Backup solution in event of server hardware (not hard drive) crash

Posted on 2011-10-17
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
We just picked up a Dell server (see specs):

PowerEdge T110 Tower Server
--SBS Essentials 2011
-- SATA Cable
-- Processor: Intel Xeon Processor X3430, 2.4 GHz, 8M Cache, Turbo
-- 4 GB Memory (2x2GB), 1333MHz Single Ranked UDIMM
-- SAS 6/iR Integrated Controller
-- HD Multi-Select
-- RAID 1 - Add-in SAS6iR or H200 (SAS/SATA Controller), 2 Hard Drives
-- Power Cord, NEMA 5-15P to C13, wall plug, 10 feet
-- SAS6iR/S300 Cable
-- 2 1TB GB Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in Cabled Hard Drive
-- 16X DVD ROM Drive
-- Chassis with up to 4 Cabled Hard Drives
-- Baseboard Management Controller

We set up a RAID1 configuration.  I'm hoping that if a HD crashes we can simply replace and the RAID will rebuild.  Is this true?

If the motherboard kicks the bucket, what solutions do we have?  

I was thinking that if we picked up an identical Dell system, we could pop the HD out of the old server and put into the new server and be good to go?  Dell told me that the RAID is tied to the specific motherboard/controller and that is not possible?  

Any input?  In summary, if we had motherboard failure on the current server what would be the quickest and easiest way to be up and running again?

Thank you for any input.
Question by:hiloguy
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Assisted Solution

by:Cliff Galiher
Cliff Galiher earned 100 total points
ID: 36982908
While RAID is a valuable component in any disaster plan, it sounds as though you are putting a little too much faith in that as a singular solution. There are a variety of disasters that RAID is completely ineffective. On site backups, offsite backups, current equipment with service agreements, and other fallback plans are ALL important. No one thing replaces the need for the others. I strongly recommend you pick up a book on disaster planning. There are many that are specifically written with the small business in mind and for limited IT busgets. But you NEED to have a plan and THEN evaluate the technologies available to meet that plan. Trying to do so in reverse almost a guarantees that you will miss a vital area and that will be the area you need down the road.

Read. Plan. Implement. Test, in that order. There are no shortcuts. But to repat and to re-answer your initial question. RAID is not sufficient alone. Even with a fully identical server.

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Expert Comment

ID: 36982914
Drive mirroring (raid 1) is not tied to the motherboard.
Were that the case, replacing the motherboard or controller card would require the re-installation of the OS, which simply isn't the case.

I've had great luck using the Symantec System Recovery - that software will do Disk-to-disk backups that can be restored to any machine hardware (I've restored server hardware to a laptop, just to test it out) It is really easy to do a bare metal restore.

Author Comment

ID: 36983126
Thanks all.  A few more questions:

1)  Primary question is still unanswered:  If I picked up an identical system, could I simply pop the old server HDs into the new server and be up and running?  If that is possible, then we could avoid having to image/restore.  This seems to me like the easiest solution in event of hardware (non HD) failure in the current server.  

2)  If #1 is not possible, then is imaging the only solution to restore to new hardware/server?  We've used Acronis in the past.  Any input between Acronis vs Symantec System Recovery?

3)  I'm not putting all my eggs into the RAID basket.  I'm hoping we can set up Carbonite as our offsite data backup. We used Carbonite in our previous P2P network, hopefully Carbonite will work with SBS Essentials 2011.  

4)  Are there any other recommendations for (easy) backup solutions?    

I appreciate the input.
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Assisted Solution

jrhelgeson earned 300 total points
ID: 36983484
The answers:
#1)  Yes.  A server install on a hard drive, inserted into a different server of similar build will get you back up and running.

2) If you are familiar with Acronis and you like it, then by all means.  I personally am more familiar with the Symantec System Recovery product.  Windows SBS 2011 comes with a system recovery software that will enable "Bare Metal Restores" even.

3) RAID1 is currently the preferred method for the boot volume on the SBS platform.  Carbonite will work.

