SBS 2003 services unavailable during halted backup to external hard drive

Hello all,

We have a client with a new HP ProLiant ML350 G5; SATA RAID 5 array; HP tape backup; Buffalo Technologies DriveStation external 500gb HD. About every 3-4 weeks, the BackupAssist-based backup (which uses NT Backup) to the external drive stops at some point during the backup with a red light on the backup drive. At that point, Exchange and SBS stops connecting to Outlook clients and is unavailable for incoming/outgoing mail via port 25. Also, the server is unavailable to login to either locally or RDP/VNC.

The last time this occurred, the server was forced to shutdown manually via the power switch, which we didn't want to do, but there was no other alternative we could come up with. The big problem we encounter, though, is during the time the server is 'mostly' unavailable several Thomson-based accounting programs (like Client Solutions) allow access to specific client Microsoft Access-based databases. After forcing the server to quit, any individual client databases that were open during that 'mostly' not working time get corrupted, even though the Thomson programs have been closed properly on the client end. Obviously they are not properly closing on the server end.

Other piece of information is that we had this problem once or twice on the previous HP ProLiant ML310 server that was recently replaced. It used the same HP tape backup and Buffalo Technologies HD as the new server.

Can we safely assume that the hard drive in question is the most likely culprit, given the circumstances? We have never had an issue like this with similarly configured servers at other client offices. Before we tell the client they need to buy a new hard drive, we would like to verify that it sounds reasonable that this is the problem. Given that we have had identical problems on two independent servers, it seems like the hard drive is the most-likely problem. BackupAssist software just schedules for NT Backup, so I am less likely to suspect that.

Any other ideas?


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Haev you checked all the relevant Event logs for more info on what exactly is happening ?
What about the backup logs ?

I hope this helps !
What about trying to run the backup assist program to another machine instead of to the hard disk. So map a drive with enough space and then backup to it - if you crash again then its not the drive (oh and make sure the drive is disconnected). If backup crashes then it is most likely software but if not then hard drive or something related to the connectivity of the hard disk is causing the problem.

Other option is if you have the space backup locally to the same server, will be faster than to another machine but should provide the same results.


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JAStillwellAuthor Commented:
SysExpert/Michael: I'll check the event logs, but for the couple minutes I could get on the server via the console, it told me that the backup had failed most likely due to a hardware problem with the "S:" drive (that's the Buffalo DriveStation). Once I get the server rebooted again, I'll check the Event Viewer.

I am going to replace the hard drive since that is the only common denominator on both versions of this server. The new server was installed from scratch and all software was installed individually (that is, I didn't clone the old one).

Is there any way to get the server to reboot without manually shutting it off? I was in the console, but when I tried to access My Computer, it just sat there. Eventually it asked if I wanted to close Explorer.exe. I told it 'OK' and since then I just have a blank screen with the mouse moving on it. I have limited access to the share on the server where all the company data is stored, but access is slow. I have shut off the backup drive and would like to do a clean reboot, but I don't know if I'm able to do that.

Any ideas how to get a clean reboot based on the above info?

You could try a shutdown -r -f -m \\servername

Run that from another machine but you must be logged in as admin or run the cmd prompt using admin rights.

Sometimes I also use computer manager from another machine and connect to the server then shut down the services I know are causing me problems sometimes the server comes back. If all else fails use ILO or the big ole button on the front.
JAStillwellAuthor Commented:
We have removed the offending external hard drive and put it on a workstation. We were unable to get the server to shutdown properly, so we had to hard boot it which created all kinds of database corruption. I did have the staff backup everything they were working on locally, however, so the downtime was minimal.

I have been backing up to a workstation on the network and so far so good. Since this problem occurred in the exact same manner on a completely different old server, it makes sense that there is some sort of problem (software or hardware) on the external hard drive. My concern is that this might happen again with another hard drive. We have numerous external hard drives setup for client backups, so I guess I shouldn't be paranoid because of one particular hard drive.

Thanks for your comments on this one! I'm throwing the points at mickinoz2005 thanks to the comprehensive answers.
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