Disaster Recovery in Windows Server 2003 – RAID

Introduction to RAID in Windows Server 2003

Let us recall the overall disaster recovery goals:
a) Protect your data.
b) Recover quickly from an incident. 

In the overall scheme, remember that prevention of data loss is so much better than disaster recovery.

One urban myth had it that a network manager had a knock on the door, and there stood a Compaq engineer.  ‘I have come to replace your disk’ he said, ‘What disk? I did not order a disk’ – demanded the manager.  ‘No worries.’, replied the engineer, ‘our remote monitoring system has spotted the 4th disk in you array has failed and I have come to fit a new one.’

Topics for RAIDin Windows Server 2003


Types of RAID

RAID 1 Disk Mirroring  – Protect the Windows Server 2003 operating system with a mirrored disk.

RAID 5 Striping with Parity – If one disk fails the program carries on thanks to your hardware RAID with a hot swappable disk.

RAID 0+1 Striping (No parity) for speed, combined with mirroring the whole stripe set for fault tolerance.

Note: You can only create RAID 5 on Dynamic disk. (So upgrade Basic Disk)

Guidelines for disk configurations.

  • File and Print: Use RAID 1 array for the OS (Operating System). Use RAID 5 array for data partitions.
  • Web Services: Use RAID 1 array for the OS. Use RAID 5 array for data partitions.
  • Database Services: Use RAID 1 array for the OS. Use RAID 0+1 for the data partitions.

With hardware RAID, onboard controller handles the RAID system and not the operating system.  Windows Server 2003 ‘sees’ the physical disk array as a single hard drive.  If one hard disk fails in a RAID-1 or RAID-5 implementation, you can rebuild the RAID system and recover all data from the failed disk.  Just press CTRL M during boot and then selecting ‘Rebuild’.  This recovers the data to its state immediately before the failure occurred.

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Creating RAID volumes in Windows Server 2003

You only really need to do this if you are using software RAID.  Hardware RAID has its own utilities which are often placed in the Control Panel.

  1. Click Start (menu), All Programs, Administrative Tools, Computer Management.
  2. Open ‘Storage’ and click Disk Management.
  3. Right-click the unallocated space on one of the dynamic disks where the RAID-0, RAID-1, or RAID-5 volume should be created, and then click ‘Create Volume.’
  4. In the Create Volume wizard, click ‘Next,’ and then click on the desired volume type: ‘Striped volume,’ ‘Mirrored volume,’ or ‘RAID-5 volume.’

Upgrading basic disks to dynamic disks

In my opinion, favour dynamic disk on server, but stick with basic disk on XP and other clients.  Converting to dynamic disk is irreversible, or at least you cannot return to basic disk and preserve the data.

Some of the limitations of dynamic disk are not serious, for example you cannot dual boot into another operating system.  However, even this reduces your options, for instance, you could not install a parallel operating system for recovering a machine that will not boot.  More seriously, your hardware RAID may not work on dynamic disk, so check with the manufacturers.

  1. Navigate to the Disk Management console.
  2. Right-click the grey ‘Disk Description’ pane that is located to the left of the Color-coded volume panes.
  3. Select, Upgrade to Dynamic Disk.’  Note you will have to reboot not once, but twice.

Diskpart – a handy command line utility.

Microsoft provides a disk-partitioning utility called Diskpart which is particularly useful for scripting disk tasks during unattended setup of Windows Server 2003. With diskpart you can configure most of the settings found in the Disk Management GUI.  Writing diskpart in to a script is a particularly easy way of upgrading lots of machines from basic to dynamic disk.

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