Moving on-premises SBS 2003 to Cloud

Dear Experts,

We have an aging ‘SBS 2003 Standard – SP2’ machine and I have been asked to move it to cloud. I was told that I can do a P2V of SBS and move it to a data-centre like ThinkGrid or SecureVirtual. I just want to make sure I fully understand all the bits before proceeding.

•      This SBS 2003 is running our Exchange, AD, NAT/Firewall, DHCP, DNS, SharePoint, Remote Access (VPN), SQL, Printing & File server and internet.
•      There are total 60 mailboxes in Exchange and 40 users (only 25 users need access to file shares). Exchange DB at the moment is at 51GB and file shares are over 150 GB.
•      It’s a dual-NIC configuration ( Internet Router --> NIC1-external-IP  [=]  NIC2-Internal-IP  --> Switch ) and there is no hardware firewall in place.
•      We have a 10Mbps leased line from BT and I am not sure if this bandwidth will cope with all the file shares and Exchange being moved out.
•      We also have a Windows 2003 Standard server (virtual) on LAN for redundancy and have assigned it DC, Sec DNS roles and global catalogue.

My assumption is that:

•      Switch SBS to single-NIC config
•      Put in a hardware firewall between router and switch (e.g, Sonicwall TZ210 or Cisco ASA5505).
•      Create a P2V on a portable HD and send it to data-centre
•      Once the server is set up in cloud a site-to-site VPN tunnel will be created between the office firewall and SBS so they talk to each other like they are on the same network.
•      Onsite users will be able to access SBS file shares and Exchange as usual
•      All remote users will be able to access SBS using the VPN method as before. A VPN pass-through will be configured on the data-centre firewall (i.e., M0n0wall) behind which SBS sits.
•      Onsite DC will keep replicating all changes from SBS AD (cloud) in real time
•      Onsite users will authenticate to Onsite DC and not to SBS in cloud
•      Onsite DC will take up Print services role
•      Don’t know what will happen with DNS and DHCP in details

I will greatly appreciate if you could please guide me to the right way of doing this. Any documentation will really help.

Kind regards,
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAsked:
Who is Participating?
SBS isn't meant to be cloud-hosted.  While I've virtualized many an SBS server, the issues you will have with SBS in the cloud will likely far exceed any cost benefit to it being local.   Imagine putting your 200GB of data on the other side of a 10mb ethernet pipe.  Onsite users will not likely be happy.

If you think internet outages bother them now (no new email) imagine what happens when the whole system becomes unavailable when the internet is out!  Redundant internet pipes and the load-balancing/failover to get that to work will likely cost more than a new server.

My recommendation would be to get a reliable green server (redundant power, drives, memory) and virtualize the existing SBS.  Make sure you can remote into the host OS to reboot the VM if needed.  Newer servers run quieter and use less power.  No need for a rack, just get another tower and put it in your office.

Lastly, if you are worried about uptime and keeping this ol' SBS03 server running, why doesn't the EOL of the product have you running to something current?  Forget hardware - what about the software support?  One bad service pack or application install on the box will ruin your whole day.  (Not that I recommend SBS2011 either :(  )
Cris HannaCommented:
I guess the first question is WHY?   What perceived benefit are they gaining by moving the SBS server to a off site Data Center

The onsite DC will have to be a DNS Server and Global Catalog Server as well.   DHCP can be handled onsite by ether the DC or the Firewall Router, but the DC is probably preferred.

How big is the pipe between the onsite location and the Datacenter?   Any databases involved?

How are backups being handled?
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Many thanks CrisHanna for your input - reasons why we want to get rid of the on-premises server:

The server is a 6 years old HP Proliant ML350 with no warranties or service packs
It's very noisy and we don't have s server room (soundproof sever rack itself is estimated to cost over £2.5k.
If the server goes down due to a hardware failure then we will have serious business continuity issues and it may last for over 48 hours.
It's running our Exchange and even an internet outage disrupts email communications
We are a one-man IT department (myself) and when I am away on leave there is always a major fear what if server fails
We don't have a bigger budget at the moment to upgrade the whole thing which will involve buying new hardware, new OS and CALS, new UPS, soundproof server rack etc and consulting charges on top of that
Therefore the company thinks it will be good to just 'hire' some space in a data centre and move the server there - it won't have a big capex plus we will have guarenteed availability.

The onsite DC is already a replica/additional DC, Secondery DNS and a Global Catalog Server. It is running on a VMware Hypervisor

We have a 10Mbps fibre-based leased line from BT. We upgraded the line few months ago and honestly it has not made a great deal of difference. It's probably down to our SBS which is providing the internet to the whole network due to dual NIC configuration.

There are no databases involved apart from the SBS built-in SharePoint, Performance and Reporting, and a database for our CA Gateway Security (email filter).

Full Backup is taken overnight (every night) on tape.

