Existing Single HD Drive on SBS Server 2003 - Converting to 3 drive RAID ??

Hello --

We are a small catering company in Atlanta and I have a server running Windows SBS 2003 with a single 250 GIG HD that I would like to convert to a RAID array. (Main reason is that even with off site back ups, a HD crash on our server would still be a catastrophe - so I really need the redundancy in place).

My plan is to install TWO new HD's so we will have a total of three drives in the RAID array once it is "converted" but I am smart enough to know that this is not going to be EASY.

Here are the specs: Custom built server (not a name brand) with Intel Core DOU on an Intel Motherboard Model: S3210SH. Existing HD is a Seagate ES.2 SATA 3.0-Gb/s 250-GB; model: ST3250310AS. I have TWO Seagate ST3250310NS's to add in to form my RAID. The server is presently preforming fairly well with no known issues.

* This server functions as our company file server.
* Anything that we do should not alter the file or file folder locations or structure.
* We do not have data capacity issues at this time (I have only used 32Gig of the 250 Gig drive).
* I can not risk a solution that requires, or significantly risks, the need for an OS reload/reconfigure.
* I am one test away from my A+ certification and am pretty comfortable doing most anything from tweaking a registry to replacing a processor – just know that I need to be WAY careful.

I would imagine I may have left out something pertinent; please let me know and I will happily answer.  I have been living on borrowed time and feel a growing sense of urgency to get this done so I can relax about my data!

Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.

-Rhys Buhrman

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would recommend NOT using a RAID 5.  Under the circumstances, it would be a lot safer and easier to implement a SOFTWARE MIRROR (RAID 1).  Simply install a second drive and convert your existing drive to be a dynamic disk.  Do not partition the second drive and just right-click the existing drive and select "add mirror".  

WARNING- MAKE A FULL BACKUP FIRST and do this during a period where you can afford to be down for a little while.  Converting to dynamic SHOULD be painless and quick, requiring nothing more than a reboot.  HOWEVER, I have had experiences (generally rare) where a conversion fails and the server requires a complete restore.

Virtually any other solution would likely be more complicated and even more risky.

Another variation on this - clone the drive to a new disk.  Then install the new disk as the only disk.  Assuming it works fine, make the RAID 1 using that new disk and a SECOND new disk.  Then you have the old disk available to you if the change to dynamic fails and you can quickly and easily restore the server by simply physically re-installing the disk.
ENDIVE_IT_GUYAuthor Commented:
Oh! My bad - I did not know that - now I do. My apologies; thank you for correcting and posting.

ENDIVE_IT_GUYAuthor Commented:
Leew -

The second is the one that seems actually easlier and more likely NOT to require a full restore. Any reason you listed that one 2nd?

I think I need some 3rd party software for the "cloning" correct?

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
By second, you mean cloning the disk vs. making the full backup?

You should make a full backup REGARDLESS.

The cloning came to mind after I wrote the first part.  But in either case, you're converting to dynamic and mirroring.  The other stuff is backup/recovery contingency.

You would need server compatible cloning software.  There are many expensive third party products.  There are some FREE third party and Microsoft products.  Free still costs... maybe not in your checkbook, but in your time - and time is worth money.

Options I'd suggest that are free of license fees:
*Clonezilla - http://clonezilla.org/ (Never used it - cannot say how easy/difficult this will be)
*Microsoft Windows Deployment Server/Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (more specifically, the ImageX component of Windows Vista/7.  ImageX is command line and you should play around and do some test backups and restores first.  But should work - this is what I've been using a lot of late, though I have not specifically cloned a server).  The products I first reference are Microsoft tools for imaging and deployment.  Not SPECIFICALLY for your purpose, but there's no reason they shouldn't work.  And since you're really not touching the "live" drive other than to copy and physically disconnect/maybe reconnect it, the risk should be minimal.
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
Build RAID1 mirror of the two drives and clone your OS and data from single HDD to this RAID1. This manipulation will allow you to avoid using third party tool. Though the double insurance in this case is not overstep.
I would recommend to avoid using dynamic drives. They often bring you problems that are hard to fix.

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
The only problems that Dynamic Disks can bring is in difficulty resizing partitions and possibly, in some likely rare circumstances, data recovery from non-Windows recovery tools.

I recommended a software RAID (which REQUIRES Dynamic Disks) because of the general difficulty in altering the controller configuration and the LIKELY, at least temporary problems in booting upon making the change.  Its simply easier and more likely to be trouble-free using a software mirror.

In GENERAL, I would agree, avoid Dynamic disks... but since this server is already built, there's little good choice.

Frankly, it's unwise to be using a custom built server.  Who are you calling when you have a problem?  What happens when one vendor says it's not our fault, it's the other hardware manufacturer?  Meanwhile, you're sitting there with the server down... You know it's the most important system in the business... it should be under a warranty - a 24x7x365 warranty with 4 hour on-site response.  Who cares about the workstations - the SERVER is CRITICAL.  I would get AS SOON AS POSSIBLE a name brand server with appropriate warranty.  A name brand server comes from a company that can't blame it on some other company when you have a problem.
ENDIVE_IT_GUYAuthor Commented:
This is all great stuff ...  Thank you both for your responses.

1) The idea of cloning and creating the RAID from the cloned drive makes sense on first pass. I have the backups, and worse case the cloned drive won't boot the OS, and I can flip back to the original and punt. I just need to confirm this and then wrap my brain around the precise steps to take before I start.

2) We are a SMALL business - a catering company in a major growth spurt. I of course recommended to the owner that we take the approach you suggested (name brand server with support), but he "had a cousin..."  SO - with my background as a sys-admin, after a ton of research, and being generally smart enough I "specced" a server for the "cousin" to build. (I personally built the workstations - all four are working perfectly I am proud to say) The server however was NOT built correctly of course, (OKAY - that extra cooling fan SHOULD BE PLUGGED IN, right!?) and after a couple months of "BSODs" twelve times a day, and all the resulting attempts to do this and that, I made the cousin send me a new mother board, processor and new memory, and totally rebuilt the dang thing myself! Then I reloaded and re-configured the OS from the ground up. That was 15 uneventful months ago. I always wanted it to have a RAID - again we are a small company; and the server is JUST a file server right now - BUT that will change and I want to get this thing beefed up. Hence the desire to re-configure the RAID.

Thank you again.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you spec'd the hardware, turn it into a workstation.

Then buy a new name brand system.  I realize convincing the owner may be another story, but your experience so far should be an excellent argument as to why you need to go the name brand route.  The warranty is vitally important if the server is vitally important. I generally recommend Dell - spec it out on Dell's site, then print it and bring it to the boss.  When he shoots it down, ask him if he'll change his mind if it's 20% less.  If so, Call Dell, get your business a sales rep/team, and get a revised quote.  I typically get 15-25% off the price found online.
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