Best Practice/Disaster recovery/Redundant server options

Hi there,

I have a charitable client (40 users) who is running 4 VMs on a HP ML350 Gen9 Host (ESXi 6), 64GB of RAM, Dual Hex Core CPU, 8 * 900GB disks.

1 * MS 2012 Server - Domain Controller
1 * MS 2012 Server - Exchange 2013
1 * MS 2012 Server - FileMaker Server
1 * MS 2012 Server - Terminal Server
2* 8TB QNAP NAS - Shadow Protect backup to NAS, Image Manager running on a spare Hyper-V server to replicate backup to mobile drives to take offsite.

I'm after some recommendations/tips are tricks from an expert for this type of environment, ideally using the equipment they currently have, to have a solid backup/disaster recovery solution, to protect them from attacks, ransomware, corruptions, and hardware failures, bear in mind they are a charity, so the Microsoft products and services are pretty affordable.

I'm thinking if it makes more sense, I could rebuild the spare Hyper-V server (HP ML350 Gen6 with 32GB RAM and Dual CPU) to ESXi 6, and take advantage of the features of the VMware better, but open to options to use the spare HP ML350 Gen 6 hardware.

Office 365 with Exchange is on the cards, but we are also happy to keep going with on-premise until the right time to migrate.

Thanks in advance.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Why not replace all the VMware vSphere with Hyper-V and pay less for licensing?

do you currently have any vSphere Licensing, vCenter Server ?

do you have shared storage ?
Jack-NovatecDirectorAuthor Commented:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for that, it is definitely an option.

The reason why we have the VMware ESXi 6 host on the HP Gen9 server is because it was built by the previous IT guy, and it might be quite an operation to migrate to Hyper-V on the HP Gen7 Server, rebuild the HP Gen9 host to Hyper-V and migrate them back.

The only shared storage is our 2 QNAP NAS drives.

Could you provide any other advantages of going with full Hyper-V?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Hyper-V is cheaper than VMware vSphere 6.0.

Do you have PAID licenses for vSphere ? and vCenter Server ?

Because you already get Hyper-V with the Microsoft Licensing that you need to have for your hosts anyway, and you said Microsoft licensing was inexpensive.

It is possible you maybe able to use your QNAP devices for shared storage via iSCSI for better higher availability and failover

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Ben Personick (Previously QCubed)Lead Network EngineerCommented:
forgoe ESXi.  not only do you end up paying for the windows license needed to run HyperV in order to run the guest OSs on top of the ESXi, unless you are willing to fork over a lot of cash the default hyper V cluster will be more stable and easier to manage than using the stand alone esxi servers.

you would license 2x copies of windows datacentre for the two physical hosts, all guests would then be covered.

hyper V clusters use CSVs, which are high availability.

for document avaialability ans backups, either MS One Drive or Google Drive could fit the bill.

I've found cloudberry and Aspera to be very good products for doing backuptls to these services.

MS One Drive will facilitate moving to office 365 eventually, but is more costly, at 1TB per 'user' at $10/month although it also allows you to install office on up to 5 PCs for that user, you might find that a savings or not

google drive is far more cost effective, 10 TB per user per $10/month and unlimited TB storage for all users once you reach 5 users

as I said, for backup, there are several software you can leverage to those cloud, and just mentioned the two I've had some experiance with (cloud berry and aspera).

cloudberry would probably fit your needs perfectly.

if you want high availability on all users documents and can spend the $ per user, MS One drive will be fairly easy to roll out and get all of the user's documents into the cloud and available with versioning; you would just create a separate "user" account for backups, or use one of the admin accounts.

I believe both google and MS offer accademic pricing for these products too, so look into pricing there further.
Mal OsborneAlpha GeekCommented:
Given what you have in place, you SHOULD be able to rebuild the four virtual servers with just one of the "offsite mobile drives", some relevant documentation and a new high end PC.  In the event of catastrophic disaster (assume the entire building has been hit by an aircraft and all staff are dead), a reasonable procedure would be to go purchase a high end PC, load ESXi on it, then restore the 4 images and have them run from the PC while "proper" infrastructure can be sourced.

