Server Duplication & Failover - Server 2008 R2 Standard

Posted on 2011-10-05
Last Modified: 2012-06-21
We are looking to try and increase our redundancy with our main dataserver.  This server is running Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard x64.  It is our current domain controller, as well as file server.  It houses multiple Quickbooks company files, and an SQL Server 2008 R2 instance and database.

I would like to know what is the most efficient way to replicate the ENTIRE server in a real time way  for failover reasons.

It is my understanding that Server 2008 Standard does not support clustering at all?  Is this true?  If so, would the built in replication services be able to handle what I am looking for?

Any information would be extremely valuable.
Question by:Brendon Gaige
    LVL 6

    Expert Comment

    You could make your server a VM and use Hyper-V Live Migration or VMWare VMotion - the VM itself does not need to be cluster-aware for these.

    Alternatively, you can make the services (not the server) highly available by using a second server hosting a DC (built-in replication), DFS for your file servers accesibly through a single UNC using DFS replication to keep the shares up to date, and SQL server replication.

    Author Comment

    by:Brendon Gaige
    I honestly have not messed with VM at all... and I am a little weary diving right in trying to implement that at this point in time.

    I am mainly concerned with making the services highly available and redundant.  I was planning on building a hardware clone box to our current DC & FS.  So I would be able to do what I want to do through the built in Server DFS?  Also, you do not need clustering for the SQL replication?  DFS will take care of a SQL database as well?
    LVL 95

    Accepted Solution

    First, keep in mind that the GENERAL RULE is, the more redundant your server needs to be the MORE EXPENSIVE the solution.

    That said, if you bought your server license WITH the physical server, then you're pretty much stuck because you cannot virtualize it to another server.

    If you have a retail or a volume license, then you CAN virtualize it.  Now I know you are concerned about virtualization.  To me, there's nothing to it... people who use it generally see how simple a concept it is and don't have a real concern about it other than perhaps a little concern on performance.

    However, if YOU personally, don't want to touch it, there are a couple of other options - you can use a BDR or you can use software to replicate the server (again, assuming it's NOT an OEM license).  I have resold and installed HeroWare BDRs to my clients.  BDRs often (if not always) use some kind of virtualization software and some kind of replication or backup software.  I've seen them use Xen and Hyper-V for virtualization, and ShadowProtect and DoubleTake for backup/replication.  The HeroWare BDR can cost upwards of $2000 (it IS another server) and comes with the necessary licenses for DoubleTake to protect your server (it DOES require a monthly maintenance fee that is relatively minimal).  In the event the main server fails, you can "flip a switch" and the BDR (or rather, a virtual machine in the BDR) becomes your server and your clients don't know anything happened.  (There are considerations when restoring the failed server to production, but that's a more detailed technical question).

    You can skip the BDR entirely and buy DoubleTake separately but DoubleTake separately is more expensive (HeroWare seems to have made a really good deal with them and is able to use/resell it very competitively as part of their solution).  There are other competing products with DoubleTake too - NeverFail is one - I've priced it... at the time (~1-2 years ago) it was nearly DOUBLE DoubleTake's price, if memory serves.  But when you want FULL protection, that protection is going to cost you as I said.

    As for using DFS, no, DFS dooesn't work with SQL.  If you wanted to replicate SQL, you would need another SQL license, I believe ENTERPRISE editions of SQL actually and Enterprise Editions of Windows (I could be wrong on that - but you definitely need another SQL license).  DFS will not replicate appropriately SQL databases.

    By using the HeroWare/DoubleTake/Hyper-V solution you don't need any additional licenses (assuming you don't have OEM Windows Server).  If you were to build a box for redundancy (not something I typically recommend - building a box), it would probably cost you $500-1000 (to do it "right") plus another $1500-2000 in licenses.  So HeroWare's costs are not much more...

    Or use someone else - Zenith has BDR services and I know there are many others.
    LVL 3

    Assisted Solution

    by:Andy De Maesschalck
    Gaigebacca, you're right on the fact that Windows standard does not support clustering, you need a windows enterprise for that.

    Your services will be highly available due to built-in replication mechanisms.

    Your AD will replicate itself when you install a 2nd DC in the same domain, built-in AD replication will take care of that, so your logon-services will be highly available.

    As -tjs said for your files, you could use DFS replication for replicating your data.
    If you point your client drives to the DFS shares, your file-serving service will be high available also.

    For SQL, DFS will not take care of that, in SQL 2008, there is a built-in SQL replication mechanism that will take care of that.
    If the 1st server is down,  the other side will also take care of that.

    Because you're not building a cluster with shared disks, both nodes will be replicating all data over the network and will generate a lot of traffic.
    Make sure, your network can take the troughput (depending on how much data is changed)

    Author Comment

    by:Brendon Gaige
    Thank you guys.  That answers the majority of my questions.  The install of Server 2008 Standard is an OEM install key.  I built the hardware custom, so that answers that.  Our SQL instance runs in tangent with a proprietary program that interfaces with the SQL DB.  I have contacted them and they are open to allowing me to have a replicated instance.

    No one may be able to answer this question here, but will having the Quickbooks company files on the DFS share be problematic?  I would assume not... But I have come to the conclusion that Quickbooks was coded by Satan...
    LVL 41

    Expert Comment

    The challenge with DFS replication of Quickbooks is that you can't replicate the file until it is closed by everyone, so you may not have a very up to date copy. If things really go south, you can hopefully still access the files on the old server and copy them over. That usually isn't too much of a problem, though. This weekend I am going to do maintenance on my SAN in the primary datacenter, so I am going to flip everyone over the to DR file server by changing the DFS namespace. DFS replication handles file changes, and I just tell people that the database files are unavailable for a while.
    LVL 5

    Expert Comment

    LVL 5

    Expert Comment

    I applogize
    Hi Accidently wrong Answer or link posted

    Author Comment

    by:Brendon Gaige
    Ok, so I have conferred with my third party software provider and I cannot do a basic transaction replication with our particular SQL database as it does not have all of the primary keys in place in order to do this.  Their tech suggested that I look into transaction log backups in order to keep short-time frame replication (15-30 minute range).

    My question now is, what is the best way to go about this?  I am not very familiar with SQL and feel like I am working in the dark here.  He said I  would need to build some scripts to automate this, but that he could not help me anymore than pointing me in the right direction (our service agreement does not cover this sort of thing...)

    Need some direction here please!

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