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Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage!

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Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 28.Dec.2006 11:44:15 AM   
shenn

 

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Joined: 28.Dec.2006
From: Minneapolis, MN
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Basically, I was thrown into an msexchange-centered workplace around a year ago, I've read Windows 2000 and Active Directory 2000 for dummies, I've read most of Microsoft's knowledge base articles & walkthroughs, and I've perused these forums and several of the many articles & tutorials on this site, and I've still got questions! (I don't learn very well by reading: I need someone to throw questions & ideas off of to retain much of anything).

My questions are mostly regarding backup/restoration of exchange & windows 2000.

Would anybody be willing to help?

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 1.Jan.2007 4:29:50 AM   
jassyca

 

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Ask me all the questions you like. (Just don't put too much store in that silly "title" or whatever under my nick.. I ain't that smart. )

(in reply to shenn)
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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 2.Jan.2007 5:23:17 PM   
shenn

 

Posts: 7
Joined: 28.Dec.2006
From: Minneapolis, MN
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Thank you!  I'll start with my main question: is there an easier/smarter/more effective backup solution than the built-in "backup" program in Windows 2000 Server?  I have a server that has been running MSE2000 for years, with no real backup scheme (I was only semi-recently hired and was not involved in the setup or maintanence of the machine in any way).  I figured a good first step would be to purchase a second Poweredge 1400 (same model) and have it sitting around as a back-up machine in case the main one went down.  To test my idea, I tried doing a simple "system-state" backup to a tape, but when I placed said tape into the mirror machine, it said it couldn't find any restore data.  When I tried to do a full system backup, it got to the appointments people had made in Outlook and started going ridiculously slow.  I left it over the weekend and it didn't even finish after 48+ hours.

Am I doing something wrong?  (A little background on myself: I'm a computer hardware guy, not really a software guy.  I've programmed some simple Delphi programs, and am fluent in html (whoop de do), but that's really about it.  I've never administered a workgroup of any sort before, and have exactly zero experience with MSE.  I was thrown into this situation and I'm stuck with it, so any help would be appreciated :)  )

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 3.Jan.2007 2:02:27 PM   
jassyca

 

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Sorry I'm only now replying to this. I wanted to think about my reply. (Which is a new experience for me! )

I don't necessarily think that you are doing something wrong. Maybe the second computer, for whatever reason, can't read the tape. The tape, itself, isn't important. Because even if the original backup was saved to tape, you don't have to restore from tape. All the "restore" server needs is to be able to access the backup file - that file could be on a tape or on a hard drive.

Try this: restore the "system state" backup file as a plain old file off the tape onto the first server and then (assuming the second server is isolated from the production network) copy the file to a USB drive and place it on the second server. If the second server isn't isolated from the production network and the two servers don't have the same name or IP addresses, you might also be able to map a drive from one to the other.

Also, you don't necessarily have to restore the system state in order to restore an Exchange server's data. It helps but it's not a "must do". And, yes, there are much better backup solutions out there than the simple one that comes with Windows server. But you have to make sure that the software is compatible with Exchange or "Exchange aware" (I believe that's the term you sometimes see). And it would be really really handy if the backup has the ability to restore a single mailbox, not just a whole silly storage group. It also might be tricky to find backup software that's compatible with your current tape drive. So keep all of that in mind if you look at backup software.

"I was thrown into this situation and I'm stuck with it" Ahh, the old "Quick! Learn how to swim." method of being tossed in head first into the lake.

(in reply to shenn)
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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 3.Jan.2007 2:28:03 PM   
shenn

 

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From: Minneapolis, MN
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Thanks for the response :)  I'll try getting the (.bak?) file over to "server 2" some way other than the tape drive.  Come to think of it, I'm not even sure I've got a working tape drive in Server 2: I've never tried it!

My next question is this: which back up routine is faster and which backup routine is "better": online or offline?  The server can be down from noon Friday to 8:00 Monday Morning, but I can only get to it from 12:00 Friday to 6:00 Friday, and for about 10 minutes on Monday Morning before it's got to be back up.

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 4.Jan.2007 6:33:23 PM   
jassyca

 

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Joined: 20.Jul.2006
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hmm.. well, like I told someone else on this board, the solution that's "right" for my environment isn't necessarily right for another environment. Some of the questions you ask, in the final analysis, are ones where you have to decide what the right answer is.

In our situation, we are a 24/7/365 operation. So we looked for backup solutions that could be done without taking the server offline. Also, our database is over 50 gig, so we needed something fast too. The faster it needs to get done, the more expensive the "solution" will end up being. Something else that needs to be considered: how long can the server be out of commission in the event of a disaster? That also drives which solution you'll choose because, again, the faster (to put it back online), the more expensive the "solution" will probably be. Because of all these factors, we spent a hella-lotta money on our backup solution, weee!

