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Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

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  • Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

    Want to set up an Exchange 2003 Standard server in another location just in case the main building is burned to the ground. What is the best practice for a situation like this? Is there a way to do replication on the cheap?

    Or is there an another accepted way to set up a backup Exchange server than can go live should the main office be down for an extended amount of time. This process doesn't have to be automatic, just so if something bad does happen people can get to their old emails.

    I was thinking I could set up an additional Exchange server at the other location and do a mailbox restore with Backup Exec every so often, but I think that might be screwy with two Exchange servers on the same domain with the same users. I'm running into road blocks here!

    Any input on this is greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

    With Exchange Server 2003 you'll need to use a thrid party product. We use Doubletake from NSI Software. It's come through for us in the clutch on several occasions.

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    • #3
      Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

      I figured I would need to use DoubleTake or something. Problem is that DoubleTake is not really "doing it on the cheap"! Aren't licenses around 3k each and I would need 2?

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      • #4
        Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

        Pricing depends on the version of the OS either Ent or Std but it is a cost certainly. Depends on how quickly users want access to email. It could take 10 mins with DT. If you have to restore data then your looking at, possibly, hours.
        I've used DT for a many to one failover to Amsterdam with Exchange and it performed admirably (with tweaking).

        You can also look at something like Veritas volume manager and do block level replication of the data with a split A/P cluster but this also costs.

        You could also upgrade to 2007 and use the built in software, still more cost though...

        For "free" you would have to look at the restore side of things which involves more time.
        cheers
        Andy

        Please read this before you post:


        Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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        • #5
          Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

          DoubleTake will do the job all right, but it ain't cheap and it's not that easy to configure for some scenarios. We've got a customer running a DR site with DoubleTake replicating Data, SQL databases and an Exchange Cluster over a VPN. It works, barely, but isn't a DoubleTake recommended configuration and we always get hassle from them if there's an issue.

          Depends on your renewal lifecycle, but an upgrade to 2007 may be a cheaper/better option if your servers are nearing end of life. To be honest though I don't think this is something that could be done on the cheap, at least not without it being a slow or cumbersome procedure. It depends as well on how quickly you have to get things back up again.
          BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
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          Cruachan's Blog

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          • #6
            Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

            The DR servers are the servers that were just retired. I would go with Exchange 2007, but these are too old for x64 Windows. I will just go with the restore route for now.

            The thing cannot figure out is can I have both of them live? Say I wanted someone at the other location to restore from tape once a month or so, can I do that? Or will it cause mail routing issues?

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            • #7
              Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

              You can configure the MX records for both servers with priorities so that mail should be delivered to the live server and not the DR server, but I have heard many stories that this does not work well in practice. This would not be an issue if you connect them via a routing group connector but then you run into issues restoring the mailboxes from the live server. I think you'd have to restore to the recovery storage group and then move the mailboxes into the database manually, so it still wouldn't be a great scenario.
              BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
              sigpic
              Cruachan's Blog

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              • #8
                Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

                Cost is relative to importance. How importants is it to have email functionallity? How important is it to have access to "historic" email? How important is it to have users productive? These questions need to be answered by the business leaders. Does the company have a DRP or BCP? The IT infrastructure is but one part of a comprehensive DRP/BCP. How much is it worth to have users able to send and receive email during a disaster? How much "insurance" does the company want to pay for? Doubletake is not cheap but for our users the cost of Doubletake is equivalent to the importance of their being able to send and receive email and have access to historic email. We've had to failover using Doubletake on 3 occassions and in all 3 our users had to suffer through only 5 minutes of downtime.

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                • #9
                  Re: Exchange replication for DR site on the cheap?

                  The simple rule with DR is that the longer you can be without the data, the cheaper it is.
                  You will not get anything close to realtime replication for free or less. If you could then DoubleTake etc wouldn't exist at the price point they are.

                  Simon.
                  --
                  Simon Butler
                  Exchange MVP

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