Installing Windows 2012 R2 as a virtual server - Best practice for Small Business Server

We are new to installing Virtual servers.

Can someone please explain the best practice on how we should install a new server to run 1 or 2 virtual servers please, when used for Smal businesses - upto 40 - 50 users etc?

Eg do we install the standard local copy of Windows 2012 R2 onto the physical box first?? (as you would in previous years before virtual servers came about)  - then once we have done this do we need to then install Hyper V role and create our virtual servers from there? Or is there a better way to do this?

Also if the phyiscal server had Windows 2012 installed running 2 virtual servers. If the physical server OS corrupted then how would we go about restoring the virtual servers
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
First, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY ENCOURAGE YOU to virtualize.  It is what should be done these days unless you have a compelling reason NOT to.  

Second, if you're THAT new to virtualization, I REALLY hope you are planning on a week or two of playing and getting the answers to your questions first hand.  While I think Hyper-V is easy, that doesn't mean you will and EXPERIENCE is the most important thing when doing anything, especially implementing a production level technical solution.

Third, your R2 license for 2012 includes 1+2 licensing, which means you can install on the physical system, install ONLY the Hyper-V role, and then install UP TO 2 VMs on the hardware (assuming you don't have more than 2 CPU sockets (not cores)).

If the OS is corrupted, you just blow away and reload and then import the VMs.

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Trenton KnewOwner / Computer WhispererCommented:
You would first install Server 2012 R2 on the physical server and install the Hyper-V role only.  Do not use that server for any other services.

Once you have that up and running, you will create virtual machines for your (up to two) 2012 instances for stuff like active directory, dns, file services, etc.

You can take regular snapshots of the machines once they are up and running.  I would snapshot a machine prior to installing updates.  That way, if something breaks, you can revert to the last snapshot.  Think of it like system restore on steroids, or like a master undo button.  If you revert to a snapshot, the changes never happened.
Trenton KnewOwner / Computer WhispererCommented:
I do, however seriously doubt that your virtualization server install will get corrupted, but you can store the Virtual Machines vhd files on a SAN or separate physical media (recommend some kind of Raid 1).  then if you need to rebuild the physical server, as Lee suggested, you can import the VM's from the storage media.

Either that, or buy 2 physical servers and use replica so you always have a hot standby host and VM's
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Be very careful with snapshots.  They can complicate things and especially in circumstances where you have more than one DC or are using Exchange, you want to be VERY Careful.  If you don't understand the intricacies of restoring systems in Windows, you could corrupt things.  For small networks with one DC it's usually fine, but make sure you have enough disk space (I generally DON'T recommend using snapshot on production systems of any kind.)
Trenton KnewOwner / Computer WhispererCommented:
That's interesting, Lee.  That's something I wouldn't mind picking your brain about outside of this thread.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
For me, it complicates things.  The avhds that get created can become quite large and use a lot of space, especially if you have multiple ones.  If you routinely do a good job managing them (deleting the snapshot after one week, that's better... but most people aren't good at things like that.

In addition, while 2012 R2 (possibly 2012) has become snapshot aware and can survive a restored DC, if you had a 2008 R2 DC you did that with, you could go into a journal wrap state.  It becomes much more dangerous with older DCs in the mix.  A snapshot is a backup of sorts and if you don't understand proper AD backup and restore methods and the consequences of using them (especially with older DCs) it becomes a huge concern.  And then there are systems with SQL databases and Exchange.  Depending on what they are handling for you, it might be fine, but if you run a line-of-business app off the DC (small environment, remember) with a SQL database involved and you revert a snapshot, all your data is gone too.  And Exchange in multi-exchange environments can have huge issues.
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
I have an EE article: Some Hyper-V Hardware and Software Best Practices that details a lot of what we do for our virtualization platforms.

We setup the RAID 6 array with two logical disks:
 75GB to OS
 ??TB to Data (VHDX and Configuration Files)

If anything blows up we can reload the OS in short order via iDRAC Enterprise, iLO Advanced, or Intel RMM as we keep a bootable USB flash drive plugged in to all virtualization hosts with the copied from ISO OS files on it. BTDT.

Importing the VMs back into the freshly installed OS is as simple as running the Import wizard in the Hyper-V Management console.

As far as configuration for the host goes a minimum of 8 10K SAS spindles in RAID 6. For clients pushing 50 users we'd go with 16 10K SAS spindles in RAID 6. Hardware RAID with 1GB of non-volatile or flash backed cache and Write-Back setting would be required.

IOPS limits in the disk subsystem is usually the first bottleneck to be hit.
phoenix81Author Commented:
Thanks for the feedback.

I have a HP Ml350p as a test server here for me to play about with and i am wondering how you would partition a 2TB Logical Drive for a hyper-v system.

My idea is to use a partition of 450gb for the basic 2012r2 install and then have a second partition of 1.5TB where i will store the VM files.

However when i install 2012r2 in the virtual environment, can i have its data also stored on that second partition which is 1.5TB? or cant the files be on the same drive that the vm install files are on? if you see what i mean?

Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
75GB is all that is needed for the host OS. Use the balance to VHDX and configuration files.
 + 75GB OS
 + 1.25TB Data

We put the relevant VM files on the second partition so we can flatten the OS and re-install it without losing anything (so long as we don't have a disk system problem).
phoenix81Author Commented:
Thank you for all of your input so far. We are still in the testing phase with this and we are now looking into a best practice backup plan if anyone can attach a link to a guid on how we setup backups and best practice it will be much appreciated. Thanks again
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
We use StorageCraft ShadowProtect for our virtualization setups in standalone and clustered settings. We back up the guest not the host as a rule.

There are extremely few backup solutions out there that we can count on to back up via the host reliably: Veeam and Data Protection Manager (both in cluster settings).

We back up across the wire to an external drive connected to the host with folders shared for each VM to be backed up. Recovery is also done across the wire.

High-Rely makes some pretty relevant backup destinations for backing up into the Terabytes if need be.
phoenix81Author Commented:
how much is Storage craft please and is the support located in USA ? We are a UK company?

thank you
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:

Yes, they are in the USA among other areas of the world.
phoenix81Author Commented:
guys we have ran into a problem on our Windows 2012 install - regarding the config of the HOST windows 2012 physical machine are you able to check your settings on your currently configured virtual servers and assist us please? We have also added this a new thread below?

Thank you
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Windows Server 2012

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