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Building a test enviroment for Exchange

Posted on 2007-12-05
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Last Modified: 2008-06-12
Hello Experts,

I have a project at hand that I need your help with. I need to build a test environment for our Exchange environment. Currently, I have two production Exchange servers A and B, in two different physical sites. I have backups of the .stm and .edb databases for both servers. Here's what I'm thinking:

1) I plan on isolating the test environment from the production environment. No internet access.
2) I have pretty robust HP server where all my test environment will live. I plan on using virtual machines for both Exchange exchange servers as well as the domain controller. (Hardware is enough for this)

Is this a good approach or is there a more efficient approach to building this test environment? Also, how do I make a replica of one of the domain controllers as well as DNS server for this environment? I know that it has to do with the system state, but I've never had to replicate a domain controller.

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:bndit
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Expert Comment

by:Sembee
ID: 20415856
What I do with domain controller creation is quite simple.

1. Build a new virtual server and add it to the production domain.
2. Make it a domain controller, global catalog etc.
3. Leave it on the network for a day to replicate.
4. Shut down the domain controller.
5. Copy the virtual machine to another location.
6. Start up the original server again and then DCPROMO it out so it is a member server. Drop it in to a workgroup and then delete it.

7. Start up the copy, making sure that you have isolated it from the network.
8. Seize the FSMO roles.

To install Exchange, build new virtual machines with the same names as the production and do a disaster recovery installation.

Simon.
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by:bndit
ID: 20416087
Hi Simon,

Thanks for the quick response. I have a few questions...(please bare with me as I'm not an AD expert)

1. Build a new virtual server and add it to the production domain. ** When you say "add it to the production domain" you're asking me to join the server to my production domain, correct? In other words, if my domain is ABC.com, I need to join this server to the ABC.com. **

2. Make it a domain controller, global catalog etc.  ** I get this step. **

3. Leave it on the network for a day to replicate. ** I get this step. This will synch with the AD database. How about the DNS database? This server will be its own DNS server as well. **

4. Shut down the domain controller.

5. Copy the virtual machine to another location. ** If I create my vm in its permanent location, there's no need to move it, correct? **

6. Start up the original server again and then DCPROMO it out so it is a member server. Drop it in to a workgroup and then delete it. ** I'm confused here. Which DC are you asking me to demote? I don't think this applies to me since I'm not demoting any of my production DCs. I'm only making a replica of my DC so that I can use it in a test environment. Please clarify **

7. Start up the copy, making sure that you have isolated it from the network. ** I get this step. **

8. Seize the FSMO roles. ** Please provide me with more info on this step as I'm not familiar with the process. Maybe a MS KB will do. **


To install Exchange, build new virtual machines with the same names as the production and do a disaster recovery installation.  ** Again, if you have a reference for this step, I would really appreciate it. **
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Accepted Solution

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Sembee earned 600 total points
ID: 20416222
You will need to add the DNS functionality so that it can be replicated across. I was being rather brief on my instructions, I had hoped you had realised it was a complete domain controller including DNS.

I didn't say MOVE the machine. I said COPY. You want two copies of that machine - the original which will be used on the live network again and the copy for use in your test domain.

Basically you don't want your live production domain to have a missing domain controller. By copying the domain controller machine you can gracefully remove the domain controller from the live production domain. That will keep the live domain clean.
 
I doesn't matter which copy you demote as they are identical. However the other one will be intact and still a domain controller - which is why it is very important that you isolate that machine from the live network.

Google SEIZE FSMO and you will find the steps involved - both form Microsoft and others.
Google Exchange disasterrecovery switch (note the lack of space in disaster recovery) and the entire first page explains how to do it. There is plenty of choice, so you can select which one suits you.

Simon.
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