Exchange 2003 Recovery

25 pts.
Tags:
Exchange 2003
Exchange 2003 SP2
Exchange Backup & Restore
NTBackup
Recovery Storage Group
My company is a small non-profit which relies heavily on email and my fear is that of losing our Microsoft Exchange 2003 email server.  Therefore, my goal is to have the necessary hardware in place along with procedures that would enable rapid recovery if our mail server goes belly up. 

Now I’ve read about the Recovery Storage Group (RSG) and that was a great feature for 2003. However, I’m looking for the ability to restore my mail functionality on a different server, again, assuming the first one has failed.  Now assuming that the hardware doesn’t match (which would allow for simple disk drive swapping), what’s the best and fastest method to accomplish this?

I did go through the effort of creating another server in the same domain and organization unit.  I was able to restore an NTBACKUP produced tape successfully to my RSG.  However, I couldn’t mount it because it said a hard recovery was necessary.  After running the eseutil utility, I saw that the mailbox store was listed as “Dirty Shutdown” and I’ve been unable to clean it up.

Any help and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



Software/Hardware used:
Exchange 2003

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You may want to consider clustering your mail server so if one goes “belly up” the other takes over automatically. This is a good High Availability solution which would ensure no downtime.

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  • Bpina
    As a less costly and less complex alternative to Windows Clustering services, I would highly recommend Double-Take software as a good high availability solution. The beauty of Double-Take is that you can user completely different hardware for your primary and backup servers, and it does not require the trouble and expense of shared storage. It is fairly easy to configure and use, the software manufacturer has installation wizards that handle most of the common applications installed on Windows servers, especially Exchange 2003 and SQL server. The only thing that you have to do is make certain that your storage space on the backup server is as large or a bit larger than what is on the primary server. The documentation provided is quite sufficient for anyone with basic IT skills to set it up and get it working. Their technical support was excellent the last time I had to call on them. And there are almost none of the quirks you have to be aware of when dealing with MS Cluster services when it comes to patching and upkeep on the systems. You can find them here: http://www.doubletake.com/english/Pages/default.aspx And no, I do not work for them, nor do I receive any kick backs from them. I am always happy to recommend a product that I have used and truly believe in. Their stuff is the real deal. Good luck with your project.
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  • AAMGR
    Regarding clustering, if we had the money, I'd love to do that but unfortunately .... Thank you for the suggestion and your time!! Regarding DoubleTake, I'll look into that, hopefully it's not a lot of money. And thank you also for taking the time to help out! I actually made progress on this effort of mine and was able to get it my database mounted after doing a soft recovery. The final step was to Exmerge the data to a file for import into someone's PST. Although Exmerge saw all the mailboxes, when I tried exporting something, I got the dreaded: "Error opening message store (MSEMS). Verify that the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service is running and that you have the correct permissions to log on. (0x8004011d)" . I made sure the accounts had proper authority and in fact, I can use Exmerge against the "First Storage Group". It's only when I try it against the RSG that it fails. In fact, one article from Microsoft spoke of Exmerge failing if you restore the files to another server. So I'm left to believe that what I was trying to do can't be done. I was hoping someone could state that it can't be done so I can stop wasting my time trying to do the impossible. Thank you again for your help!
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  • Bpina
    Sorry, I kind of read past the part of what you were asking about concerning restoring to a different server. I'm not an Exchange expert, but I have a fair amount of experience with 2003 having fought with it over the last 6 years. And I spent a lot of time playing with backups and attempting to use the recovery storage group for some unusual restore situations. My experience with Exchange backup is that unless you are restoring to the same server that messages or store originally backed up from, you will have to use 3rd party utilities to do it quickly and relatively easily. I'm not saying it can't be done, but we never figured out how to using native Microsoft tools. When we talked to Microsoft about it, their recommendation was to either use a good backup utility designed to deal with Exchange, such as Backup Exec, or if we wanted to stick with NTbackup files to use the Quest Software Recovery Manager for Exchange utilities. Backup Exec, is probably the less expensive way to go, but Quest gives you the ability to manipulate backup files and the message store in a granular fashion that Backup Exec cannot. If you ever have to do anything involving legal e-discovery in your Exchange environment, Quest will definitely save your tail in very short order. You are now finding what many people have learned the hard way over the years, that maintaining an Exchange email system can be a very expensive proposition. That's part of why outsourced email hosting is popular now. If my company policies allowed for it, I'd outsource my Exchange system in a New York minute. As it is, I'm looking for less expensive alternatives for the future. Exchange 2010 is not the answer, but you may have no alternatives if you are committed to living in a Microsoft world. Good luck with it, Quest and Backup Exec are worth your time to look into.
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  • AAMGR
    Thank you for taking the time to help; greatly appreciated!! Although I may have failed at my endevor, I learned a lot. And the last thing I want to do is mess up a perfectly functioning system. Also, I don't want to use other than standard restoration techniques otherwise I might get myself into bigger trouble. I've found enough good articles to walk me through most types of disasters I could face and I guess I'll have to leave it at that. I'll attempt a recovery using the RSG just to get familiar with it and hope that I'll never need to use it to recover an IS or entire server. Thanks again for your help and advice! P.S. My last attempt was to try using ESM to recover a mailbox vs. Exmerge. In that vein, it failed with event IDs 9175, 9167 and 1041. To which I've found another article that describes how to adjust the System Attendant homeMDB attribute. I might try that and see if it gets me anywhere.
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