Although server hardware is more reliable than it was several years ago, catastrophic hardware failures can still occur. If a catastrophic failure occurs on your Exchange 2007 server, it's important to assess the damage and know how to configure a replacement server without losing data. Even if you have disaster recovery (DR) experience in previous versions of Exchange Server, you should also learn the proper way to rebuild an Exchange 2007 server.
There are various methods to recover a failed Exchange Server. Unfortunately, no single method is perfect for every situation. It's important to assess each failure situation before beginning the recovery process. When assessing your failure situation, ask the following questions: How bad is the damage? What are my recovery options?
After my Exchange 2007 server was struck by lightning, for instance, the server's power supply and system board were fried but the drives were still functional. If I had bought a new server and administered a full-blown Exchange 2007 recovery, I probably would have lost some data. The chances were slim that my most recent backup was as current as the remaining data on the drives. In such a case, buying a new server, installing a new RAID controller and transplanting the drives was the best solution.
When catastrophic failures occur, the drive is often the source of the problem. But it's important to know if the volume containing the Windows operating system is still functional. Whether or not Windows will boot is going to play a big part in planning the server recovery process.
The state of your backup is also essential. Be sure to consider the age of your backup and what has been backed up. If you created the backup last night and it contains everything you need to perform a basic restore, the next step should be obvious -- unless you can recover some data off the drives.
On the other hand, suppose that the backup contains only an Exchange Server information store and corresponding transaction logs. In such a case, the disaster recovery process could be more involved.
Windows and Exchange Server have specific requirements in DR situations. As such, it's important to make the new Exchange Server as similar to the old server as possible. Start by gathering all available server documentation.
You must know are how the disks were configured on the server and which service packs and patches have been applied. If you don't apply the correct patches ahead of time, you may have trouble restoring the backup.
Note: These recovery methods are only appropriate for the mailbox server, hub transport server and client access server configurations. Do not use this method to recover an edge transport server.
The process involved in recovering an Exchange 2007 server that is completely destroyed would be fairly complex. However, some of these steps can also be beneficial in less-catastrophic situaitons.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.
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This was first published in March 2009