Dan [name changed to protect the innocent and the fact that I’m going to rag on his boss in this blog post] in the mailbag today asked a question about ‘hosted’ Exchange.  He said that his boss wanted him to look into hosted Exchange [asp] as an alternative to moving their MX records to their SBS box.  The problem is that the boss did not want to leave the server on 24/7.  Dan said that he only agreed because he didn’t have the environment to run a high availability server.

Dan?  Boss of Dan? Come over here… see my network? Do you see my older ‘member’ server?  It used to be my main SBS box but now it’s the TS/member server box.  That server is 5, maybe 6 years old… now I personally think the sweet spot of server hardware is about 3 to 4. You know what happened to me today?  Another drive on the RAID 5 array on that old server dropped off.  You know how much down time that affected me?  About 45 minutes.  During my lunch hour no less.  And about 15 of that 45 minutes was on hold with Adaptec [delay due to the Hurricane because all calls are going through Millpitas and not shared between California and Florida] because the drive had to be zapped off again [it did this the last time I lost a drive on that older server about a year ago and I couldn’t remember the commands] and then brought back into the array as a hot spare and then it slid into the location where it’s supposed to be and drive 0,1 in the three drive array.  And other than the screaming like a banshee sound that it makes while one of the three drives has dropped off the face of the earth, the server is still running, still serving, still doing it’s thing.  In fact, many folks say that you want to leave your servers up and running, that it’s the spinning up and spinning down that does more wear and tear on them.

I keep a spare harddrive [in fact now need to order a new one] just so I can slide a new one in with no issues.  High availability to a firm doesn’t mean a datacenter.  It means just reasonably nice hardware.  Server hardware.  It’s certainly not the overgrown desktop hardware that is running the DELL OEM I bought for testing purposes. [It is literally the absolute CHEAPEST model I could get and it’s basically an overgrown desktop with one drive].

It means …that even if you DO go the route of some of your parts being ‘hosted’, I would argue that you STILL want true Server class hardware.  Now these days, I’m not convinced it’s SCSI all the way… I think it can be SATA as well.  But there’s a RAID in there so you could drop a thing or two along the way like I did during lunch and it would not matter one bit.

Next reason why you want your SBS box on 24/7…. remote connectivity.  There’s many a time I go off to a conference and go ‘oh shoot I forgot that’ and can remote back into the office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remote Web Workplace ‘is’ the killer app of SBS. 

Next reason why you want your SBS box on 24/7…. patch management.  I have and do scan and patch my network in my jammies from home.  Now then, if you turn your system off…how can you do that?

So …okay… next… about that Boss not wanting to point the MX records to the SBS box… okay so the Gang at the SBS podcast will hate me for this but here comes….come closer…. you know about that POP connector that is supposed to be a transition tool?  The one that you are only supposed to use temporarily?  Well like they said in one of their podcasts… folks have been transitioning on that sucker since SBS 4.0.  I use the pop connector at home all the time. 

And what about the MX records and all that…. you know that with a service like TZO.com you can have a backup MX record so that if ‘IF” your SBS box goes down the email will stay in your backup MX holder and then forward it again when it’s back up.

Okay ..so like WHEN would you want hosted Exchange?  I think you’d want hosted Exchange …and hosted SBS for that matter…. if you are

  • Not a control freak like I am
  • Live in an area that you need to be nimble and move out of harm’s way

I think [hint hint] Vlad in his blog need to post about advantages/disadvantages of hosted Exchange and ways to connect [VPN, RPC over HTTPS [I vote that one even with real SBS]. and whether you should stop Exchange to free up resources [remembering of course that again, if you have a real server, it can handle this stuff just fine].  For me I’m just waaaaayyyy too much of a control freak to handing Exchange not being in my office under my control.

This nimbleness I know came in handy for one of Jeff Middleton’s tech support clients.  He helped them backup their data and they sent it off to the software vendor that in addition to having a PC based application also had an ASP version.  This allowed them to quickly get back online.

So Dan’s boss?  Leave that server turned on please?  You don’t need to turn it off and night and reboot in the morning.  This is a server, not a workstation.  Heck we’re even leaving workstations on 24/7.  And bad guys can break into you via the Internet just as effectively if you are stupid on setting that box up during the day as well as during the night.  While turning a machine off and encasing it in cement, dropping it to the bottom of the ocean probably does increase security of your system greatly, it kinda doesn’t help much to boost productivity.

Leave it on, Mr. Boss.


One Response to How much of a control freak are you?

  1. Richard Tocci says:

    I think you might want to edit your comments. Servers NEED TO BE REBOOTED FROM TIME TO TIME. SBS or not. I am SOOOOOOOOOOO sick of hearing this MYTH. I reboot my servers once a week. Why…well…I’m sure you are QUITE aware of this…some Windows Updates require a reboot. The event logs tell you that much.