Backup drive no longer available, need advice on how Windows Server Backup will respond

Hello Experts,

We have a VMWare environment (3 ESX 4.0 hosts connected to an EqualLogic SAN via iSCSI) that hosts our Windows servers.  One of those servers is Windows 2008 with Exchange 2010 installed.  On the advice of a consultant who helped set up the environment just over a year ago, we purchased an Iomega NAS device to serve as a destination for backups.  After installing the NAS in the environment, we set up an iSCSI target on it and added it as storage to the ESX host systems, then mapped it to the Exchange server as an RDM, and then set it up for use by Windows Server Backup for scheduled backups of the Exchange data and log files.  Last Thursday the NAS device spontaneously failed and after working with Iomega support for three days, the NAS is not recoverable.  I contacted VMWare support on Monday re: the functionality of the server and how to remove the RDM and maintain the ability to reboot the server normally.  I was told that I will need to shut down the server, edit the server settings and remove the RDM to the Iomega NAS, and then the server should be able to boot back up normally.

My question is, can anyone give me some insight as to how the backup program will react when I do this?  Currently, when I open the backup program it will not completely open as it is searching for the backup destination, and therefore cannot load the backup history, etc.  Is there a way to force the backup program to open without being able to connect to the currently configured backup destination, so that I can cancel the scheduled backups and complete a single backup of the Exchange data and logs before removing the RDM from the server?  If not, will the backup progam continue to not be able to load after removing the RDM, or will it then see that the backup destination is not available and then be able to open so that I can resume using it?  Any and all help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks very much,


rdillionSystems AdministratorAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Have you removed the RDM LUN?

Does the Backup Program still hang at startup?
rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Hey hanccocka,
You may remember a question from me on Friday evening related to the same issue.  Thanks again for taking a look and for your help!  To answer your question, no, I have not yet removed the RDM.  I am hoping to get some insight on how the backup program will react when I do that, and if possible, get the backup program to open up before doing that so I can get a current backup first.  Any thoughts?
Thanks again,
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Do you see a drive letter that represents this storage in the VM currently?
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rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
No, the drive is not listed in My Computer, and the backup program still seems to have it "locked" and dedicated for use by the backup program.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If you check My Computer, Manage, Disk Management, Re-Scan for Devices - does this crash or hang?

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rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Can't get to the point where I can rescan, it just hangs with a message at the bottom of the window "loading disk configuration information..."
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Okay. I suspected as much.

It's trying to read the configuration off the NAS disk, this is the same function that the Backup software is probably using and crashing/hanging.

If the drive is not attached, it should not hang at this point anymore, and hopefully your backup application will timeout.

At present the OS, is waiting for the drive to respond.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I would Power-Down the VM, backup the VMX configuration file, and then, remove the RDM from the VM configuration.

Power ON and test.
rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Thanks very much hanccocka.  That all makes sense to me, and is what I anticipated.  Do you still feel confident that when I power down the VM, remove the RDM, and then power up the server will be able to boot up?  Obviously, I need to get the backup program working again, but my first priority is to make sure that I can keep the mail server online.
Thanks again!!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I do not believe, there should be any impact on the OS, by removing the RDM LUN.

BUT, I would always recommending making a VM Backup Before any change to a production machine.

At present, your Production machine, has a  risk associated with it, because Processes are hanging which needs resolving, e.g. Disk Management and Backup, these could potentially cause the whole OS to crash, if not fixed.
rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
I agree with all points. One last question.  I use VMWare Data Recovery to back up my VMs.  Currently, it is not able to back up this server while it is powered on, with an error stating that the snapshot cannot be created, again, presumably due to the inability of the server to connect to the RDM.  When I power down the VM, would you anticipate that I would then be able to use Data Recovery to complete a backup of the VM, or would I need to manually make a backup copy of the files associated with the VM?  I plan on getting VMWare tech support involved to assist in the removal of the RDM.  I understand how to do it, but would feel a bit better if they are going through it with me.
Thanks again for all of your help.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
VDR and Snapshot creation issue could be associated with the Storage VSS writers that are broke in the VM whilst on.

VDR does not need to Snapshot the VM OS whilst OFF, so VDR should be able to get a backup.

I always like to have lots of Backups, VDR, Manual etc, "belts and braces".

We always beleive, "a backup is not a backup, unless in three places"

Good Luck
rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Thanks again for all of your help, I really appreciate it!!
rdillionSystems AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Hey hanccocka,
Just wanted to follow up with you on this, as you have been a big help in this process!  I ultimately placed a support call with VMWare, who agreed with the plan of action, and the guy actually sounded like it was a very trivial thing!  Maybe to him, but I was still sweatin' it!!  At any rate, I ran into a few probs (the server would not shut down gracefully, and the backup hung after completing 51% which forced me to shut down the DR appliance in order to stop the job).  So, ultimately I was forced to remove the RDM from the server without a backup.  I did not want to do that, but was out of options.  After removing the RDM the server booted back up fine and I was able to get back into the Windows Server Backup app and run a single copy backup of the Exchange data and logs.  I am now in the process of backing up the server's C: drive \ vmkd with the DR appliance and so far that is proceeding.  All in all a long night, but so far a good outcome.  Thanks again very much for your help!!
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Windows Server 2008

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