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James, Sr. Computer Support Expert
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Question about preparing a computer cold spare. I have a

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Question about preparing a computer cold spare.

I have a computer running Windows Server 2008. It hosts all of the shared files for my company. I already have it set up with 2 hard drives running RAID 1 mirroring so if one drive dies, we are fine. However, I am worried about a scenario where other hardware stops working (such as CPU, motherboard, RAM, etc) and we have a long downtime while I repair this critical computer. I was thinking of buying a cold spare that would stand-by. If the primary computer were to fail, I would unplug the hard drives from the primary, put them into the cold spare and then be up and running.

I know one thing I have to be careful is if my cold spare has substantially different hardware than my primary. I believe if the hardware is different, putting the drives from the primary into the cold spare may result in driver differences and result in a blue screen when booting. So, let's say I buy a computer acting as my cold spare that is 100% identical in hardware to my primary computer. For the cold spare, I would also configure the BIOS to run the hard drives as RAID. If I do this, would my solution work? In the event of primary computer failure, I can remove the hard drives, put them into the cold spare, turn on the cold spare and be up and running again with down time of just the time it takes to swap the drives and turn on the cold spare?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Computer
Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

You are asking some very good questions, and this is certainly worth discussing - as well as perhaps some better alternatives.

Can you please tell me what kind of RAID you are using? The Native 2008 RAID, or a hardware RAID (RAID adapter) ?

Thanks.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Native raid, intel rapid storage technology. It shows raid status at bootup and can also check the status using the intel rapid storage technology software within windows

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
Ok - so this is a hardware RAID.
This means you need to be using the exact same hardware, with the exact same RAID controller for the cold spare.

Your best bet is basically to get the exact same server, exact same board and components. You are correct in assuming that if you have different components, your OS will fail on boot due to incorrect drivers. The RAID controller is the most sensitive part in this case.

Hope this makes sense!


If you have any other questions or need more information, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond!
I'd appreciate it if you can rate my service using the faces below my answer.

Many thanks,

James.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

What is my hardware RAID controller tied to? Is it the motherboard? Meaning, to ensure the RAID controller is the same on the primary and the cold spare, I need to make sure the XXX hardware is the same on both primary and cold spare.


 


Thanks

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

The RAID controller in your case is part of the board (I just checked), so getting the exact same motherboard will ensure that you have the same RAID controller - it's as simple as that.

If you have any other questions or need more information, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond!
I'd appreciate it if you can rate my service using the faces below my answer.

Many thanks,

James.
James, Sr. Computer Support Expert
Category: Computer
Satisfied Customers: 15820
Experience: 20 years of experience building, fixing and servicing PCs and operating systems.
James and 11 other Computer Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Will the CPU matter? Everything else being the same but the CPU is 2.2ghz instead of 1.80 ghz.

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

No - the CPU is not going to make a difference just because of the speed. Windows uses the same driver for the entire CPU class, regardless of the speed. It would matter if you used an AMD instead of Intel, changed the number of cores, etc.

If you have any other questions or need more information, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond!
I'd appreciate it if you can rate my service using the faces below my answer.

Many thanks,

James.
James, Sr. Computer Support Expert
Category: Computer
Satisfied Customers: 15820
Experience: 20 years of experience building, fixing and servicing PCs and operating systems.
James and 11 other Computer Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

See this link:


http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/381/Intel_Core_2_Duo_E4400_vs_Intel_Pentium_Dual-Core_E2160.html


 


My computer now is E2160 (Pentium Dual Core)


The cold spare I am looking at buying is E4400 (Core 2 Duo)


 


Would this these be identical drivers?

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
These CPUs will have two different socket types on the board, which means different boards... I can't say for sure it will work - if the socket is different there can be other components that are different, including the RAID controller.
To be on the safe side, I would stick to the same hardware.


Have you considered running two hot machines, running off the same storage (e.g. SAN) ? Is this something your budget would allow?

J.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I did some basic research on this but was still confused as to how it would work. I assume it would work similar to a RAID whereas if one computer died, it would automatically switch over to the hardware of the second computer? All the data would be on the shared storage. Does Windows Server 2008 have the software built in to support this? Can you lead me in the right direction on what this feature is called?

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
That's pretty much correct. You will use shared storage (usually connected to the server using iSCSI - high speed ethernet). Both servers will have access, and there is a cluster server service on Windows 2008 that knows how to manage it.

Can you tell me what kind of uses you have for the servers? File storage, Exchange, SQL server?

Thanks!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

File storage only.


 


I don't want to have to configure both servers. For example, if a new employee comes and I add a user to machine 1, do I have to do the same for machine 2? Or, does it in a sense, mirror?

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
Oh, that's not the way it works.
With the 2008 cluster service, you configure a "file share" service. Either one of your 2 cluster members can host it, and it runs off the shared storage (SAN drive).

If one server fails, the other server notices it through a heartbeat interface, and starts serving the share automatically. Your users won't even notice, it's fast and no files are lost.

It is an expensive solution, though. The SAN in particular could run you 5-10 K. Does this sound like a viable option?

J.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

5-10k is not feasible. I thought it could run off a networked attached storage or something cheaper.



Is there a cheaper solution? Two hot servers linked to a network attached storage? Or, two hot servers, essentially mirroring each other. As in, server 1 having 2 hard drives running RAID 1, then server 2 having 2 hard drives running RAID 1. So basically server 2 would be a clone of server 1.


 


The objective is to have minimal downtime in the event of server 1 hardware failure within a 2-3k budget


 


 

Expert:  James replied 1 year ago.
I'm afraid for that kind of budget, all you can really do is get a server that is as similar as possible. A simple NAS will not work for this purpose, it has to be hardware that supports clustering, and that's going to be expensive.

For 2-3K, you need to simply get the closest hardware you can find.
To be on the safeside, use Acronis TrueImage or Clonezilla to clone both drives, and see if the drives boot properly in the backup machine.

J.
James, Sr. Computer Support Expert
Category: Computer
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Experience: 20 years of experience building, fixing and servicing PCs and operating systems.
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