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A Cool Way To Extend Your Exchange Database Storage Without Any Downtime

A Cool Way To Extend Your Exchange Database Storage Without Any Downtime

Below is a live screen shoot of my additional 838 GB of additional storage space, after I managed to extend my existing Exchange database storage on one of my server in a Database Availability Group (DAG) configuration, without any down time.

Click Image To Enlarge

Advancing technology really has its advantages and has done so much for those of us in this industry.  Could you imagine trying to increase your storage without shutting down your servers?

No exchange system administrator likes dealing with system problems, but problems in data processing are normal.  Problems sometime are so complicated that it raises the stress level of any administrator to a level normally not experienced on a regular basis.

Could you imagine your boss, and many of the other employees “breading “down your neck, asking you when you are going to resolve the problem? If an Exchange administrator has no problems, then he or she will never expand their knowledge base. Problems as an exchange administrator, is evident.  In fact, as long as you are working in an Information technology department, you will experience problems from time to time.

This article will first briefly explain the problem that I had experience and how I went about resolving the issue without any interruptions to the Company.

 The Problem

We are presently moving our users from our older Exchange 2003 servers, to our new Microsoft Exchange 2010 servers.  Many of our users have already been moved to our exchange 2010 server, except for about six executives.

The existing size of the Exchange database store for the users who have not been moved to exchange 2010 servers is about 60 GB in size.  If I had to move the users that are still on our 2003 servers to our 2010 servers, then I would have definitely experience space issues.

I had to think of a way to increase my space on the 2010 Exchange servers, with minimal interruptions to the business.  Before I go any further in explaining how I increased my server space without any down time, let me tell you a little about our present configuration.

Exchange Server Configuration

My exchange configuration consists of two Exchange 2010 servers, and three Exchange 2003 servers. We have implemented High Availability, on our servers for fault tolerance, and redundancy. This redundancy is in the form of a DAG environment.  DAG is short for Database Availability Groups.

There are presently two Exchange 2010 servers setup in a DAG configuration. The mounted database is located on Server One, and the secondary or healthy database is located on Server Two. If Server one fails, then server two should automatically detect a failure and takes over.  This configuration is supported by Microsoft, so if I need assistance they normally assist me for a fee.

Both servers are HP DL 380 G6 servers, which made expanding the space much easier than using regular servers.  These servers came complete with additional expansion slots, to add additional drives, when needed.

The Resolution

As you can see we are also like many other companies still working in a mixed environment.  I am one of those administrators that came from a mixed environment, which included Exchange Server 5.5.

We never seem to be able to completely get rid of the mixed environments.  By the time you are almost off the older version, Microsoft always creates a newer version. I guess this is by design.

The first thing I did was checked the physical configuration of the server to see if I had addition slots available, to install new drives.  To my surprise, I had two slots available on both servers.

I guess I should have known this, if I had documented my server’s configurations.  Like so many administrators, I did not document our configuration. Documenting your server’s configuration, on initial install will save you many hours, when you are faced with problems.

The second thing I did was asked the purchasing agent to get me a quote on at least five 900 GB hard drives. The reason why I asked for a quote on the five drives, instead of four was to have a spare drive in the even I had a failure in the future.

Once the drives arrived, I installed them within the servers.  Two drives were installed into each server.  The reason I installed two drives in each system was to create a mirror for redundancy. If one drive failed, then the other drive would have immediately continued to work, until I was able to install my spare.

This was one of the reasons why we always purchased HP Servers.  These servers have so many build in fault tolerance, from the perspective of the hardware, instead of the software.  No need to depend on the operating system, to setup the fault tolerance.

The next thing I did was logged into each server and access the build in Raid utility, to configure the drives.

Click Image To Enlarge

If you look closely at my diagram above you will see two SAS drives that we had purchased to add to the server.  Here you will notice that the two drives are showing, but in the diagram at the beginning of this article, you would have noticed that only one drive is showing with the 838 GB.

The Array utility takes as many drives and configures them into one large drive. There is some overhead involves that is why you would have seen the 900 GB reduced to 838 GB.

Once I had configured my drives using this build in utility, they were ready for use.  My next step would have been to begin creating addition database stores using Exchange server, or Database Availability Group, for our Executives.

Once my additional stores were created then I would have begun the process of moving my Executives to the additional space.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article.  Please my other articles on Exchange server here on this site.

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What is An Exchange Server? The Best Email Server, In my Opinion

What is an Exchange Server? Many questions similar to this question have flooded the minds of many aspiring system administrators. The fact that you are searching for information on this software, lets me know that you are probably new to electronic email servers, but not new to the field of Information technology.

Whatever your reasons for finding out more about exchange server, I can assure you that once you have mastered this technology your value to any establishment would tremendously be increased. You would be envied by many of your peers, working in the same department.

