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Exchange Server 2013 : Deploying an Exchange 2013 server (part 3) - Recovering a failed server

11/15/2013 8:32:24 PM
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5. Repairing Exchange

The Exchange 2013 setup program does not support a repair mode; you cannot run Setup in a repair mode to have it scan a server for any missing files, registry keys, Active Directory objects, or other elements that might be affecting the ability of the server to run properly. If a server is not functioning correctly and nothing you do seems to make any difference (and no help is gained by searching the Internet), you might be forced to uninstall all the roles from the server to remove Exchange and then reinstall the server from the beginning. This is not so bad; experience with broken software demonstrates that a “flatten and rebuild” approach usually delivers a more robust solution than attempting to repair individual flaws that might be hiding other problems that only appear after you repair the apparent problem.

An alternative approach is to wait for Microsoft to provide a fix in a cumulative update and install it as an upgrade to a more recent build. This will usually fix any problems caused by a missing component, if only because a build-to-build upgrade includes code that will create objects such as a missing registry key or permission that it detects as the server is upgraded.

6. Recovering a failed server

If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a catastrophic hardware failure that renders a computer completely unusable, you can recover the configuration for the server from Active Directory to rebuild Exchange. To do this, you must first provide new hardware that runs the same operating system as the failed server and has the same drive letters available for the databases that the server supports. The new server should be as powerful as the failed computer in terms of its ability to support user load. Because new hardware usually has improved performance, it shouldn’t be a problem to replace the failed computer with new hardware, but replacing it with older hardware might be problematic if the configuration of that computer isn’t as capable and is therefore less likely to support the same load.

After the new hardware is installed, you must do the following:

  1. Reset the Active Directory computer account for the failed server.

  2. Install and configure Windows with the prerequisite roles and features, including any hotfixes Exchange requires; the setup program cannot install any required software when it runs in recovery mode.

  3. Ensure that network connectivity works properly and that the new computer is configured with the correct IP addresses and other settings.

  4. Join the replacement computer to the domain hosting Exchange with the same name as the failed server.

  5. Authenticate the Windows server license.

You can then run Setup.com with the /m:recoverserver command. In this mode, the installation procedure reads the details of the server configuration from Active Directory and reconstructs an exact replica of the failed server. Exchange keeps details of the software versions installed on a computer in the system registry, and the setup program will only recover a server to the same version of Exchange that was installed on it before it failed. You cannot recover and upgrade at the same time; for instance, it’s not possible to recover a failed Exchange 2013 server by using an Exchange 2013 SP1 software kit, so be sure you keep a share or DVD with the version of Exchange that you’ve actually installed.

After the recovery is complete, all the server roles defined in Active Directory will be operational on the replacement server. In the case of a failed mailbox server, you must still restore databases to their location on disk. The up-to-date database and transaction logs might be accessible from the disks the failed server used. If not, you’ll have to recover from backup and replay whatever transaction logs are available to bring the databases as up to date as possible. Some data loss is inevitable in this case. In the case of CAS servers, you might also have to restore configuration files that are not included in Active Directory. For example, if you update the Mailbox Replication Service (MRS) configuration file on mailbox servers for some reason, you will have to:

  • Copy the updated configuration file from another mailbox server (if available) in the organization. All configuration updates should be applied consistently across the organization.

  • Recover the configuration file from another backup.

  • Manually apply the update again. This assumes that you have details of the edits that should be applied to the configuration file, which underlines the need for careful documentation of these types of changes.

Special steps are required for failed servers that are members of a DAG. The installation procedure won’t allow you to run /m:recoverserver if it detects that the server is a member of a DAG. To proceed, you must remove database copies and then evict the failed server from the DAG before you can run the steps described earlier. After the server is restored to full health, you can bring it back into the DAG and create new database copies.

Remember that the operation you’ve just performed is a recovery of Exchange based on information in Active Directory. Any information or configuration setting that is stored outside Active Directory, such as customizations made to configuration files, must be restored separately.

Delegated setup

Exchange 2013 supports the ability for an administrator to delegate setup activity for a server to a nonprivileged user. This can be done for any server after the first Exchange server is installed in an organization. In outline, you do this by running the Exchange setup program in a special mode that creates the server object in Active Directory and prepares it for completion at some point in the future. You then delegate the completion task to another user, who can then run the Exchange setup program to complete the installation.

The first task is to run Setup to create the server object in Active Directory and prepare the server for future completion.

Setup.com /NewProvisionedServer:ExServer7.contoso.com/IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

The target server must exist and be properly prepared for Exchange to be installed. After a successful setup run, you can check Active Directory to see whether the new server is listed with the other Exchange servers.

To complete server provisioning, the user’s account must be a member of the Delegated Setup role group. For now, it’s sufficient to know that you have to run an Exchange Management Shell (EMS) command to add the mailbox to which you want to delegate the server completion task. You can delegate roles to mailboxes or universal security groups only, so the user must have a mailbox or be a member of a universal security group before you can delegate a role. For example, to assign the task of performing the delegated setup to the user who owns the mailbox named Redmond, you open EMS and type this command:

Add-RoleGroupMember –Identity 'Delegated Setup' –Member 'Redmond'

Afterward, this user can run Setup on the provisioned server to complete the installation, providing that she holds local administrator permission for the server.

 
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