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Need a system that will get Exchange server backup in event of failure

J.R. Sitman
J.R. Sitman asked
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We have 1 Exchange 2003 server and in the event of a failure we're dead in the water.  I'm aware of systems like Double Take that will solve this problem and take over where the other server failed.  What I'm looking for are other solutions that might not be so expensive.  We are non-profit and funds are tight, however, like the rest of the planet we rely on our e-mail system.
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SnibborgOwner

Commented:
The most sensible way to keep Exchange up and running is to set have a Microsoft clustered system.  If you set it up correctly it will failover between the nodes and, at worst, you'll lose a few seconds connectivity, which your users will not notice.

Unfortunately, clustered systems do not come cheap, so you really need to decide how much your email is worth and how long you can last with it down.  

The other alternative is to outsource it to a third party and let them deal with the problem.  That way you pay a monthly bill, which spreads the cost.

Snibborg
Tom ScottConsultant

Commented:
Do you have multiple servers with Server 2008?
If so, you could use Hyper-V and create Exchange in a virtual guest that could be moved to another virtual host should the normal host fail.  The down time is minimal. Since e-mail is asynchronus, pending inbound messages will normally resume delivery between 15 minutes and one hour after resumption of service.
We have not done any disaster testing, nor completed all the detail planning as yet but estimated down time to as little as 20 minutes during business hours (that is, given immediate notification and response to a failure).
 - Tom
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
To Tom
I am planning on converting two of our servers to 2008 STD.  So I guessing I would have to convert the existing 2003 server that runs Exchange 2003 to 2008.  I believe this is not a simple task.  Is my assumption correct?
Chief of Staff
Commented:
The other alternative is to use a cloud based service that will provide you with continuity.
The one I recommend is Mimecast (www.mimecast.com) though that comes with a caveat - I work for Mimecast :) and believe it to be a fantastic product.

There are others on the market that can provide similar services to Mimecast, so have a look around!

Cloud based services means that you do not need to increase the complexity of your local infrastructure and can avoid things like clustering and site replication.

Barry
Tom ScottConsultant

Commented:
I have thus far not needed to upgrade a 2003 server to 2008 so I don't know how simple it would be. Nor have I upgraded an Exchange server since an upgrade from v5.0 to v5.5. Since then it has always been a server replacement.
Depending on needs and the resources available, the path would be something like the following:
  1. Setup a Server 2008 R2 server with Hyper-V.
  2. Create a guest server with Server 2008 R2
    • Assign a private IP to this guest host.
  3. On the guest server, install Exchange 2010 or 2007.
    1. Setup firewall to communicate with the new mail server.
    2. Setup a test mailbox and test communications and other functions.
    3. Backup the guest host Hyper-V "Instance" and practice a "recovery drill" restoring the instance.
  4. Setup a second server with Hyper-V
  5. Test moving the Exchange guest sever instance from one host server to the other and back as a recovery drill.
  6. Migrate a couple non-mission critical mailboxes to new server and repeat the last step testing the mailboxes as well.
  7. Migrate the other mailboxes.
That is the short-hand version. Hyper-V is included in Server 2008. However, the guest server OS licenses are purchased separately unless bundled in the original purchase.  Following is links to web pages regarding licensing packages offered by Microsoft via most vendors:

 - Tom

Commented:
You can check into DNSMadeEasy, you point your MX records to them and they will only deliver the email if your server is responding.   If your server is down, it will keep holding your email.

Gmail from Google is another option for a non-profit.  They offer their educational package for free to non-profits.  Either use only gmail or pull the emial down drom gmail.
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
Thanks for all the post.  I'm researching them.
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
to barrulus

FYI sent an email yesterday to info@mimecast.com and haven't received a reply.  
Tom ScottConsultant

Commented:
If something other than Exchange is an option, you can find pop hosts that can do the job for a cost that is considerabley lower than your current cost of ownership for Exchange and they have most of the features your users currently use (assuming that most of them rarely use the features unique to Exchange which is the norm for most institutions).
I have seen pop servers available for $60 to $100 per year for "unlimited" mailboxes.
If your non-profit is health related, I would avoid GMail.  Google has stated that they do not and plan to never delete any message that is ever sent or received on a gmail account (even if the user deletes it).  They stated disk space is cheap and they plan to buy more when needed. They have reserved the right to scan e-mail for marketing and other purposes.  I would be concerned with HIPAA/HIPAA2 compliance in such an environment.
 - Tom
 
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
thanks Tom
Barry GillChief of Staff

Commented:
@jrsitman - I am not in the sales department (where that mail will have gone) and will jump up at them and get it answered, in order to expedite, do you want to forward it to me? bgill@mimecast.com
B
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
barrulus.  email bounced back.  they can reach me at jsitman@spcala.com
Barry GillChief of Staff

Commented:
I wish I wasn't on a train right now struggling with GPRS, I will get back to you directly shortly.
Barry GillChief of Staff

Commented:
ahh :) you sent it to billg@mimecast.com, not bgill@mimecast.com :)

I am sending you a message directly.
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
ok, when you get time.  resent it
J.R. SitmanIT Director

Author

Commented:
The cloud service seems to be the best solution for us.  I'm not saying we'll use Mimecast, however, their service looks good.

Thanks