Saturday, July 26, 2008

Moving a Domino Server onto New Hardware - Part 1

I've probably blogged about this kind of thing before but since we did a domino server replacement a couple of nights ago and it all went smoothly, I figure it's worth reiterating the procedure.

It's funny how as you try to type a blog during the gaps in your busy schedule, it mutates from your original idea. I've ended up talking more about backups than intended but since it's all useful information, I've decided to retain it and split this into two articles.

The Aim
Our main domino server was getting a bit old and we wanted to move to newer hardware. The server runs Domino 7.0.2 on Windows Server 2003. It replicates with an offsite server as well as an internal one.

The server runs mail, lots of internal notes applications, an ExtraNet and two web sites. It used to run blackberry too but that's a different post. The server is part of a ...believe it or not... Windows NT Domain. One day we'll move to active directory - maybe.

Downtime is fairly critical for this server but we decided not to cut over to the offsite backup in this case since the majority of our business tends to be during normal business hours and the cutover is currently a tedious manual process.

So; the aim of the exercise was to replace the server with minimal downtime.

Obtain and Assemble the new Server.
Remember my post on buying server hardware? Well, this was the reason. The first step is to buy the thing and put it together. IMHO, the best configurations are mirrored drives for the operating system and a separate set of RAID 5 (or 6 if you can afford it) data drives.

Install the Operating System
In this case, we installed Windows Server 2003. Whatever the system, you need to make sure that you've installed it, added correct devices, service-packed it and connected to your network. It's also at this time that you should be considering your security setup, including anti-virus and firewalling on the device. Personally, while I'm all in favour of simple firewalling, I'd recommend that you exercise caution when applying anti-virus software to the server to make sure that it doesn't adversely impact performance. As far as anti-spam is concerned, I don't believe that it should reside on the mail server at all. Personally, I think you should either subscribe to a service or place an "appliance" in between the server and the corporate firewall. Regardless of which way you go, this step is probably the best opportunity you'll get to fine-tune your security solution on the serve since you shouldn't muck around with these settings after you go live.

Obviously you can't connect to the network with the same device name and IP address as your existing domino server, so you'll need to choose a different name (and possibly use DHCP) for now. We'll change these later.

Install Backup software (If appropriate)
I'm not a great fan of running other applications on the domino server but it's quite conceivable that you might be running backup software at least on it. Particularly if your business is mostly around domino (backups applications are often best placed where the majority of the data resides to reduce network streaming issues).

Consider the placement of your backup solution very carefully. I'd recommend that you put the backup software entirely on the C: drive of your server. If you do this however, you should take particular care to have the logs erase themselves regularly so that they don't consume the entire operating system partition and pull the server down.

Once you've got the backup setup, you might want to consider imaging software for the system partition. We've just installed ShadowProtect which, as it turns out, isn't compatible with Domino. (according to the ShadowProtect people anyway). This doesn't matter.

The aim of the ShadowProtect image is to backup the Operating System and the Backup Software. We store these images on another server. In the event that we have a catastrophic server failure, our priorities will be as follows;

  1. Obtain new and working hardware of the same spec. Our warranty will cover this.

  2. Configure the raid drives - it shouldn't matter if they're different, so long as they're "the same size or bigger".

  3. Restore the system partition (including backup software) using shadow protect.

  4. We now should have a working server with working backup software. The next step is to do a normal restore from tape to the data partition (raid drives). We use ArcServe for this, not because it's the best software but because thus far, it has worked well for us in the domino environment and we've always been able to restore what is required.
In my next post - unless I get sidetracked again, I'll talk about moving the actual Domino parts of your old server to your new one with minimal downtime.