How do I solve an Exchange Information Store size problem?

Consider the following scenario:

I have an Exchange 2003 server on an SBS 2003 server. The physical server is a Dell PowerEdge 850, with a single Windows Mirrored Volume (2 x 80 GB). Because of growing email storage, we have outgrown the HD capacity that we have.

Management would like a technological solution, instead of using PST files. I would like to move the information store to a new drive. I don't have space in the server for additional hard disks. I was thinking of breaking the mirror, putting in a new, larger drive in position 2, and then I could recreate the mirror with the 80 GB, and then have lots of free space for the information store. But, that means I lose the redundancy of having my information store on the mirrored volume. Is there a better solution?

Is it okay to lose that redundancy? How viable is recovering the information store from that mirror anyway? In what situations would this be recommended? In what situations would it not be a good solution? I haven't ever performed the above operation, hence my questions. The information store is backed up every night to tape.

Thanks for any input.
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Alan HardistyConnect With a Mentor Co-OwnerCommented:
Hi rwagnon
You can clone the existing drives onto a USB drive - it will be a little slower than to a local disk, but totally workable.
  • Install BESRS software (or similar product)
  • Attach USB Drive
  • Disconnect server from LAN (to stop data being written to after the backup has completed)
  • Run NTBackup and backup the system state to USB drive or to local disk then copy to USB drive
  • Run BESRS full system backup to USB drive
  • Switch off server
  • Replace disks
  • Switch on server
  • Create RAID 1 (mirrored disks) Array and initialise (RAID info is stored on disks not controller so there will be no Array config to view).
  • Boot server from Windows 2003 CD and add Drivers for RAID controller from floppy (Press F6 at relevant prompt)
  • Create Volumes on the new disk array
  • Make sure backup USB drive is attached
  • Restart server from BESRS recovery CD
  • Install RAID controller drivers (from floppy)
  • Recover server partitions from USB drive to volumes created.
  • Reboot server
  • Check OS is happy
  • Plug in LAN cable
Any problems - post here and I will respond asap.
You definitely want redundancy when it comes to the information store.

How about removing one of the 80GB drives, replace it with something larger, rebuild the mirror, repeat with the other 80GB drive, then dynamically increase the size of the mirror to the new size of the drives.

I don't know if you can extend the mirror from within Windows, you may have to purchase a third-party tool like Partition Manager.
Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
If you use a tool such as Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server (BESRS) or similar to clone the existing drives, then swap the drives to bigger ones, rebuild the RAID mirror, then boot from the BESRS recovery disks and put the images back on the new drives, you will have much more space to play with and very little down time.  You can then expand the drive to fil the empty space and have room to breathe.
This is probably the safest way to tackle this.
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rwagnonAuthor Commented:
I was thinking about extending the volume.

This is from Microsoft:
Only the extension of data volumes is supported. System or boot volumes may be blocked from being extended, and you may receive the following error:
"Diskpart failed to extend the volume. Please make sure the volume is valid for extending."

Does anyone have direct experience using BESRS or something similar to perform this operation? And will it have issues because this is the boot volume?
Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
BESRS will allow you to change the volume size on a server once you have changed the disks - done this several time myself all successfully.
The OS volume can be adjusted with Paragon's Partition Manager Server software which I have used again, many times without a problem.
If you opt for the Paragon, make sure you take a full backup first and run a disk check too.
How do you envisage extending the drive?  You need bigger disks first.
KISS folks

If you are taking the exchange box down to do this, DISPART WILL fix it jsut fine.

The limitation against system, boot and swap volumes is simply that these volumes, unlike data volumes have files which cant be closed.

Just chuck the drive in another machine as drive D:
run diskpart
extend the volume
put it back nad boot up.

I do this al lthe time and it works on physical and virtual harddrives the same.

That said, how about virtualizing that exchange box and turning your harddrives into files?

Just ran out of space on Exchange last weekend, took about 3 mins to create a new 200 gig volume, and then migrated users to the new store.

Take a look at eVMware ESXi (free) as the base OS. get yourself something like a Dell 2950 with 6 fast SAS drives in it and start virtualizng the rest of your servers too!

Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
@dnilson - Your suggestion - which sounds elegant, does not get over the fact that the disks are full.
If you are suggesting to remove a drive and replace it with a larger one, let the array rebuild, then pull another drive and replace it with a similar sized drive to the first, let that re-mirror and then use DISKPART to extend the volume into the free space, it it worth mentioning the full procedure, not just the last part.
@rwagnon - your suggestion to break the mirror and replace just one drive is not a good idea - you would be better if you follow my advice above and then follow dnilson's advice which I have never tried, but on reading more about DISKPART sounds totally workable.
rwagnonAuthor Commented:

I like your BESRS idea. Management would pay for software + 2 new disks...   Can I clone the existing drive onto a USB disk or onto a network location, I assume?  I don't have anywhere else to put it.


I wouldn't mind doing what you suggest, with one major hesitation. I have experimented before with trying to boot to one half of a Windows Mirrored Volume... and I couldn't get it to boot, at least not without first booting to a floppy disk with the boot.ini and ntldr on it. Tried it several times on a test machine. Never could solve that one.  Research on Technet basically led me to believe that a Windows mirror should be used for data redundancy-- but don't expect a bootable disk if your primary one fails. So, the idea of putting in a new disk and rebuilding the array and then the other new disk and rebuilding the array and then expanding with DiskPart turns me off... because I'm worried that I might not be left with a bootable disk. While not damaging my original disk, it would burn up a lot of hours/$.  I've heard some people say they got it to work, but I would need to successfully test it myself before trying it on a production machine.

Any thoughts?
my suggestion on how to use DISKPART was in response to the issue where the data had already been migrated / cloned to the new drive and all that remained was to extend the partition

As such I only reported on the missing peice which avoided all the other steps that were being suggested to expand the drive

Thought that was pretty clear
Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Reading it back - it could be read that way or it could be read that this was your response to the question as this was your first post.
Now that I know the response is relating to expanding the disks, it makes total sense and I thank you for the info which was new to me.
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