Hapy to answer if there are any more questions.
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Cris HannaCommented:
First off, you should be aware that Microsoft does not support SBS 2003 in a virtualized environment.  Now that may not be a huge issue anyway, because SBS 2003 only has about 6 months or so of "extended" support life left anyway.

You mention your backup is to tape every will that backup occur once the move to the datacenter occurs...are they doing the backup for you?

And what happens when the internet is down between you and the datacenter?  Are you just dead in the water? (no email, no access to data?)  What does the datacenter mean by "guaranteed availability".

Is the goal to ensure Email continuity?
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:

You are right about MS support and honestly I am not worried about it.

Datacenter will provide backup as well. It won't be a longer period of retention like now but will suffice.

We have a leased line with 100% SLA and had no downtime since we had it. However I am planning to have a DSL line as a backup. Plus we have 3G dongles and the hardware firewall I am planning to put in place Sonicwall TZ210 supports failover on 3G. Worst case, staff will be able to keep access using 3G cards and also remotely, which is not the case at the moment.
Please disregards the term 'Guaranteed availability' what I meant was 99.5% availability and strict SLAs. Email continuity is a major concern but that's not the only reason we want to move to cloud. I can't go for hosted exchange or Office365 as it will be too expensive for 60~65 mailboxes.

I am still in the very initial stages of planning and putting together costs etc. I just don't know how the whole move will take place. Could not find any case studies, or user guides or success stories at all.
Cris HannaCommented:
And the primary reason you're not finding it, is exactly for the reasons I pointed out.  Not supported.   Lack of realiable internet access.  There are others.   You probably need to verify how the datacenter will handle the backups.   Need to insure that their backup method is "Exchange aware", otherwise Exchange is not likely to recover well if needed.

I am a one man shop, supporting a number of small businesses.   I simply make standby arrangements with another MS partner in town should I need to be unavailable (conferences, illness, vacation, etc.)

You seem to have covered most of bases.  You really won't know the true issues until the move occurs.   And you have to have a plan to move back on premises if things don't go well.
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thanks Cris,

I will check with them on backup as well - as its still in the veryu early stage of planning and quotations.

In your case you are running a business to support small businesses and when your clients need help in your absence they contact your designated partnet. I am an employee and when I am away on my entitled annual leave (paid) its not financially suitable for the company to pay an external party for IT services.

I guess the first thing I need to do is - purchase a hardware firewall and convert the sbs from dual to single-NIC configuration. Which of these firewalls would you deem suitable for a SMB:

Cisco ASA 5505
SonicWall TZ210
Cris HannaCommented:
The SonicWall TZ 210 would be my recommendation, whether SBS is on premises or off.

I think you could find a MS partner in the area who could provide support for your office should be out of town and something happens.
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thanks Cris - I will try and add the SonicWall TZ210 firewall regardless whether we move to the cloud or not.

FastFngrz - Thanks for your insight. much appreciated. If we lose internet at the moment we get no internet (onsite), no emails, no Exchange ActiveSync, no OWA, no VPN for fileshares, no SharePoint - regardless of where you are.

I think if the server was in cloud and we lost internet at office, we would still have emails, Exchange ActiveSync, VPN to fileshares, OWA, SharePoint from everywhere. And also from office by using our 3G dongles.

I am planning to get TZ210 which supports 3G for redundency if the main internet line goes offline. If staff can remotely access the server by means of VPN using a 3G card or tethering (or work from home) when the office internet line is down then I suppose we are still better off.

You are right about the 200GB on a 10Mbps pipe. Thats my major concern. Money is the major factor here hence the reason we are still running SBS 2003 :(

I have checked with previous IT guys who worked here and no one including me have ever contacted MS for any software support. Strange but true. I am in such a dilemma right now whether to make a move to cloud or not.

The datacenter guys seem so positive that it will work like a charm and I understand thats because they want the business. It would be helpful if other Experts could also share their views. Thanks!
Just out of curiosity, what do they want to charge you for hosting this?

Unless you have a legacy app, a migration to Office 365 *might* well be better.  Also, current versions of all the apps, Lync, full SharePoint, etc. etc.

Office 365 Plan E1 - 60 users, $8 per month = $480.  That also gives you 25gb mailboxes and 10gb+500mb/user =  40gb shared storage in SharePoint.  More can be purchased cheaply 

Also, you'd get 24x7 support from MS for when you are on vacation - Ask the hosting guys if they'll answer questions about your Exchange or SharePoint deployments.... :)
Cris HannaCommented:
On the opposite side, I'm not a big fan of Office 365.  They've had their own share of outages.
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thanks both of you.

I had a chance to look at Office365 in more details. Exchange Online @ £2.82 Per user/month (exc tax) gives everything that we have with our on premises Exchange 2003 deployment plus more. Bonus: Shared mailboxes cost nothing. So 40 mailboxes @ 2.82 = £112 per month is not bad. I will definitely consider it. Also, there is lots of resources and knowledge available regarding migration etc.

