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DR PLAN - with 2nd DC and 2nd Exchange 2003

Posted on 2009-04-28
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I'm planning a DR strategy.  Please forgive me for asking stupid questions.  

My organization is small with <20 users and one single domain.  I am in a 100% Windows 2003 environment with one Exchange 2003.  I have a singe PDC and that's it.  The whole domain works perfectly with no problems plus Exchange 2003 is working great also.  My goal is to set up an offsite location.  

Since my organization is so small, I have decided to set up a secondary DC with another Exchange 2003 offsite.  Both networks will have the same IP network of 192.168.50.x.

I read this article on setting up a secondary DC and I have no problem with the instructions.
 http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Server/Windows_2003_Active_Directory/Q_22987007.html#a20364083

My only question regarding setting up the 2nd DC is do I have the give both servers the same name somehow?  The PDC is called (SRV1) and I want to call the 2nd DC (DR-SRV1)

My real problem comes with installing the second Exchange 2003 on the same subnet.  Since this is going to be an offsite location Exchange server, I want to restore my InformationStore to the new EXCH server connecting to the secondary DC every couple of days so it will have all the latest records. (Don't worry, my InfoStore is small so it's not a problem)

1) After I have gone through all the steps of creating a secondary DC, do I need to run forestprep and domainprep before I install Exch?  Remember, this is a second Exchange that I do not want to start accepting emails until I start pointing all the MX records to it and thats only if the first Exchange dies on me.  
2) Is there a special way to install EXCH so it's tied to the secondary DC? (If so, can you point me to specific instructions?)
3) Do you have to name the MailBox the same as the primary EXCH? I plan on using the default which is what the Primary Exch uses but it has the ([server name]) after the Mailbox Store.  Example:  Mailbox Store (SRV2).  Since this is a new server at the offsite location, I was going to name the server (DR-SRV2).  Will this cause a problem?

If I can get all this set up, I want to be able to cut the VPN connection off and pretend a total disaster and login as a user and see if I can see my mailbox.  

Ultimately if the test goes well, I am going to use CA XOsoft to replicate the Exchange servers.  They said if I can set up the Exchange servers correctly, their software will replicate with no problems.

I threw a lot out there and I hope someone can give me some guidance.
Thanks!
Phil
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Question by:pvong
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by:Mestha
ID: 24255919
Exchange is highly sensitive to the domain name and the machine name.
You cannot have two machines with the same name on the domain.

For small companies what I would usually suggest is that you have a domain controller live, and the Exchange server half built, with the Exchange installation files on it. So the machine would have a different name, and not be a member of the domain.
In the event of a DR being required, the machine would be renamed, the original machine account reset and then Exchange reinstalled using the DR options. Finally the database restored. That would get you back to a point of the last backup.

There is no free solution for having both Exchange servers running at the same time and the data replicating. The simple rule of thumb is that the longer you can be without the system the cheaper it is.

Furthermore, once you have done the DR, the original site would be unusable, or the DR site could not be connected back to the production. You would therefore have to go through the procedure to remove that second domain controller in the same way you would remove a dead DC - because that is effectively what it is. If you reconnect it to production then the DR work will be replicated across and you will have a mess.

Simon.
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Paka earned 2000 total points
ID: 24289999
Are you planning on having this two sites connected and up all of the time?  I'm assuming the answer is yes.  If that's the case, here are the answers to your questions:

My only question regarding setting up the 2nd DC is do I have the give both servers the same name somehow?  The PDC is called (SRV1) and I want to call the 2nd DC (DR-SRV1)

- They will have to be different names if they are both connected to the network at the same time.

My real problem comes with installing the second Exchange 2003 on the same subnet.  Since this is going to be an offsite location Exchange server, I want to restore my InformationStore to the new EXCH server connecting to the secondary DC every couple of days so it will have all the latest records. (Don't worry, my InfoStore is small so it's not a problem)

1) After I have gone through all the steps of creating a secondary DC, do I need to run forestprep and domainprep before I install Exch?  Remember, this is a second Exchange that I do not want to start accepting emails until I start pointing all the MX records to it and thats only if the first Exchange dies on me.

If both locations are part of the same domain, you only have to run forestprep/domainprep once.

2) Is there a special way to install EXCH so it's tied to the secondary DC? (If so, can you point me to specific instructions?)

-Given your constraints, I would perform just a basic install of the second server (generic name, not a domain member, with a good IP - to test connectivity).  When the disaster happens, then you would reset the computer account on the off-site DC, change the IP of the standby Exchange server to the IP of the production server and run an Exchange install with the /disasterrecovery switch (you wouldn't be able to bring the old server back online after you did this - because your standby server would completely assume the identity of the old server).  After the install with /disasterrecovery was complete, you would be able to restore the message stores and resume operations.  Although you should be able to reverse this procedure to get back to your production configuration, it entails some risk.

3) Do you have to name the MailBox the same as the primary EXCH? I plan on using the default which is what the Primary Exch uses but it has the ([server name]) after the Mailbox Store.  Example:  Mailbox Store (SRV2).  Since this is a new server at the offsite location, I was going to name the server (DR-SRV2).  Will this cause a problem?

-The Exchange server name, storage group and mailbox names will have to be identical for this to work (unless you run Recovery Storage Group (or Exmerge) to bring the backups into the new server).  To minimize the downtime, the /disasterrecovery would be faster since it uses AD to recreate the Exchange server, storage groups, mailbox stores, GUIDs, etc...  Since you will be using the production IP, you wouldn't have to change MX records or wait for a TTL for an MX change, mail delivery would be as soon as your /disasterrecovery reboot was complete.

If I can get all this set up, I want to be able to cut the VPN connection off and pretend a total disaster and login as a user and see if I can see my mailbox.

- Since the free method is pretty nasty, you should really consider paying the $$$ and going with a commercial solution.  I've run the /disasterrecovery method a couple times and you'll want to run this in a lab several times before you do it in a production environment.

Ultimately if the test goes well, I am going to use CA XOsoft to replicate the Exchange servers.  They said if I can set up the Exchange servers correctly, their software will replicate with no problems.

- As shown above, there's quite a bit more to a DR solution than a replication software.

Since you have a pretty small environment, have you looked into just virtualizing everything into a couple VMware VMX files on VMware server and just moving them back and forth between sites?
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by:pvong
ID: 24296498
Paka,

Thanks!  Everything you said makes sense to me.  I am running VMWare ESX.  I'll just set up a test network and try everything you said.  I don't think I'll have any problems.  Thanks again for all your help.
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