Exchange 2007, Distributed file system vs. Terminal Services - multiple sites

Posted on 2009-02-09
Last Modified: 2013-12-02
All servers in this scenario are or will be running MS Server 2003 or MS Server 2008 and, when applicable, Exchange 2007.

I currently have 3 sites in our WAN - Admin (13 PCs), Site2 (10 PCs) and Site3 (10 PCs).  I also have a couple of laptops that move around within the organization.  I have about 50 users in AD.  I currently have 1 Exchange Server that is also a Domain Controller (I know MS doesn't recommend this) and soon-to-be also a file & print server.

Site2 & Site3 have very slow response for Outlook & shared file access.  I have 2 main goals:  1 - Increase speed at Sites1 & 2; and 2 - Have data replicated at the three sites so we have near-zero down time in the event of a catastrophe at Admin.  I have conflicting recommendations from contractors.

My thinking is to build 2 new servers, each with Exchange and have 3 Exchange servers - one at each of the 3 sites.  These same servers would host AD & DFS to keep a copy of all shared files at all 3 locations.  Users would then authenticate, receive e-mail and access shared files on their respective LANs.  The WAN would be utilized to replicate e-mail and shared files - and to access the Internet.

One contractor thinks the above scenario is OK, but has doubts that I am protected in case of catastrophe.  If all 3 servers have replicas of all the relevant data, where am I unprotected?  I understand the e-mail delivery point would have to be changed.

Contractor two thinks the above scenario will bring the WAN connection at Admin to a crawl and cause Admin personnel large delays in their Internet access.  (I currently have 384k upload speed, but can increase this to 768k.  Download is currently 3M, but I can increase to 6M.)  This contractor suggests converting to terminal services, having all users access the term server at Admin for everything.   I think this is riskier due to the single point of contact.  We have volume licenses for XP & Office 2007 and can purchase the term server CAL's for $6 each, so we could convert to term servers if that's the best option.  Would I place mirrored servers at Admin for data protection?  Would I want/need domain controllers at the branches (we have none now)?  Would my first scenario really make the WAN at Admin crawl?  

Regarding e-mail, is there a better solution than on-site Exchange servers, assuming Exchange is the software, and full Oulook functionality is desired (i.e. not OWA)?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
Question by:sksaathoff
    LVL 9

    Accepted Solution

    I could see why contractor 2 has some concerns. 3 exchange servers for 50 users seems a bit much. And 3 sites all replicating information. If I were in a simliar situation I'd feel less than confident running all this on anything less than a T1. Replicating between 3 sites...I'd fear that this would take all day...every day. You already have slow response for outlook and shared file access. imagine that 3-fold.  Even doubling your upload wouldn't correct for this.
    LVL 6

    Assisted Solution

    #1. DFS does not replicate files. FRS does. And it does it poorly - expessially if you7 have a large amount of data, check into the exact limits but it is like 100GB or so before it just stops working.

    #2. 3 email servers wouldn't  provide you any redundancy, it just means if one goes down only the accounts on the server are affected.

    And to answer your question about hosted exchange services, yes they exist. for example:
    you still connect with Outlook, and your users really won't knoiw the difference.
    LVL 15

    Assisted Solution

    There are apps such as Replistor that allow you to replicate Exchange Databases (and regular files) to a DR server.  I think XOsoft is another.  Another issue you can run into with replicated files that are accessed from multiple sites is conflicts in editing, e.g. user A modifies a file in NY and saves it, and user B modifies the file in London and saves it.  When replication completes, the final copy is the one that was saved last.

    Turning on Exchange Caching for your Outlook users can improve things as Outlook won't have to download the entire mailbox everytime it connects to the server.  Depending on your locations and how much actual file activity is occurring you may have significant improvement by simply upping your bandwidth -- assuming you don't have latency issues due to distance such as from NY to London.

    So, you have a couple of issues you're trying to deal with here.  You have to prioritize them before you can come up with a solution that's a good fit.  Is Business Continuity more important than user satisfaction?

    All things being equal, I like the idea of using terminal services or Citrix because if you do it right, you can cut down on your end user support significantly, decrease hardware costs, and improve accessibility to your systems.  Combine that with a DR file server, DR Exchange Server, and DR Terminal Server and you'd be in good shape.  If your users aren't using any real intensive applications you could probably get 30-50 on a beefy server.


    Author Closing Comment

    Thank you very much for your help.  It looks like we're going to use a Citrix solution.

    Author Comment

    Based on the above and additional consultations, we are going with a Citrix-based solution.

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