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I am replacing two 6 year old Windows 2003 servers (one hosting Exchange Server 2003) and a 4 year old Storage Server 2003 machine with a new ESXi Server running two production VM's (Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010) and NAS running Windows Storage Server 2008 R2.

The old servers which are still functioning perfectly are going to be moved to an nearby location linked via fiber to the main office.

Rather than retiring them, I am looking for any practical way to use them for replication, backup, and maybe even failover.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

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I know this isn't exactly what you're asking, but sometimes its just better to bite the bullet and ditch the older servers. Sure, at a gut level that feels wrong and you can still remember when the server was shiny and new - but if its something important do you want it running on a 6 year old server, and if its not important then do you really want to spend the time? In the long run I've found having a lot of important stuff on old hardware costs more in time (especially if you multiply up by the hourly rate of your affected users to get the total cost of the downtime) than it saves in hardware costs. At a pinch, backup is a reasonable use, but replace the drives if you're going to do that...

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Good point. Sometimes older stuff is more trouble than its worth. You still need standby hardware to work properly... nothing worse than failing over to backup equipment that breaks and is out of warranty! – duffbeer703 Aug 25 '10 at 11:59
I remember having to surplus an HP server about 5 years ago that originally cost my org, $32,000. One of the hardest things I've had to do quite honestly... – GregD Aug 25 '10 at 15:03

Old servers can be very useful for continuous integration, system/security scans, or other test and monitoring functions that you don't want to run on the main servers.

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Experimenting with new tech. Load them up with anything you've ever wanted to try. Nagios, any of a dozen MS server apps that you can use unrestricted and free for 3 months (sharepoint, sccvm, etc), set up a wikimedia server - you get the idea.

If the trial ends up being useful, you've got a demo you can use to justify the purchase of new hardware to put it on. If not, wipe it and throw on something else.

I have to agree though, they should be treated as 100% disposable at any time.

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Take a look at freenas at Here's the blurb from their website:

FreeNAS is an embedded open source NAS (Network-Attached Storage) distribution based on FreeBSD, supporting the following protocols: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, TFTP, AFP, RSYNC, Unison, iSCSI (initiator and target) and UPnP.

It supports Software RAID (0,1,5), ZFS, disk encryption, S.M.A.R.T/email monitoring with a WEB configuration interface (from m0n0wall).

FreeNAS can be installed on Compact Flash/USB key, hard drive or booted from LiveCD.

Failover would not be possible, but it would give you an iSCSI-Target for your backups.

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This is an excellent use of older hardware, but given that when you have storage available to you, you become dependent on it, and then becomes essential again. That's a dangerous proposition on such old and unsupported hardware. +1 for the recommendation for personal use. -1 for company production use. – gWaldo Aug 25 '10 at 13:04

I would say the old servers are not suitable for replication, backup, or failover unless you intend to keep them under a support contract, which probably defeats your intended purpose. As someone else noted, they are great for experimenting with new tech and software versions, since you dont need support at that point. Being an Oracle DBA, I like to use old servers for experimenting with the latest and (supposed) greatest Oracle software releases.

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