it in my posts here!), you can literally migrate from any hardware.  I've done it from Dell servers on PERC controllers, server running on desktop PCs etc.  Only restriction is the destination must be a reasonably modern HP server and the drives on the source server must be in good condition (the migration will fail if there is data stuck in bad sectors).

Give it a look, I used it a few weeks ago in a very similar situation to yours.  Although SBS isn't specifically listed as being supported I've done it without issue.

You can get two free demo licenses to try it out from their site as well, so go in some night, if it works great, if not nothing is lost.
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Author Comment

by:mcj
ID: 18786164
The comments so far have been very interesting and I'm giving them some thought/research.

One idea that has occurred to me in this (that I'd also be curious if anyone has tried) is to simply replace the unit with a Linux box with Samba (to do authentication/file service) and then add Zimbra (to replace Exchange) since I've read (but haven't confirmed) that it can be a back-end while users still have normal Outlook on their desktops.

Now, I'm in no way "Philosophically Anti-Microsoft" here! I just need a simple solution to replace a horrifically corrupted 2003 SBS server (that I didn't make!) with "the same functionality" without having to tweak 20 desktops. I'm honestly amazed at how little Microsoft has provided to make this possible. Frankly "little" isn't even the right word to put it bluntly. They've provided nothing whatsoever. I'm looking at sbsmigration.com (and it DOES seem like a great product and a possible solution to the problem) but there's absolutely ZERO that Microsoft has provided (that I've found so far or anyone has mentioned in this thread) in terms of a "direct official solution" to a not-just-foreseeable, but absolutely inevitable problem for SBS installations.

NeilParbrook's suggestion may not work in this scenario since a normal ghost image of the original server would have problems if restored on another type of hardware.

Shift-3's suggestion is closer since Acronis can resolve the hardware/driver issue. There is, however the issue that the original installation is truly a quagmire. What I really need here is not to replace a psychotic \\Server on weak hardware with an identically psychotic \\Server on strong hardware, but to replace it with a completely fresh, clean and correctly configured \\Server in such a way that \\Desktop doesn't know it's talking to anyone new. Obviously it's the SID/SAM, etc. problem that prevents me from doing this which is why I'm stunned that there isn't some official Microsoft utility called "Clone SID" or "Backup SAM" or "DupeCredentials.exe" etc. that lets me do this.

Also, on both "imaging based" suggestions, I'm so concerned that the existing installation is on it's last legs that I don't want to install ANY applications on it at all, not even Ghost in order to make an image. So I'd need to run Ghost or Acronis from a boot floppy, but the system in on a PERC RAID and I'm not sure how to get a boot floppy with the right drivers to see the existing RAID, then I'd need drivers on the floppy to see another network drive, USB drive or such. It's going to be a bit of a challenge unless there's a "non-installing" imaging utility that I could run from Windows while the system is up and would also be able to image an "up and running" partition.

Also, does anyone know if there is a way to raise the points beyond 500 on a question? I thought there used to be a way to increase points on an open question.

Thanks for the responses so far!
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by:Shift-3
ID: 18786216
You can make a bootable Acronis CD and it will find all the hardware, including FireWire cards and PERC RAID controllers.  It has in the experiments I've done with it at any rate.

Though before you consider imaging you need to be sure that the system's current woes are solely caused by hardware.  Any software problems could be replicated on the new server.

I'm fairly certain that there's no way to go over 500 points per question.
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by:Zenith63
ID: 18786404
Well if the original installation is not good I wouldn't go down the imaging direction either.  As I see it you don't have too many options; 1. a swing migration, 2. New installation then use something like the ADMT to migrate Active Directory OR 3. start from scratch.

In your situation (I've been there plenty of times in the past) I'd be starting from scratch.  Build the new server with a new domain etc., setup the users, mapped drives etc etc.  Bring the server in and disjoin each PC from the old server then join to the new one.  On each PC if you delete the new blank Windows profile that will be created when you join the new domain and replace it with their original one the users won't see much difference.  Use XCopy/Robocopy to copy the data across.  It feels like a brute force approach, but any of the other methods could leave you in the same situation in 3 months if Active Directory or Exchange has more problems then you think and they move to the new server (in an imaging/migration scenario).  You might not be able to do 20 PCs in a night, but with the server prepared in advance it could easily be done some Saturday/Sunday.
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by:NeilParbrook
ID: 18786722
Sorry mate I didn't realise that the existing server was so bad in terms of config.  The ghosting as you quite rightly say won't cure that problem.  Sorry I couldn't be more help and I wish you all the luck with what is quite obviously a difficult operation.

Cheers

Neil
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Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy earned 100 total points
ID: 18791015
mcj,

I wouldn't quite describe SBS as a Roach Motel... it's more like a Ferrari SUV -- lots of very finely tuned stuff packed into a small package.  Mess with the tuning, and the package falls apart.

I've done a number of these actually... generally though I do a full rebuild of the network, because my guess is that the workstations weren't properly joined to the SBS Domain anyhow (using http://<servername>/connectcomputer).    So I'm somewhat in agreement with Zenith63 on this.

But... I do understand that you don't want to rock the boat at this point.

Ghost, Acronis, etc... will all have the same problem... they will bring over bad configurations to your new server.  Don't go that route in this situation.  (I do recommend those for a straight hardware migration though... but only if the server is in good shape to begin with).

Since you don't work with SBS a lot, I would HIGHLY suggest that you ONLY do this one way.  Swing it with www.sbsmigration.com 's migration kit.  You won't have to do it "overnight" and there is NO downtime.  Virtually NO risk of failure because you can roll everything back in an instant if something isn't going right.  Their method is MUCH more than just a manual you can buy.  Which is why you see it highly recommended here quite often.  They provide you with wraparound documentation that will literally walk you through the process and ensure that you are doing it correctly.  You get the advantage of ALL of their experience in migrating SBS's as well as their full support during the process.  

I've migrated a couple dozen SBS's with their kit and I wouldn't do it any other way.  You stated, "I'm looking for a fairly specific set of steps describing how someone has done this in the past" and that's exactly what you get from www.sbsmigration.com (sorry, I had to put the link)

Jeff
TechSoEasy



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by:Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy
ID: 18791025
And if you don't want the "product referral".  See my profile for contact info.  

Because what you state you "don't want" is exactly what you need.  I really don't understand your perspective that offering 500 points should get you more than a good solid recommendation for getting the job done right.

Jeff
TechSoEasy
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by:manicsquirrel
manicsquirrel earned 80 total points
ID: 18805493
Here's another recommendation for Acronis and Universal Restore.  That's what I use.

Here's my opinion as well.  Even if the existing config is bad or not ideal, it is no great feat to fix it yourself.  There's only so much that can be setup wrong and it can all be corrected without reinstalling the OS (unless you want to rename the domain).
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Author Comment

by:mcj
ID: 19286855
After playing around with this for a really long time, we ultimately just did a complete network replacement over a three-day weekend. I split the points as evenly as possible between all people who tried to help me out here. The leftover points went to TechSoEasy since his answers were the most extensive.

In the end, I'm most inclined to think the SBSMigration answer is probably the best solution on the market today. However, it is really a shame that Microsoft hasn't provided an official solution to this inevitable situation..
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