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Is it possible to have a backup Exchange server that can take over from the primary in case of a disaster?

Is it possible to have a second Exchange server in a single domain environment as a backup server in case something happens to the primary?

Meaning I have one Exchange server running right now and I would like to configure another Exchange server on the same domain, and have daily backups backed up from the first exchange server to the second, so that if something happens to the first server, I will be able to recover the backups in the second server to itselfand make it funcational.

Is that possible? If not what are the best options for a secondary backup server?

Basically in case something physically goes wrong with my primary exchange server I don't want to have to build one up another at that time. Would rather have one ready to go.

Thanks.
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cfgchiran
Asked:
cfgchiran
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3 Solutions
 
redseatechnologiesCommented:
It is possible in only two cases;

1. You have a cluster, which requires the enterprise versions of windows and Exchange.

2. You have third part software, such as neverfail or doubletake - which can handle the replication fo data for you.

The other option is a cold swap, have a server ready to go and restore the database and system state to it, but that is ultimately pointless, as it could be used instead of just sitting there.

-red
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Red - Seems like you will be getting a  lot of points from me. :) Thanks for answering all these questions.

I don't have a cluster - so I guess one of the other options would have to do. The cold swap would work, (as the company is not concerned about the cost of the second server) but in that case would I actually have the second server set up identical to the first - as far as name and IP etc....

Secondly if I use one of the software mentioned, would that be set up as a real time mirrored server?
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redseatechnologiesCommented:
Yes, the third party software option is the way to go - it is a hot solution, so there is little or no downtime.  the cold server is not my preferred option :)

-red
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Thanks again. If we were to go with the cold server, would it then be set up with the same name etc.... os is that not necesary for Exchange recovery?

In a typical environment what do companies do? I mean if they don't have a cold server or if they don't do mirroring, then what's the recovery process?
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Exchange_AdminCommented:
I do not have a cold server nor do I use a 3rd part product.
There are things to consider:
1. How long it will take to restore the databases from backup? This will depend on the size of the databases.
2. How long will it take to rebuild the server if needed?

I DO make sure that I have a good backup proceedure in place.
I do a full Exchange aware backup of the databases every night.
My Exchange server is well documented. This makes it easier to rebuild if needed.
Also the Exchange databases are on a RAID arry so 1 failed drive will not totally bring the server down.

What to do in the case of a failure?
I get the server back up and running ASAP. This means that Exchange will be installed and running.
Then restore your databases.

You could always use a dialtone restore if needed.
This means getting Exchange back up ASAP without the databases in place. This way at least users will be able to send and receive emails.
Then restore your backup to the Recovery Storage Group.
After that you can start restoring the data into the mailboxes from the RSG. The users can still "work" and the data will just appear in their mailboxes.
This would be the the quickest to get the users up an going again, but initially they will not have any email data.

There is no hard and fast answer. It all depends on what your time frame is.

Russ
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Russ - Awesome answer - thank you. We use Veritas 9 for Exchange backup and we do run a full backup nightly. In our case most of our users are set up as POP3 so very little email is on the server.

We also have RAID so we do have the safety netb as well.

Only reason for asking about a cold server is because we have a couple oif very good servers available that could be used for that purpose.

So I guess my only question at this point is since we have a server available for a backup server, how should that be configured? Should it be named exactly as the original Exchange and also same IP?

I would think not - since the computer account would conflict - but if it's just a member server maybe it doesn't? Not sure.

Lastly - if an Exchange server is installed as a member server - how exactly do the AD user accounts come onto the exchange server? I realize that I can have the Exchange tool on a AD server to set up the email address, but I am not sure I understand how exactly a member Exchange server communicates with an AD server and updates its records. (Currently our Exchange server is an AD - but once we upgrade it will be just a member.)

Thanks.
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Exchange_AdminCommented:
If your Exchange server is a DC, then it would not be wise to create a cold server. Why? The AD would not get updated since it is offline.
It is also not recommended to install Exchange on a DC. However that is just a recomendstion. In a Small Business Server environment Exchange is on the DC. It is also not recommended to demote a DC that has Exchange on it to a member server.
You also do not want to rename an Exchange server. This will break Exchange.
Now to answer your questions:
"So I guess my only question at this point is since we have a server available for a backup server, how should that be configured? Should it be named exactly as the original Exchange and also same IP?"
The cold server would have to have the EXACT same name and IP address. since there cannot be 2 machines with the same name or IP address on a network at the same time, the original server will have to be turned off while the "cold" server is configured.

"how exactly do the AD user accounts come onto the exchange server?"
AD accounts do not "come onto an Exchange server."
All AD accounts are stored on DC's. When Exchange is installed the AD schema is extended to include the Exchange attributes. Exchange determines the AD information by asking a Global Catalog (GC) server.

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redseatechnologiesCommented:
I think mentioning a cold server was a bad idea.  How I would implement it, if you really wanted to do that instead of some kind of replication, would be to install windows on this cold server, and keep it up to date - that's it.  Now if server 1 dies, you need to change the name of this cold server, join the domain, install exchange and then restore from backup.  It would save a little time, I suppose.

Then again, Russ is right, if your Exchange server is a DC, life becomes a lot more difficult.  I would be working on fixing that first.

With replication and backups and availability, you really need to decide the worth.  How bad would 2 hours of downtime be during business hours?  Not the end of the world?  Then a rebuild would be good bang for buck.  If you need constant uptime, then you will need to do something else.

-red
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Thank you both.

One final question.

When I upgrade my current Exchange server from 2K to 2K3, I will be installing it as a member server. My domain is already a Windows 2003 domain. But I assume now that I am installing a Exchange 2003 I would need to extend the AD schema to include Exchange 2003 correct? How is this done, since I will not be installing a new DC.
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redseatechnologiesCommented:
>>I would need to extend the AD schema to include Exchange 2003 correct?

That is correct, and done with forestprep and domainprep -> http://www.msexchange.org/tutorials/Forestprep-Domainprep-Explained.html

-red
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Red.

Since my new Exchange server is not going to be an AD - will forestprep and domainprep be run on any DC using the Exchange CD?
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redseatechnologiesCommented:
Any computer in the domain will do it, but generally I run it on a DC.

Considering that you should be installing the Exchange System Tools on the DCs anyway, you may as well run the prep tools on a DC.

And, just so you know, we are miles and miles away from the initial question here.

-red
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cfgchiranAuthor Commented:
Thank you again for all your answers. And yes I agree with Red that I have gone aways from my original question. Therefore I have increased the point value of this question and awarded it accordingly.

Thank you.
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