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Need advice on Hardware RAID and External USB 3.0 Drives for SBS 2011 following catastrophic failure.

Posted on 2015-02-06
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
We have SBS 2011 installed on a Dell Poweredge T410
Processor: Xeon X5650, 2.66 GHz, 12M Cache, Turbo, HT, 1333MHz Max Mem
RAID5 for PERC S100 Controller
3 x 1 TB 7.2K RPM SATA 3Gbps HDs  (WD1003FBYX-18Y7B0)
16GB Memory (2x8Gb), 1333MHz Dual Rank LV

added a Rocketfish USB 3.0 PCI Express Adapter for use with
a 2TB Seagate GoFlex Desk (PN: 9ZQAN7-571) USB 3.0  (which required re-formatting to 512 Sectors)

System worked well since installation in Jan of 2012, and has had very little Administrator oversight.

In summer of 2014, system began to crawl, but Exchange, IIS and other server products continued to seem responsive, so no investigation.
After a power failure and reboot cycle, noticed Virtual Disks degraded and suspected one of the RAID drives was failing or had failed. (Which was indeed the case)

During troubleshooting, MAJOR mistakes were made while in the BIOS RAID configuration screens.
Long story short, Virtual disks deleted, Physical Disks reformatted, thus Active Directory gone (with no backup DC), basically entire domain was destroyed. Administrator freaked out and made more mistakes, destroying any chance of a bare metal restore. Ultimate administrator's nightmare.

From old backups, it appears the original RAID5 configuration yielded one 2TB drive partitioned as:
C: OS             902.93 Gb
D: DATAPART2       61.96 Gb
G: SharepointData  48.83 Gb
H: UserData       799.31 Gb
F: ExchangeData    48.83 Gb

As a business critical machine, we could not wait days for a new HDD, to replicate the original configuration, so..
Identified bad HDD, and reconfigured 2 remaining working drives in a RAID 1 config, yielding only 1TB of usable space. Obviously a no go for full recovery from backups. Reconfigured again for RAID 0, but didn't know exact volume and partition sizes at the time. So, rather than do a bare metal restore, we simply did a clean install of SBS 2011 and rebuilt the domain from scratch. (Small business, so not too horrible.)

SBS 2011 has been fully re-installed, updates applied to all server applications, etc. Used ProfileWizard on client machines to enable the "new" domain profiles/SIDs, etc. Used SysTools to recover workstation's local .OST files to .PST to then recreate most of the lost Exchange mailbox content.

From our user's standpoint, everything has been recovered and is working normally once again. However, RAID0 with those 3+yr old original disks in our PDC is no bueno.

Also, Windows Server Backup has NOT yet been configured on the rebuilt PDC. Configuration wizard will reformat the GoFlex drive, thus wiping out the old backups. Although it is no longer desirable to do a bare metal restore, there may be recoverable files someone would want in the future. But I need to get backups configured onto "something" asap. (Do not want to repeat this nightmare.)

So given these details, I need some advice on how best to proceed.

1. I'd like a Hardware RAID solution (5 or 6) and preferably with faster SAS drives. (Is this as simple as installing a RAID controller card, cables and drives, or will I need to do something to de-activate the software S100 controller first, or will there be limitations to HW upgrade due to Motherboard model limitations, etc.?)

2. Obviously, I need a backup solution prior to altering the RAID configuration, but the 2TB Seagate GoFlex Desk (PN: 9ZQAN7-571) that I am familiar with (and know works) is no longer available, so I need suggestions on known workable external USB 3.0 drives. The External drive compatibility list that everyone directs you to, looks very dated, with many recent models missing from the list.

I'm sure I've left out some vital details, but just let me know what you need in order to offer an informed opinion. Thanks guys!

PS: The one silver lining in all this is a much cleaner Active Directory, as the previous installation had many artifacts leftover after a migration from SBS 2003.
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Question by:Armand_Dragonetti
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by:David Atkin
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Hello,

Interesting read. I don't envy your situation!

Backup as you said should be your first priority. Go out and buy an external hard drive - most will work. We currently use WD Element 2TB drives I think. Don't worry about the USB3.0 at the moment. Better to have a working drive with a lower transfer speed (USB2) than have a useless faster drive.

The RAID0 is concerning as you've said. With regards to the controller you should be able to purchase a raid controller card and configure the new drives (check compatibility with Dell). You will need to disable the existing controller in the BIOS (probably before the new controller install as they may have the same key option to configure) and then restore from your backup. You will probably be asked for the new raid drivers when recovering.

This is all going to take time obviously. Focus on getting a working backup on a new USB drive ASAP. As you said keep the existing backup drive untouched.
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by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
Larry Struckmeyer MVP earned 125 total points
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If any imaging software is available, get another USB drive and take an image.  Then start regular backups to a different set of drives.

Best USB drive I have found for SBS backup is WD Passport Ultra, 2 TB.  Available most places for "about" 100 USD with a three year warranty from WD.  Works right out of the box with the SBS backup wizard from the console, which is the way it is meant to work.  We use three in daily rotation so one is always out of the building.

