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Ideas regarding creating a "Hot Spare Server"

Posted on 2007-10-07
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Well, to be frank, even a warm or cold spare server would probably do the job, but still...

A client of mine has a Win2K3 SBS server that does so much for them. Domain, Email, File Storage, Print Server... currently, we perform tape backup using Veritas with Exchange agent, we have a second domain controller (a Win2K Server box), and I do occasional VMWare converter clones of both servers (although I have never tried to boot them up). Regardless, I bet that we are looking at some serious downtime if the main server has a catastrophic failure of some sort.

I think my dream solution would be a hot spare server, running identical (or close enough) hardware, that just sits there, mirroring every change on the original server and can step in when needed. the switch over need not be automatic, mind you...

I am envisioning it as a RAID 1, but of servers, not drives.

Cost is definitely a factor (as always). But I can make a pretty compelling case to spend a few grand.

Let me know if I can provide more details. I encourage any and all theoretical posts. 3rd party product suggestions are welcome.

Thanks and I look forward to your thoughts.
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Question by:kommgroup
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Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy earned 500 total points
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Your concerns are not unusual.  While there is a provision in the SBS License for a Cold Spare Server (if you have Software Assurance), it's still not a very practical backup method in my opinion.

Also, your "dream solution" isn't practical, but there are some solutions which will accomplish the task even better (in my opinion).

One thing to consider is that having an identical server onsite only protects you against hardware failure, it doesn't do a thing for major disaster such as fire.  Protecting yourself against hardware failure can actually be done more efficiently than having a full ready-to-go server.  First, you need to make sure that your current server is properly provisioned for the task.  Then, you can keep backup parts of the things that could potentially cause a full crash --  motherboard, power supply, hard drives.  Then, make sure your hard drive configuration is redundant enough for your needs.  Having a hot-swapable RAID is generally a good idea.

I recently spoke to one person who was using a hot-swapable RAID-1 with two drives and he would remove one of the drives each week and rotate it with one at home.  It's a way to have a weekly off-site backup, but doing that nightly would probably be too much of a drain to have to rebuild that mirror every day.  If you don't do it every day, you can lose a weeks worth of work if you have to restore.

But, better than having all that spare hardware would be to have a backup that you can restore to ANY hardware.  And that's fairly simple and affordable with Acronis True Image Server with Universal Restore.  You can get it separately and it will do nice incremental images which can be mounted and back up running within about 30 minutes from a total server failure, or you can get the Acronis Powered Sonicwall CDP Appliance which can either store the backup onsite or offsite and have you back up and running almost immediately if necessary.

Acronis True Image: http://www.acronis.com/enterprise/products/ATISWin/
Sonicwall CDP:  http://www.sonicwall.com/us/backup_and_recovery.html

Just FYI, even if you just use the built-in SBS Backup with a rotation of 3 USB Hard Drives, you can restore your backup in less than 3 hours or so to "similar" hardware.  See http://sbsurl.com/backup for the overview of what's needed for this.

Jeff
TechSoEasy
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