Note all the hints about money money money.. Now that you are acting as the administrator, you're going to need to think about where to spend money vs. where to bite the bullet and make-do. Although it's not the nicest solution, Microsoft's backup does work. And it can be automated. And there might be other places where you see that money *needs* to be spent so you might decide to "make-do" with Microsoft's backup for now. On the other hand, email might be so critical to your company, so vital for doing business, that you may be able to convince upper management that they need to loosen the purse strings. But all these are things that you need to decide. Pick your battles carefully, you know what I'm saying?

(in reply to shenn)
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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 17.Jan.2007 11:00:36 AM   
shenn

 

Posts: 7
Joined: 28.Dec.2006
From: Minneapolis, MN
Status: offline
Yeah it is sometimes hard to weigh costs vs. benefits when you're talking about a small organization that largely depends on the server working.  On the one hand, it's a clinic, so there should really be no expenses spared when it comes to the Dr.s' schedules/patient information, but on the other hand, we're not talking about a several-dozen multi-location megacorp here either, so money is an issue...

What I'm thinking is this: Purchase Acronis either Workstation or Server (the jury's out on that one: your thoughts?) and schedule a weekly backup of all data to either a network drive, an internal IDE drive, or an external USB drive.  Also, use Windows Backup to schedule a full backup once a day, with hourly incremental backups to tape.  In the case of catastrophic failure, I'd put the most recent Acronis image onto the new hardware, restore from the most recent full backup, then restore from any incremental backups.  Would this make sense?

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 18.Jan.2007 9:37:03 AM   
shenn

 

Posts: 7
Joined: 28.Dec.2006
From: Minneapolis, MN
Status: offline
Proposed Plan:

- purchase Acronis True Image Server 9.1
- purchase two 200+ GB USB HDD's

Using Acronis, schedule regular weekly full backups of the machine onto a USB HDD (switched out weekly to an off-site location).

Using the bulit-in Windows Backup utility, schedule daily full backups of exchange store, and hourly incremental backups onto tapes changed daily.

Test-restore said backups once per month on already purchased backup server.


If this makes sense and is a decent way to back up my simple win2000-based mse2000/data server, or if there is a better/more efficient way, please post! :)

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 19.Jan.2007 10:07:19 AM   
jassyca

 

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In some ways, the frequency sounds like overkill. We do a full every night and switch out a tape offsite after fiscal "month-end". But, as I said, it all depends on your environment and how vital email or what-have-you is to your company. (It sounds pretty damn vital for your company!) Although, I'm not sure you will be able to back it up that frequently. Depends on the size of the info stores and the speed of the backup. Run a test backup to see how long it takes.

Also kind of wondering about running incremental backups. I don't remember if you get that option or not when you tell MS Backup to backup the info store. Although.. hmm. {pounds side of head to shake the cobwebs} Dammit, think!! Do you remember what was the difference between incremental backups and differential? Wasn't a differential backup an "everything that changed since the last full backup"? You see, my thought is, if it lets you, you might want to do differentials instead of incrementals. You know, looking at it from a "which is faster to restore" perspective: last full backup then the last differential vs. last full backup and all incrementals since that full which, if your doing the recovery the day before the next full backup, could mean running the restore several times to get all the incrementals. The frequency you mentioned makes me think email must be viewed as the company's life's blood. {1} And if that's the case, you might want to try to minimize the restore time if a disaster ever happens.

To get the whole server, don't forget to also schedule a "system state" backup on your weekly "full".

Unless you have something installed that creates new files (for instance, if you have certain types of logging enabled), you probably only want to do a full "drives" backup once a week or so. Tell it to ignore the mdbdata directory, you don't want it messing around in there. And, of course, ignore the M: drive since that's not a real drive.

So 3 backup jobs on the full: info store, system state and drives.

Jessica :)


{1} If email is that vital to the business, how do you think they would view having an extra server, a nice beefy one, just sitting around? One that you can use to replace the Exchange server if it ever blows up? You could also use it to practice your disaster recovery steps for Exchange. It could do double duty, so to speak, as an "offline" server (in other words, put it in a bogus Active Directory forest / domain) for recoverying deleted mailboxes and/or restoring SQL if you have a SQL server in your environment.

