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Exchange 2010 Disaster Recovery Testing

Posted on 2014-02-17
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I've been asked to suggest a method for testing disaster recovery for our Exchange server.  We have a single Exchange 2010 box running all the relevant roles.

What I'd like to know is if it's possible to have a second Exchange server in our environment to which I can attach the databases (which I would restore from backup or SAN snapshot) but which otherwise sits unused.  Or is there a better way to handle this?  I don't want to incur extra licensing charges if it can be helped.

Thanks!
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Question by:SR_Tech
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by:cambo84
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The best method in my opinion is to install a second Exchange box and setup DAG (Database Availability Groups).  This is a built-in function of Exchange and does not require more licenses (other than the second Exchange box).

There are some caveats though.  You'll need a lot of storage and a fast network (if you're on a LAN then that will cover your fast network).

See http://www.msexchange.org/articles-tutorials/exchange-server-2010/high-availability-recovery/uncovering-exchange-2010-database-availability-groups-dags-part1.html for more details.
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by:SR_Tech
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Okay, so do I need to change the roles on my existing server or can I just add the second box and enable the relevant roles on it as well?
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by:Simon Butler (Sembee)
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You can have all roles on a DAG member if you wish. No problem there.
Have you implemented an RPC CAS Array? If not, then you should, otherwise in the event of a failover you will have to redirect the clients manually.

You will need a second Exchange licence and if you aren't on Windows 2012 for the host, then both servers will need to be on Enterprise edition of Windows.

Simon.
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by:SR_Tech
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Ack, so that won't work then.  I need something that won't incur any extra licensing cost.  We only have Exchange 2010 Standard on Server 2008 Standard.

What does redirecting clients involve?  Can't it be done with DNS?
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Simon Butler (Sembee) earned 500 total points
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It can be done with DNS, which is what an RPC CAS Array does. It basically creates a virtual Exchange server in DNS only, allowing you to direct the clients to another server easily.
They will not redirect on their own - unless the original server has gone away - ie been removed.

There is no solution that does not incur additional costs. Microsoft do not have a cold standby licencing option. If you went with third party replication software you would still require full licences of the second server.

Furthermore, unless you can build a completely isolated copy of the production platform, you cannot really test DR. That is because the most effective way to bring Exchange back is to build a replacement box with the same name, install Exchange with the disaster recovery switches then restore the backup.
However that still leaves you with a large gap (between last back and the failure) to protect, which is where a DAG works well.

Bottom line is how much is email worth - for most companies the most valuable email is less than 24 hours old, which a regular backup does NOT protect.

Simon.
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