On the other hand, I myself am scared to put all the data in a datacenter far away and then regret choking up the internet bandwidth. I can't forecast what will happen until I actually get there. It will be too late then.

@FastFngrs - I am interested in a reliable, quiet server model which will run as a free ESXi host and run our SBS 2003 as a virtual guest. Do you have any suggestions what make and model I should look for??

I am still waiting for a final quote from the datacenter guys but it won't be any less than £450~500+ per month. I will ask them about backup once I get the quotes.

There are so many paths to go right now. For example, if I get Office 365 E1 with additional storage and use it as a document repository for all our data and move the server to cloud (without exchange and data) or get a reasonable server and migrate the server on it. I guess I will put everything in a document to start with.

While I agree with CrisHanna_MVP - Office 365 has had pains, IMHO the outages are mostly on the admin side, the user experience has been mostly pleasureable.  No, it's not a panacea, for sure - but the reason you are posted the question is to get options, right?

If the key reason you are considering a move is for the support and 99.9% uptime, then at least Microsoft will reimburse you for excessive downtime.  I'm quite sure there's more than 1 guy sitting there trying to get the server back up and running, unlike many smaller shops and datacenter folks.

Cooking your own solution (VM'ing) is the relatively easy way out, but at the end of the day, it's just you supporting the whole enchilada.  Which hardware you choose is almost immaterial (I don't know what model microwave I have), as long as it is fault-tolerant, vendor supported, and parts available.  If you are paranoid, buy 2 so if one breaks, you have on-hand parts!
Color me confused by this whole scenario. I read that the company who employs you is worried about money, but Cloud isn't really that cheap. I actually find it more expensive, especially with the amount of data you are going to push.

I have a few thoughts / options for you:
- Install ESXI 5 and then put SBS 2008 on that. Or do 2008 R2 and put sharepoint / exchange in the cloud or switch to google apps (I loathe sharepoint).
- Migrate to SBS 2008, use backup mx records in case email goes down, and use a service like Axcient backups and business continuity. Or...use dropbox to sync files to the cloud so you still have access to those if the server goes down.

My point is there are plenty of options and scenarios that I think work better than your initial thought.
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Hi Versa,

Many thanks for your insight - we weon't have enough capex to invest on a large infrastructure upgrade. Cloud may be expensive in the longer run but month by month its affordable. Anyways, I have done some calculations and I m going to propose this to the management:

1.  Purchase a hardware firewall (TZ210)
2.  Change SBS to single-NIC and let hardware firewall do NAT etc
3.  Migrate Exchange 2003 and SharePoint to Office 365 - keep single sign-on (AD sync). Plan E1 @ £5.75 per user/month
4.  Disable Exchange and SharePoint services on SBS 2003 - make sure everything else is working fine
5.  Purchase a VMware-compatible quiet server model with redundant power supply, NIC etc
6.  Install and configure ESXi 5.1 on it
7.  Purchase a fast NAS and move all file shares to it
8.  P2V SBS and move to VMware host
9.  Configure backup etc

Keeping SBS 2003 will save us the cost of Server and client CALs and any consultancy charges on top of that.

Could you please recommed any reasonably priced server models with silent operation?

Also, at the moment I have Raid 1+0 (mirroring) configured on the SBS. There are 6 HDs configured into 3 logical drives using mirroring. It covers me in case of a HD failure. How can I make this work for VMware Host?

Thanks for your input!
Why put your shares on a NAS and not on the SBS box? Seems to me it would add another point of failure.  Just purchase sufficient storage in the ESX box to handle the shares.  

If you want to sync directories (for user/password sync) then you'll want to research

As far as the RAID goes, just RAID the drives on the ESX server, even though some will blast me for this, a simple RAID5 array for the whole shebang will likely perform just fine.
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Hi FastFngrz,

Thanks for clarifying the RAID for ESXi. Is there any guides or article which explains this in more details - it will be very helpful.

Cutover migration looks like a good way to migrate SBS-based Exchange 2003 to Office365.

I have ruled out NAS from the equation - I still need to find a quiet tower server which can host my SBS as a virtual machine. Thanks for your help so far. Greatly appreciated!
Buy a server from Dell or HP and get the service package that requires them to go onsite for hardware replacements.
When you buy your HP/Dell server - with onsite service :) - just configure the hardware as one big RAID5 array.  While it's not necessarily the best performance, it's not likely worth overengineering the solution and spending more in storage for some RAID1 vs. RAID5.  Exchange is likely your biggest disk i/o user, and that will be going to Office365!
Abid MuhammadIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys ... I will close this ticket now and will award points. I will post new very specific questions if I may have any.

Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasyPrincipal ConsultantCommented:
On the opposite side, I'm not a big fan of Office 365.  They've had their own share of outages.

Cris -- where are you getting your information?  There has not been any major outage in almost a year.  There were a few spotty ones last year because the service grew too fast, but at this point they are achieving the type of redundancy and replication that practically eliminates service outages.

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