4) Windows Backup that comes with the SBS 2011 works for a disk-to-disk backup solution.  You can get those Imation RDX Disk Cartridges from Dell that will enable you to backup to disk as if it were tape.  I really like those.  It enables you to backup to disk as though it were tape, and you can take those offsite for disaster recovery.
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Accepted Solution

Rob Williams earned 1600 total points
ID: 36983493
1) If it is hardware RAID, no you cannot simply move the drives. If it is software RAID you could install one drive, boot, add the second and rebuild.
2) If you use the SBS backup and restore to identical hardware you should be fine.
3) In my experience Carbonite is better suited to a desktop, not a server. Cloud based server backup solutions are more expensive and keep in mind can be VERY slow to restore. That is why commercial grade cloud backup services will ship you your data on a hard drive or loaner server.

If you are really concerned with mobility, consider virtualizing the sever. This way it can be restored to totally different hardware. A good backup solution in a small business site is far more important than RAID, cloud service, and redundant hardware. Keep in mind solutions such as RAID do not protect you from virus corruption and such. SBS back up is excellent.
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Expert Comment

ID: 36983508
I just re-read your specs, you are going to be miserable running SBS 2011 on 4gb ram.

You really need 8-16 GB.
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36983527
Though personally I would add more RAM, SBS 2011 essentials will run on as little as 2GB of RAM.
However SBS 2011 std will require a minimum of 8GB and I recommend at least 12GB of RAM.

Author Comment

ID: 36983595
Thanks all for the input!  

1)  I'm pretty sure we have a software RAID.  How can I confirm with certainty if our IT person set up a software or hardware RAID?  

2)  If software RAID, do I need identical hardware when installing "one drive, boot, add the second and rebuild."

3)  If hardware RAID, is my only option SBS Backup or other imaging software?  To confirm:  SBS Backup can only restore to identical hardware?  If so, unless I can pickup an identical server, my only other options are Acronis, Symantec or other imaging software which can do bare metal restores to different hardware?

4)  Any recommendations for commercial cloud based backup solutions?

5)  Rob:  You discussed server virtualization with me years ago.  At that time, this technology was in it's infancy.  What commercial companies do you recommend at this time?  

6)  Finally:  Even if I have software RAID and an identical backup server and commercial grade cloud based backup, would you still use SBS Backup or other imaging software?  

Thanks all for your patience and input!
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36983651
1) Software RAID will be apparent in disk manger of the Windows O/S
2) yes, identical hardware
3) If you want to be able to restore to different hardware, or a virtual environment I would recommend Shadowprotect for SBS from www.storagecraft.com, though Symantec and Acronis offer similar options.
4) I am not a fan of cloud based backups other than as a secondary data only backup. I prefer services offered by www.ownwebnow.com if doing so. Keep in mind a Terabyte of data could take weeks to download.
5) If virtualizing I strongly recommend Microsoft's own solution, hyper-V
6) RAID is in no way considered a backup solution. It is to provide redundancy for a hardware failure and reduce downtime. With RAID if there is data loss or corruption it occurs on all drives. The cloud is a very slow solution, that is drastically over rated for disaster recovery unless using a service like Iron Mountain at $100/ server / month. Carbonite and other inexpensive solutions are good for file recovery, but not server systems.

I also suspect if you have an inexpensive Dell server you also have an OEM license for SBS which makes any other hardware discussions a moot point. OEM licenses cannot be used on any other hardware, identical or not, than the hardware on which it was sold.

I cannot stress enough a full daily backup solution to a media which can be stored off site is crucial.
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36983664
PS- if looking for complete protection at an affordable price; I have a neighbor and collegue that when he sells a client a server he sells them a spare motherboard and processor, a stick of RAM, a spare drive, and a quality backup solution. He says you can usually jury-rig a universal power supply if stuck until a replacement arrives. The components are much less than a complete server, and replacing less than 3 components allows you to continue to use the same OEM license.

Author Comment

ID: 36984062
Thanks Rob and everyone else!

