Thursday, 21 February 2008

SBS + ShadowProtect = Change system partition size on a RAID array

When we run into an SBS server that has a system partition that is getting full, we run into a bit of a bind if the subsequent partitions are in use with no free space to be had anywhere.

If we are working with a server that has one set of drives configured into a RAID 5 array with a system partition and a couple of additional partitions, what do we do?

With ShadowProtect, we have two rather simple options:
  1. Migrate the system and data partitions to a new array on larger drives
  2. Migrate the system and data partitions to resized system and data partitions - if there is free space available on the other partitions.
The first solution is pretty straight forward:
  1. Create ShadowProtect images of all partitions to USB HDD
  2. Power down the server
  3. Swap the old drives for new larger drives
  4. Configure the new RAID 5 array in the RAID controller's BIOS
  5. Create a bootable Logical Drive using all space on the new array
  6. Boot to the ShadowProtect Recovery Environment (SPRE) via CD
    • If necessary, load the appropriate RAID controller driver to access the array
  7. Create your new larger partitions via the Disk Manager in the SPRE
  8. Format them
  9. Restore your system and data partitions from the ShadowProtect images
  10. Verify drive letters on the new partitions
  11. Reboot
Once the server has finished booting, the new system partition size will be available for the additional SBS growth that is needed.

If budget does not allow for new larger hard drives, then we use the following method to reconfigure the RAID array's partitions if free space permits:
  1. Create a ShadowProtect image of the system partition to USB HDD
  2. Copy the other partition's data to the USB HDD in a respectively named folder
  3. Reboot the server
  4. Logon to the RAID controller's BIOS
  5. Delete the existing RAID array and its partitions
  6. Create a new RAID 5 array using the existing drives
  7. Create a bootable Logical Drive using all space on the new array
  8. Boot to the ShadowProtect Recovery Environment (SPRE) via CD
    • If necessary, load the appropriate RAID controller driver to access the array
  9. Create your system partition larger than it was before via the Disk Manager in the SPRE
  10. Create your subsequent partitions in the Disk Manager
    • Keep in mind the volume requirement for the data that will be copied back.
    • If there is not enough available space on the other partitions to give up for the system partition, then the above method with new drives is your only option.
  11. Format them
  12. Restore your system partition from the ShadowProtect image
  13. Copy the data back to the respective partition from its folder on the USB HDD
  14. Verify drive letters on the new partitions
  15. Reboot
You will now have a reconfigured partition setup.

Note that the GUID associated with the original partitions may no longer apply. Verify that any backup jobs (ShadowProtect uses the GUID to pick partitions for backup), application, or the OS itself has picked up the partitioning setup and correct drive letters.

You may need to reboot into Safe Mode and reassign the drive letters from within the OS for the additional partitions if they do not get assigned correctly by the OS upon boot up.

This methodology is relatively quick and quite painless.

The whole operation for Method 1 is no more than an afternoon depending on data volumes and server speed.

The operation for Method 2 would be a bit longer depending on how much physical data needs to be copied to the USB HDD and age of the server itself.

Philip Elder
MPECS Inc.
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

3 comments:

Robert Crane said...

Philip,

Can I also suggest a disk resizing tool that we have used very effectively to achieve the same results as changing the capacity using Shadowprotect. It is called Paragon Partition Manager and you can fin dthe info here :

http://www.partition-manager.com/corporate/server/

Pretty impressive software really.

Thanks
Robert Crane
Saturn Alliance

Philip E. said...

Robert,

One of the first steps we would perform before touching the server is to create a system partition ShadowProtect Image. We do that for any server/workstation/laptop that hits our bench or for any on-site work of signifance.

It is a form of caution that has paid off handsomely:
1: If the system crashes we have a fall back (inluding new hardware if necessary in short order)
2: Client calls a week later (we do this at no cost to them for bench work) asking for a file they accidently killed.

I think that given our not so positive experiences with a simple partition scheme change on Acer laptops, making similar changes on a server is something we have not considered here.

In your experience, has there been any significant server hiccups after a partition scheme change after using PPM? Perhaps after shedding some light via your experiences, it would become a viable option for us.

Thanks for your comment,

Philip

Robert Crane said...

Philip,

We have used Paragon quite a few times to do resizes. Only issues are the time taken maybe extensive depending on existing disk configurations and usage and secondly (obviously) when Paragon is running the server is DOWN. It is the same with ShadowProtect admittedly.

Personally, I think Shadowprotect is probably safer and quciker in teh long run but sometimes you come across machines without USB2 and gigbit NICs, then perhaps Paragon is a consideration.

Thanks
Robert Crane
Saturn Alliance