Exchange servers are normally managed by exchange system administrators.  Exchange administrators are generally trusted by upper management because of the confidentially, and nature of the systems that are being managed.

Exchange administrators are also called upon by executives to perform many confidential tasks that the normal employee would never be asked to perform.

You do not need a degree in computers to learn exchange server technology, but specialized training is more often required.  All you need to do is have the willingness to learn, and an open mind. Aspiring exchange administrators normally learn about exchange by attending evening institution, or using a self-study guide.

Exchange Server was designed specifically for the purposes of email.  This technology has been used extensively for many years by many large and medium size corporations. I can assure you that this technology is here to stay, and should only get better as time progresses.

Exchange, at times is referred to as Microsoft Exchange Server. This software was developed specifically for the purpose of business electronic email in an enterprise environment. The product is client server in nature.  This means that a client is required to collect email from the server.  It also means that most of the heavy processing of the email is done by the client. The server product works in collaboration with other Microsoft products like Outlook, and Eudora.

Even though exchange was designed as an enterprise solution, if you have between five and ten employees, you would still be able to benefit from this software.

Exchange server also includes a calendaring feature to organize meeting, and contacts.  Wireless synchronization of contacts, and email functionalities are available using mobile phones, and other technical gadgets.

Exchange also has a feature that allows employees to read their voice mail directly within their outlook, or compatible email client. The software is so smart that it translates voice to text. There are so many other valuable features available in this software, to mention here in this article.

Many companies are presently using other email technologies like Lotus Notes, and other email programs, but exchange server is used by more companies around the world than any other mail technology software.

Exchange Server has evolved from many versions, to the present version of Exchange Server 2010, as of the writing of this article. I can assure you that there will be many other versions in the future. Other older versions of this software included Exchange Server 2003, and Exchange Server 2007.

The earlier version of Exchange 5.5, even though it was introduced over ten years ago still exist at many companies today, because of their stubbornness to upgrade to the latest version of this server software. Exchange 2007 is also widely used today by many companies.

Cautious system administrators will never upgrade, or install any new software unless the old was broken.  Maybe you have heard the term, “If it is not broken, you should never try to fix it”. In other words, as long as a program or a system was doing the job that you intended it to do; there should be no need to change it. This is a common term that is used on many occasions in the field of Information technology.

The only time an exchange administrator, or system administrator would move to new software platform would be when their software had reached its end of life.

End of life is a term that had been used to let users know that they would no longer be able to receive support, for a particular version of software.

Many software developers would announce the end of life for different versions of their software in an attempt to forced users to purchase a newer version of their software. If no technical support for any particular software was available, then it makes no sense using that software.

Exchange software had to be installed, along with the windows operating system to work. This operating system was also created by the same company that created Exchange.

Operating systems are installed on personal computers, and servers alike to assist in the communication of hardware to software. Without an operating system, a personal computer would be considered a, “dead piece of equipment”.

Exchange software is also used by Internet Service providers to give free email accounts to their subscribers. If you have a hot mail, or even a G mail account, then you may be attached to an Exchange Server, on the back-end.

When I used the term back-end, I am referring to the computer infrastructure that had been setup by a company, to offer services to their clients.

While I am on the topic of computer infrastructure, I would like to make you aware that Exchange Server does not run entirely on its own, as a separate system.  Another program known as Active Directory has to be installed first, for Exchange Server to work.  The topic of Active Directory is out of the scope of this topic, but since it is an integral of the functioning of exchange server, I have to briefly mention it.

Active Directory was developed for the sharing of computer resources like printers, fax machines, and any other devices that needed to be shared amounts employees.

Active Directory is also known as the security boundary of a company’s network. No user would receive access to resources, including access to Exchange Server, unless they were authorized by Active Directory.

When Active directory is installed on computers at a company, a domain is created to form the basis of a company’s network.

Active Directory and Exchange Server may be installed on the same computer, if resources are limited. Best practices dictates that you would experience better performance of your email environment, if all installed software has its own dedicated computer, or server.

Many companies around the world have dedicated Exchange Server administrators employed. So, learning Exchange Server will give you an advantage, over other administrators. That is what makes Exchange Server software a good option to learn, by aspiring administrators.

In fact the company that developed the software has many annual seminars dedicated to this technology alone.

Some persons might disagree that exchange server is not the best email server, but everyone has an opinion based on their experiences with a product. I am presently employed as an Information Technology Manager, working with Active Directory, and Exchange Server on a daily basis.

I can tell you for sure, that you can never learn exchange server without understanding Active Directory. These two technologies complement each other.  In fact, they are depending on each other.

I have also written many other articles on the topic like, exchange server prerequisites, and what is hosted exchange, along with many other articles. Please see other articles on this website.

Further Reading