By all means get backups working and change out the drives.  You can do this with two RAID1s, some combination of RAID10/50 or RAID5 or 6, depending on the needs and budget.  I an not familiar with Dell's controller line, but if you call them they will help you.  If you want all Dell and Dell warranty you will pay considerably more than if you add a third party controller and generic SAS drives.  Speak with Dell about the consequences of doing this.
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kevinhsieh earned 125 total points
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You need a Dell RAID controller in their H series, which stands for hardware. There is the 300 and 700 series as I recall. RAID 5 should never have been installed as it is not appropriate for drives that large. You should install 4 drives in RAID 10 for 2 TB useable capacity. In general, the only appropriate RAID options are 1, 10, or 6. If you want to add disk capacity, now is the time to do it.

Why was the C partition so large? 200 GB seems more appropriate.

Be sure to install the Dell OpenManage Server Administrator which allows you to get alerts from the hardware, including the storage subsystems.
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by:kevinhsieh
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Now would be a good time to virtualize the installation. You can load the free Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 hypervisor and restore the SBS install into a VM. You can use the free Starwind Software Hyper-V Manager to manage from the console or any version of Windows. No reason to go bare metal these days.
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by:pgm554
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The S100 sucks!
Saving a couple of bucks by not using a real hardware controller cost you all this time and effort.

You can get a used Dell PERC 6 for under $300 that will do SAS and SATA.
Get battery backup and cache.

SATA that will do the job quite well.
If you go SATA get enterprise level.

As for the migration and backup ,dump the built in the POS from M$.

It's got too many gotcha's .
Get something like Symantec System Restore 2013 for SBS @$500 bucks.

You can get a free 60 day eval and use it to migrate the old RAID to the new controller.

A real no brainer as it does hardware bare metal and changes the HAL to match the new hardware.

>No reason to go bare metal these days.
There are plenty of reasons,number one is you are adding an extra layer of complexity and there are plenty of gotchas when dealing with any hypervisor.
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by:Armand_Dragonetti
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Thanks for the feedback guys. Although VM is intriguing, not sure I'm ready for a new layer that's completely new to me. Particularly appreciate the specific external drive recommendations. I had already been thinking the H710 or H710p were what I'd like. Will talk to Dell (as recommended) to answer some very specific questions regarding my specific system and the SW-to-HW changes. I'll likely award solution points to multiple responders on Monday.
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by:kevinhsieh
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H710 is for internal drives, the H710P is for external array, IIRC.
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 125 total points
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external drive recommendations?
If you're talking backup USB drives using the built in backup,be wary as it only uses 512 sector drives and is limited to 2 tb.

The WD Reds are 512k sector and you could use them in an external USB case if you are married to the built in backup.

I highly recommend you go to a 3rd party like Storagecraft,Symantec or Paragon.
With those solutions ,you can use whatever disks you want.
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by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
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Best USB drive I have found for SBS backup is WD Passport Ultra, 2 TB.  Available most places for "about" 100 USD with a three year warranty from WD.

Agreed the Reds are very good also.  But bigger and heavier and require a still bigger external case.  The Passport Ultra is much more convenient to carry out/back.
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by:pgm554
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Too much crapware on those drives.
I tried to upgrade the firmware on one and it bricked.
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by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
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Not sure which is "those drives", but why would you upgrade firmware on a perfectly good drive?  Anyway, one sample does not a picnic make.  Have you never had a drive/monitor/keyboard/auto tire fail?  And as for its contents, that is why there is a delete key.  Further, provisioning SBS backup wipes the drive and hides the drive letter.
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by:pgm554
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Why?

Lot's of compatibility issues with other peoples hardware.

http://support.wdc.com/download/notes/Win_Univ_FW_Updater_Release_Notes_v3.2.5.1.pdf
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by:Larry Struckmeyer MVP
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So few of those refer to the Ultra, and the one that I saw that does is in relation to Windows 8.1.  We are discussing SBS 2011 here, with Server 2008 R2 as its base.  I can only tell you that across dozens of SBS servers and 2-3 times as many drives, I have never had even one issue.
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by:pgm554
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Depends upon your hardware.

There were issues with different chip sets from HP and Intel.

Long and short of it is I don't trust the built in backup as a robust program because of it's reliance upon 512e sector vs 4096.

You never know when WD might change the format and then you have to run some utility so that it looks like 512e.

My bottom line is if you value you your time and data ,ditch the SBS 20xx built in backup.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Armand_Dragonetti
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I really appreciate everyone who took time to offer opinions. This question is a bit difficult regarding the awarding of points, as it's primarily a request for opinion. Giving the solution an A grade, even though I'll need a bit more hand-holding from Dell for the HW RAID installation. I'm currently watching the first backup using a new WD Passport Ultra, (bought 3 of them). Once the 1st backup is successful, I'll breathe a little easier and can then look into getting the H710 (and drives) ordered. If I have any additional questions regarding the installation of that, then I'll open a new question to allow additional point distributions. Thanks again folks!
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