Regarding the RAID (software vs hardware), please see:

Device Manager_RAID setup
Is this a hardware or software RAID?  Our IT person set everything up;  I've never even touched the server until today, but it looks to me like the RAID is not setup properly?

Our server was only purchased because we had maxed out users in our P2P network.  Our needs are very basic.  We are an eye clinic.  We only use the server for data retrieval (office documents, data from our eye equipment).  Is virtualization overkill?

The only smart thing I did (I think) was to make sure we purchased a full version of SBS Essentials from CDW.

So for our basic needs, since we already have the server, I'm going to try to pick up an identical server from Dell (or spare motherboard and processor, extra RAM).  We already have a spare HD, and extra power supply.  We'll figure out our backup imaging solution.  We'll consider offsite data only backup.  Anything else?

Rob:  You stated "I cannot stress enough a full daily backup solution to a media which can be stored off site is crucial.". Do you mean a full image of the system or data only?  How do most people do this in a way that is easy, simple so it gets done daily?

I appreciate the patience and input.
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36985292
It appears you have hardware RAID. Personally, though I love virtualization, in a single server environment I wouldn't bother.
With SBS 2008/2011 most people use the built-in SBS backup which works extremely well and allows for easy restores of files or the entire system. The backup is done to external USB drives (at least 3, I recommend 5), and taken off site each day. If you don't want "all of your eggs in one basket" cloud based storage as a second solution is a good idea.
By the way, the SBS backup can be restored to different hardware for data recovery, or the USB backup read directly if mounted, it just will probably not boot on different hardware. Duplicating major system components is a good way to protect against that.

Author Comment

ID: 36987356
Thanks Rob and everyone,

A few confirmations:  

1)  Rob:  You stated earlier that SBS Backup could only restore to identical hardware previously, but in your last post stated SBS Backup can restore to different hardware.  Was that because you thought I had the OEM SBS Essentials?  

2)  What would a software RAID look like in device manager?  

2)  Rob:  You stated that if I had a hardware RAID (which it appears I have), then I would not be able to just move the old server HD to an identical new server, so is there any point in getting identical backup hardware (ie motherboard and processor) since my imaging solution/backup hopefully will be able to restore to different hardware?  

3)  Finally regarding backing up to an external HD.  Any reason not to use external eSATA drives for speed?  I'm going to do 3-5 external HD backups and take the oldest off site daily.  Do you encrypt the external HD backup?  And if so, how?  

Very appreciative for all the info!  

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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36987630
1) SBS restore, so long as it can see the new drive, will restore to any hardware. This is true of all versions. The problem is the image you lay down has the drivers for the old HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer, i.e. motherboard) and other devices. Thus most of the time it will not boot. It is however possible to access that drive to recover the data, but it would mean rebuilding the server, recreating the domain, rejoining all PC's, and then restoring the data. You can also mount an SBS backup drive to access the data directly from a Win7 PC if necessary.

2) In disk manager if you have software raid you will see multiple drives and they will be marked as mirrored, or RAID 5

3) With hardware Raid, the RAID array is generated and managed by the RAID controller. If you move the drives to another machine the RAID array doesn't exist and it will not recognize the drives. Having said that if you have an add-in RAID controller, which is recommended and it appears you do, if you move the RAID controller and drives together, it will work. However, what if it is the RAID controller that fails, not the other hardware  :-)

3) eSATA drives are fine, but whatever you use has to be compatible with the backup software you choose. The SBS native backup I do not believe will backup to eSATA. There is even a site dedicated to what drives work and what drives do not. It is not complete but gives you an idea how fussy it is.

Author Comment

ID: 36994076
Thanks RobWill and everyone,

I think I have enough info to digest for now and at least the start of a tentative backup and recovery plan.

Rob: Could you forward the name and contact info for your neighbor that builds the servers?  If I can't get an identical machine from Dell, then I'll look at other options.  

I appreciate everyone's help and input.
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 36994960
Please contact me off line if you want his name. See my profile for an e-mail address.

However, I am doubtful he will supply. He only builds systems for his clients and uses all Intel components.

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