An off the shelf PC with an i7 CPU, at least 16Gb of RAM and a 4TB HDD should be easy to source almost anywhere. This should be enough to run the entire company, albeit slowly, and with just a few users. That is all that should be required for a week or so.

If it were me, I would be testing this procedure, and documenting it. Lots could go wrong, and it is better to sort any issues out now, before you face a real disaster. It is realistic to have such a DR solution in place in well under 24 hours, if you have tested it and addressed any issues.

The ML350 Gen6 could be used as a DR test host, however it would need to be kept off site if it were to be used in an actual DR situation.

I suggest you get busy and run a DR test.
Jack-NovatecDirectorAuthor Commented:
Hi Ben,

Thanks a  lot for your input.

Could you elaborate on "unless you are willing to fork over a lot of cash the default hyper V cluster will be more stable and easier to manage than using the stand alone esxi servers." what is a hyper-v cluster setup like? As they don't have a SAN, only a couple of QNAP NAS on the gigabit network.

If I were to move all the servers to a Hyper-V cluster, I would like to understand how Hyper-V works to protect them from attacks, ransomware, corruptions, and hardware failures, the ability to roll back from backup quickly, etc.

Thanks again..
Ben Personick (Previously QCubed)Lead Network EngineerCommented:
HyperV Cluster is a windows Cluster running HyperV.

As of Windows 2012 Microsoft Supports simple two-node clusters for HyperV that use SMB 3.0 shares as a shared storage, so if your NAS Supports SMB 3.0 you should be able to use this option.

  Hyper-V can store virtual machine files, which includes configuration, virtual hard disk (VHD) files, and snapshots, on SMB file shares, and allows you to dynamically migrate virtual machines with no specialized storage networking hardware.

  If not, how are you getting data storage for the Hyper V and ESXi already?  iSCSI?  That would be perfectly acceptable.
Jack-NovatecDirectorAuthor Commented:
Currently both hosts are running local storage, SAS drives.
NAS is currently used for storing ShadowProtect backups.

I'm just not sure about storing and running the VMs on the QNAP NAS, concerned for the server performance decrease?! I/O?

What's your view on that.

Was sort of after a nice feature on Hyper-V or VMware for any real time backup for a cold-standy host, is that even a possibility?
Ben Personick (Previously QCubed)Lead Network EngineerCommented:
HyperV allows you to take Shadowcopy snapshots of the Hyper V VMs for crash-consistent backups, ESXi allows the same using it's built-in snapping system which actually uses shadow-copy as part of its process as well for Windows VMs.

I don't know enough about your NAS Product to offer good information about performance when using it that way.

  However, you're a small shop, and if you have good switch throughput (Check total throughput of your switch) you should be able to handle all of your existing traffic and the overhead of running the VMs, the SMB 3.0 traffic is not quite as good as iscsi, but it's still fairly good.

 If you were using ESXi without a SAN you'd end up using NFS ( which is a file sharing protocol, similar to SMB), it's been used for years to cluster esxi when other solutions (DAS / SAN) are not an option.  SMB is now featureful enough to be of the same capability when used with HyperV.

So assuming you have dual 1Gnbit NICS on your physical HP Servers, and you team them using Windows 2012 You should be pretty much golden depending on your NAS's Specs (NICs, Disks, RAID Type etc)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere have similar features, VMware's more mature, but more expensive.

 but with both Hyper-V and VMware vSphere you will need access to shared storage to enable most of the features.

What requirement do you have for an outage, 1 hour, 4 hours, 8 hours ?

because the more budget, money you have you can reduce that time.
Marshal HubsEmail ConsultantCommented:
I would also suggest you to take a look of Stellar Phoenix Mailbox Exchange Recovery Software. The software helps users to repair corrupt Exchange database & extract it to PST format. The software also allows users to export recovered mailboxes directly to live exchange server and office 365.
If you need any help from my side, please let me know!!
Jack-NovatecDirectorAuthor Commented:
Thank you for your inputs, I have migrated all of the VMs onto the Gen9 ESXi, and will rebuild the Gen6 Server as an offsite DR ESXi server, and use a Windows 10 desktop to run the image manager to replicate backups to mobile drives.
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