SBS 2003 in a cluster

Posted on 2008-06-15
Last Modified: 2012-06-21
I have a client with a server running SBS 2003 premium with 8 client PCs which has recently played up, causing a few days disruption to the business. We are considering methods of mimimising this risk in future, I thought of running another server in a cluster to have an automatic failover.
I have a few questions:
Can you use SBS 2003 to create a cluster?
Do you have to buy additional software?
Do both  servers in the cluster need to be identical?
Do I have to set up external file storage?
Is there a better option using some other method?
Obviously this is a small firm so the IT budget is not enormous.
They also have 2 offices, currently both running from the same server, the second office only has 1 user and is about 100 yds up the road, they have an external WiFi link between the 2 which works OK but the speed is poor. Ideally I'd like to put the second server in the second office to improve performance for that user but I don't know if this is feasible.

Any help or suggestions to an alternative solution would be much appreciated.
Question by:pcmwales
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LVL 58

Assisted Solution

tigermatt earned 90 total points
ID: 21788119
In short, no, an SBS server cannot be clustered. It has been designed specifically for small businesses, and as part of that design, Microsoft did not see it necessary to include clustering features. In fact, you have to purchase the Enterprise versions of Windows Server (which cost a lot) in order to access clustering technologies, so the cheap - in comparison - SBS software isn't going to have this sort of support built-in. Here's some more information:

There are ways and means of attempting to make the link to your other office a bit better, though. You could easily install another server in the other office, but it must be running Windows Server 2003/2008 Standard Edition. You cannot have more than 1 SBS server in the domain, otherwise you get all sorts of issues. Once you've installed your server, you would configure features such as DFS - to have the documents for the user who works in the remote office replicated over to the remote server. You could do this with his profile too. The advantage of using DFS is all the changes are replicated back to the SBS, so you can just back everything up in one central location.


Author Comment

ID: 21788696
Thanks very much for the info, I suspected SBS wasn't compatible. You mention DFS and replicating the profile, if we did that for all the users, would the 2nd server be able to continue in the event of a failure of the 1st?
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Accepted Solution

tigermatt earned 90 total points
ID: 21788704
Since the second server is a DC, you could replicate all the data and use a DFS namespace published in the domain for accessing the data. In that case, the second server could continue in place of the first server if necessary - since you would access all data using \\domain\namespace, the workstations would detect the SBS was not available and use the other server.

The only thing which would not replicate across is Exchange - that is something which must be left on the SBS.

I've posted below for your information the standard procedure for adding a second DC to your domain as an additional DC. If your SBS isn't R2 and the new server is running Server 2003 R2 (or Server 2008), you will need to follow the adprep procedure, otherwise, you don't need to.


Install Windows Server 2003 R2 onto the new server which is intended to be promoted as a Domain Controller. Ensure the new server is assigned a routable static IP address on your IP subnet. Ensure the IP address is not included in any of your existing DHCP scopes. The only DNS server entry at this stage should be the IP address of the existing domain controller on your network.

After installation, join the new machine to the existing domain as a member server. This procedure is exactly the same as joining a workstation to the domain.

You might not need to do this, it depends on if you are using Server 2003 R2 with a non-R2 SBS, or Server 2008 with Server 2003 on the 2nd server! Since you are upgrading the Operating System on the new Domain Controller, you will need to add some values to the existing Active Directory schema, in order for the new server to become a Domain Controller. Windows Server 2003 R2 supports more functionality than before, so a schema upgrade for the domain and forest is required to facilitate this and make this new feature set fully functional on the domain. To make the necessary changes, you must be logged on as the built-in Administrator user account, or a user with Domain, Schema and Enterprise Admin privileges.  Insert the Windows Server 2003 R2 media into your current server . Open a command prompt and browse to CD-Rom Drive:\CMPNENTS\R2\ADPREP. (on Disk 2 of Windows 2003 R2 media). Execute the command adprep /forestprep.  Next, execute adprep /domainprep . You must be logged on as a Domain Admin user for these steps to work correctly. Once these commands have run your Active Directory schema will have been extended to support Windows Server 2003 R2 as a Domain Controller.

The next step is to promote the new server as a Domain Controller for the domain. Enter dcpromo at a command prompt and follow the wizard. When prompted, select the option for an additional domain controller in an existing domain. After the wizard completes, the new server will be acting as a Domain Controller for your domain. It is necessary at this point to restart the server for these changes to be applied.

In a single-domain Active Directory forest, all servers should also be Global Catalog servers. The Global Catalog is a required component of Active Directory which is used during logins to establish universal group membership for a user account. To promote the new server as a Global Catalog, open Active Directory Sites and Services from the Administrative Tools container within Control Panel or on the Start Menu. Double-click Sites, then Servers, followed by the name of the new server. Next, right-click "NTDS Settings" and select Properties. On the General tab, check the Global Catalog checkbox. Restart the new Domain Controller for changes to take effect.

DNS is a critical component of your Active Directory network. The easiest way to install the DNS role onto the new server is to follow the instructions outlined at You should be already using Active Directory-integrated DNS zones, which is the easiest method of allowing DNS replication to occur - DNS information is stored in Active Directory and replicates with Domain Controller replication traffic. To check if your DNS zones are AD-integrated (and convert them if not), please follow

You probably want to enable DNS forwarding in the DNS console on the server, too. This forwards lookups for external domains to a DNS server at your ISP, which allows the server to effectively resolve DNS for external domains. More information on forwarders can be found at

LVL 77

Assisted Solution

by:Rob Williams
Rob Williams earned 35 total points
ID: 21789483
Another option you might want to consider is software like Symantec's new "Backup Exec System Recovery Windows Small Business Server Edition ". Though  I am not a fan of Symantec products I was impressed with the demo I saw of this product. What is a little bit unique about it is it allows you to restore to different hardware or to a virtual machine. Technically you could be back up and running as fast as you could copy over the image. It is designed specifically for SBS, unlike most. They have a full 30 day demo version available.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31467322
Thanks for your help, it was very useful. It's easy to get lost in the forest! I think the easiest solution for this case is to keep a standby server and use the Symantec backup, I hope this one's easier to install and use than 11D which I've used before. The write up sounds great, I've downloaded the demo.

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