Quickest way to recover from Exchange crash

We are a non-profit with limited funds.  We have an 2003 Exchange Server that is a few years old.  Our e-mail system is critical to a few of our operations.  What I'm looking for is the QUICKEST way to get the e-mail backup in the event the server crashes.  I have a new server that hasn't been built yet so it can be used if I can find a solution.  I've heard of Acronis True Image and have used it on Workstations, but not servers.  I've also heard of Double Take.  I think Double Take replicates the Exchange server on another identical machine so if the 1st fails, the other takes over.
I'm looking for some Critical advise from Experts-Exchange.


J.R. Sitman

J.R. SitmanIT DirectorAsked:
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Double Take is a beautiful product (free white paper on protecting Exchange with Double Take is available here, free registration required: http://www.doubletake.com/news-events/white-papers/default.aspx?wp=Protecting-Exchange-2006.pdf).  However, even with any non-profit discounts they may offer you might still have your breath taken away by the pricetag.  (I don't work for them and can't quote pricing, you'll need to contact a Double Take rep for specifics.)

It's important to distinguish between "Disaster Recovery", which is the process that you go through to recover your servers from a crash, and "High Availability", which is what will allow your clients to continue accessing email in the event of a server failure.  The former can be accomplished with a simple tape drive and becoming intimately familiar with Exchange Disaster Recovery procedures like the ones listed here: http://www.doubletake.com/news-events/white-papers/default.aspx?wp=Protecting-Exchange-2006.pdf. True High Availability will always have a not-small cost involved, either for a replication product like Double Take or the time/effort/complexity involved in managing an Exchange cluster.  As a business, you need to decide how much downtime is tolerable and what you're willing to pay for an HA solution to reduce that.

Hope this helps.

Laura E. Hunter - Microsoft MVP: Windows Server - Networking
Apologies, copy-and-paste error on my part.  The Exchange Disaster Recovery Best Practices can be downloaded here:http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb125070.aspx
What you need to decide is what you are planning for from a disaster recovery and how long you can be without email.

The simple rule is that the longer you can be without email the cheaper it becomes.

The decision on how long you can be without email has to come from the very top and they need to understand the risks. Doesn't matter if you are a not for profit or the most profitable company in the world - the rules are the same.

If you are planning for loss of the hardware, then a simple investment in better quality hardware may be enough. To use anything like DoubleTake would require investment in hardware that is at least equal to what you have now.

Products like Ghost, TrueImage or whatever are fine, but they go out of date very quickly. I would actually go as far as to say that they are unsuitable for Exchange servers.

If you take an image at 3am and then the server fails at 2.50am the next day, then you restore your image, you will lose the previous 24 hours of emails. For most companies the most valuable content is the most recent.

You are not going to get rapid recovery for free or peanuts.
For most of my clients, if hardware is available and there is a good backup, I can get Exchange running in about four hours.
The key is hardware being available.

However, with correctly specified hardware the chances of having to do a recovery are limited. In some cases the only disaster that really needs to be planned for is loss of the building. It depends where you are in some cases.

My personal preference would be to spend any funds that you have available on ensuring that the server you have will not be affected by any hardware failure (so redundant disks, power supplies etc), it has a good warranty cover, is backed by one of the major vendors (HP, Dell, IBM) and the backups are good.

J.R. SitmanIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  I appreciate your input, which was very good.

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