Oh, and now that I mentioned deleted mailboxes, absolutely try restoring your Exchange server at least one time so you get a feel for what a pain in the ass it is. Then when someone comes along with a sob story about how they REALLY need some message they deleted, it's totally VITAL really really really, you can explain what a huge project that is and how ridiculously long it's going to take. Here, we told people we were NOT going to recovery a lost message. Too bad, so sad. (Assuming, of course, it's not still sitting in their "Deleted items" folder. Lotta users have no idea that even exists.) And if someone needed a deleted mailbox restored, then they would have to get approval from one "VP" or, again, too bad, so sad. So, basically, we have never had to recover a mailbox. (I will say, however, it also helped that I created an "internal" policy that we would simply disable the account in question, hide it from the address book then keep the account around for two weeks. We even have an OU called "Terminated" where we move the user account. In 3 years, I've had to "recover" the mailboxes of about a dozen "terminated" employees who got re-hired by another department. "Terminated" isn't "terminated" in my environment, you see.)

Oh, also while I'm thinking about it, think about what your answer would be if someone asks you to allow them access to another person's mailbox. We tell them that the person whose mailbox is to be accessed must make the request and they MUST send the request to us via email, no phone calls (how are we going to know it's really them by their voice?). Or, if that person can't (they're seriously ill, or the person left on vacation to Fiji / whatever and they've got some message that so-n-so reallllllly needs, or their manager suspects them of stealing company secrets, or etc, etc), then the requestor again must get approval from a VP because even though we tell new employees that their mailbox is the company's and not theirs and could be opened / searched at any time, everyone in my IT group personally feels that accessing another's mailbox is something of a privacy violation so we don't want to do it unless there's a driving need. Just had someone ask me about that yesterday, that's why I mention it. We often have both a husband and wife working here, always in different departments. Yesterday a husband very strenously demanded access to his wife's email to see if she was cheating on him. Told him sorry, that's not a business reason. Wooo, was he pissed! Said he was gonna get a lawyer, blah blah blah.. fine, get a lawyer and get a court order and then you can access it. Otherwise, too damn bad. )

(in reply to shenn)
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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 19.Jan.2007 10:28:01 AM   
shenn

 

Posts: 7
Joined: 28.Dec.2006
From: Minneapolis, MN
Status: offline
Haha yeah I'm sure you get some interesting sob stories about lost emails and such.  Really pisses me off that Outlook doesn't have a simple "back up email & settings to file" button that just shoots out a compressed XML file with everything you need in it.  The thing would practically fit on a floppy, certainly a CD.  Anyway, back to the discussion at hand...

It's not email that I'm worried about (surprisingly), it's appointments.  This is located in a clinic which, for some insane reason, decided Outlook was the best program for patient contact information and scheduling.  As I've said, it's completely the wrong program for the job, but the doctors won't budge on switching to a new program, so I'm suck with Outlook.  My one saving grace is that it's a ridiculously widely-used program and, thus, has wonderful resources like this forum to help me along the way :)

On a related note, are the appointments and contacts stored in the Store?  One would assume so, but I just figured I'd ask.

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1's and 0's can't be that complicated, right?

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RE: Hopeful n00b in need of helpful sage! - 19.Jan.2007 1:42:44 PM   
jassyca

 

Posts: 232
Joined: 20.Jul.2006
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Yes, they are. You can take a peek at them from the M: drive. (Look (or copy), but don't touch. And don't change permissions to folders on the M: drive. M is fake and doing that will really mess your info store up.)

Now, what I haven't been able to figure out is where "rules" are stored.

You made me laugh when you mentioned doctors!  I sympathize completely! Many of our users are doctors too and, lord I swear, for folks that are supposed to be so damn smart (and looooooove to remind you of it ), they are the biggest techno-phobes on the planet. Until a few months ago (when HR forced us to change our policies), when we would get a new hire, we would require a password from the person so MIS could set up their account on their computer (in other words, logon as them and set up Outlook and some other stuff). We would be given some of the most ridiculously easy-to-hack passwords by doctors. I can't tell you how many times we've had to tell a new user that they can't use their first name as their password. And it was a doctor every time. And oh do they whine when we "force" them to change their password. "You're making my job harder! This system is too complex!!" Oh please.. Cry me a river. It only changes once in a damn year and it only has to be 6 or more characters and contain at least one number. We don't even make them use mixed case! So how effin' hard can it be to dream up another password?? Gives you chills when you realize these morons are doctors. They're making medical decisions for some poor soul and they can write prescriptions.. Scary!

Oh hey, did you know there's an Outlook forum too? I stumbled across it the other day but didn't bookmark it. Seemed to me it looked a lot like this forum and it's "siblings" (ISA server forum, windows forum, etc) so it might be listed under "Links".

(in reply to shenn)
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