Windows Server syncing options



  • I'm working on this year's capital IT budget, and I'm considering a few options. One strategy we've had a lot of success with is buying refurbished desktops from ebay (as opposed to TechSoup). We're keeping a small inventory of machines that are ready to deploy when any problems pop up (and then we can go ahead and make some repairs or whatever if it makes sense). We want to continue this strategy.

    And in fact, we'd like to extend it some. Our current server cost like $3000 a few years ago, and similarly specced refurbished servers are going for about $200 on ebay now. We need to replace the server, and expand our capacity. So the thinking is that we can buy like 8 refurbished servers, use one or two for the live environment, and have a bunch that are just ready to run should anything bad happen to the live servers.

    Ideally, I'd like to flip a switch, and just have the redundant servers take over for the dead one. We want to minimize downtime as much as possible. Half a day of downtime would hurt us, but would not kill us. But it would hurt enough that once a quarter (the worst case expected failure rate we're using in our model) is too frequent.

    But what are the mechanics of actually administering a group of servers like this? What are my options for keeping the redundant servers in sync with live?



  • @Captain What are they serving? The answer for a SQL database is going to be a lot different than the answer for a print server.



  • @blakeyrat

    Right now, the live server has 3 virtualized machines. One of them is the domain controller. The second is a file server (and it runs a weird database server, too -- not my call). The third one runs exchange, but we're moving to Office 365 for that.

    I'm assuming that virtualization will increase the complexity of keeping the machines in sync, so I'm hoping that since a single server is beefy enough to do all the tasks when virtualized, a single server will be beefy enough to do them on the same logical machine.



  • @Captain So to be clear, after this server purchase, you will no longer use virtual machines? In that case, will you use a server for each task, or put all three tasks on the same server?



  • @blakeyrat

    Yes, the plan (right now, but I can be convinced otherwise) is to get rid of the Exchange task, and have the domain controller, file server, and database server on the same machine with no virtualization to keep them apart.



  • @Captain What DBMS is it using?

    I'm not really qualified to answer this (I know domain controllers can have automatic failover configured, but I've never done it personally. File server could potentially be handled by just syncing the data and creating a quick-and-dirty monitoring script to see if the canonical file server is up or down. The database, well, you'll have to use whatever replication method the database supports.) I'm just doing the teeth-pulling to define the problem.



  • Why not keep them as VMs? If you use network storage (SAN, iSCSI) you can just run your VMs from there and when your primary hypervisor goes down, just start the VM on one of your backup hypervisors.



  • @Captain
    Is the VM with the Domain Controller also running DNS? If so, you'll probably want to get that running on other machines at some point to get AD fail-over working.

    Assuming the file server is Windows, Windows Server 2K8 R2 has a high-availability option for clustering file servers. It should similarly apply for newer server OS versions. Technet


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @Captain said in Windows Server syncing options:

    Yes, the plan (right now, but I can be convinced otherwise) is to get rid of the Exchange task, and have the domain controller, file server, and database server on the same machine with no virtualization to keep them apart.

    Two domain controllers, they will sync themselves.

    File server could be as fancy or as simple as you want. You could use DFS (probably overkill) or just run a robocopy script every hour. That would depend on how much data you actually have.

    The best option if you really want to keep things synced on the file server would be moving the file servers to Linux and using RSync. Nothing on Windows even compares.

    How much data, and how many over all files, how complex is the hierarchy?



  • @blakeyrat said in Windows Server syncing options:

    domain controllers can have automatic failover configured

    DCs is always an active-active clustered system, all DCs are live and (relatively) up to date at all times



  • @Polygeekery said in Windows Server syncing options:

    how much data you actually have.

    And how frequently it changes


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @Luhmann said in Windows Server syncing options:

    And how frequently it changes

    Yes. But number of files and amount of data is what could easily knock out the super simple possibility of a robocopy script.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said in Windows Server syncing options:

    The database, well, you'll have to use whatever replication method the database supports.

    And please, please, do that, and not "we just got ArcServe or whatever, because it claims to be backup software." If the DB vendor hasn't said it'll work, don't fucking trust it.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @FrostCat Oh, thanks for upvoting this, whoever did. I didn't want to track down that post.

    I have expounded on the Status thread.


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