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Running 2 exchange servers on a single domain

Posted on 2008-06-19
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I have just bought a server to run my exchange 2003. Originally I was going to retire the old server but have now discovered that I have a second exchange 2003 licence so could actually run 2 servers.

My network is quite small (70 users on a single domain) so I have no need for 2 servers from a performance point of view. However the idea of increasing our redundancy does appeal to me.

Unfortunately i have no experience of running 2 exchange servers. Can anybody give me a brief overview as to how the servers would interact and give me an idea as to the best way to have them configured so that we could get up and running again as quickly as possible if either one went down.
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Question by:metamatic
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11 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:tigermatt
ID: 21823114
You're network doesn't really sound large enough to warrant configuring a cluster, so I'm not even going to recommend that option.

If you are looking for Exchange redundancy, the other option besides a cluster is to look into a replication software like DoubleTake or XO Soft's WanSync product. This would allow you to replicate mailbox data between the two Exchange Servers in real-time, and potentially have a spare server ready to go if necessary.

http://www.xosoft.com/products/f_WANSyncHAExchange.shtml
http://en.doubletake.com/applications/exchange-recovery.aspx

These products are so clever these days you can have automatic failover and a lot of other features which would be incredibly useful to you.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:metamatic
ID: 21823555
I would rather do this without spending any money. My idea was that my old exchange server could be put to some use as it still has a bit of life left in it and i have the extra licence. Although my network is not large, email is increasingly important to our business and I am under a lot of pressure to avoid any downtime.

I could really do with at least understanding what options I have for the 2 servers. Is a cluster difficult to set up and administer? If i just have the 2 servers running side by side would it speed things up if i needed to restore mailboxes in the event of one of the servers going donw?
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fishadr earned 300 total points
ID: 21823714
As tigermatt say's you would need to implement a third party replication system to replicate data to the spare server, there is no free software on the market that offers this facility.

A normal solution for a large company with money to spend is to implement a clustered solution with the data being on seperate disks, again this is likely to cost money that would be excessive on the size of the orgnization.

The quickest and cheapest option is to install the new server alongside the existing one and share the users over the two servers. i.e. half of the users in each department are on one server and the other's on the other server, both servers can be configured to send to the internet, therefore if one server goes down it will only impact 50% of your staff rather than 100%. Not ideal but is better than nothing
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LVL 58

Expert Comment

by:tigermatt
ID: 21823781
I agree in part with fishadr. You're not going to get a high availability solution running using just Exchange without any third-party products. You must use a replication package for this sort of work.

You could set up a cluster, but it would mean you would have to purchase Enterprise editions of Windows Server AND Exchange - the replication software would be a lot cheaper for you if you don't already have the Enterprise editions of the products.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:metamatic
ID: 21823991
Thanks for the replies. I did not realise that Exchange clustering would need windows server enterprise as well. I don't have this so this really isn't an option.

I suppose the area i would like to understand  is what can be achieved by having the 2 servers running side by side. If I am running with a single exchange server and it dies then I am going to have a fairly complicted restore process. I am either going to have to get the server repaired and then restore if necessary. Or if the server is not easily repairable then I am looking at restoring exchange to different hardware which I believe is not that straight forward. Either way I am looking at a lot of stress and quite a bit of downtime.

However, if I have the 2 servers running side by side i assume that the loss of one server will only lose me the mail boxes on that server. The big question is what are my options for restoring the lost mailboxes to the other server. Is it simply a case of hooking up my backup device and restoring the exchange store to the server that is still running? Surely it can't be that simple!
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LVL 58

Assisted Solution

by:tigermatt
tigermatt earned 200 total points
ID: 21824458
Without spending money, the only option you have is to run the servers side by side hosting different mailboxes. As you say, this will only affect half of the user's, should one server go down.

Provided you have a backup, you can restore this to the other server into an RSG and migrate the mailboxes across to that, should it ever have to be done. Repairing the server and bringing it back online is another option.

-tigermatt
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LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:fishadr
ID: 21887834
How you getting on with this one - Need any more help?
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Author Comment

by:metamatic
ID: 21903286
Sorry for the delay in replying. I do have a couple of further queries.

My plan is to go through the MS knowledge base article 822931 and transfer all the roles and the majority of the mailboxes over to the new server. However, this article assumes the older server will ultimately be retired. In my case it will still be running so is it possible for some of the roles to be held by both servers? (such as in AD you can have more than one global catalogue server)?

Also, I have never used recovery storage groups so could do with pointng towards some resources on this. For example, lets look at the following scenario...

Lets assume that I have follwed the MS article to to the letter (apart from removing the old server). My new server is then up and running as the main exchange server and holds all the mailboxes. If this server dies what are the steps  I need to take to move everything back to the old server?
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LVL 58

Expert Comment

by:tigermatt
ID: 21905357
Here's some info on RSGs: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa998782.aspx
http://www.msexchange.org/tutorials/Exchange_Server_2003_Mailbox_Recovery.html

As for the article, certainly the public folders can have replicas on both servers, but the other roles detailed there tend to only reside on a single server.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:metamatic
ID: 21962307
Thanks for the help guys. I still have some queiries regarding the mechanics of restoring exchange but this is more relevant to my specific backup program so i will raise this as a separate question.
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by:tigermatt
ID: 21965174
You're most welcome, glad it helped :-)
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