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I'm setting up a preproduction environment as a copy of production. The first time this was done, a very long time ago, when staging/preprod environment was created, we spun up an AD virtual machine, temporarily added it to production, waited for it to be replicated to, then removed it from production.

It seems like there should be an easier way / better way to get snapshot of the production AD environment.

Googling variants of my question returns no useful results. Do other people have a similar (for legacy reasons) environment? Is what we're doing the way you're doing it too?

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If you setup a DC as permanent VM, then it seems like you could easily take a snapshot at any point in time. –  Zoredache Dec 8 '10 at 18:12

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All you need to do is restore your last backup to a virtual environment and it shouldn't be much more difficult than that.

We do this periodically to test our DR capabilities, but also when we need to test out big things before doing it live in production. Last time I did this on a grand scale was during a test deployment of Exchange 2010 into our existing Exchange 2003 environment. I simply restored Active Directory and Exchange from their most recent backups into a virtual environment and went from there.

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+1 Exactly the way I recommend, and it's worked out quite well when I've done it in the past. Just make absolutely sure the new DC isn't on the same network as the original, or bad things can happen. –  Jeff McJunkin Dec 8 '10 at 18:22
    
I has hoped (and it seems logical: how else could you restore from a backup?) that this was actually all we needed to do, but had gotten resistance from someone else on the project that this would work. Thanks Ben, I'll show them this. –  zsouthboy Dec 8 '10 at 22:04
    
Definitely - if they have any concerns, feel free to ask another question about them. –  Ben Pilbrow Dec 8 '10 at 22:07
    
In addition, in W2K3 with the GPMC installed there are 2 scripts you can use to acieve this: CreateXMLFromEnvironment.wsf and CreateEnvironmentFromXML.wsf. –  joeqwerty Dec 9 '10 at 0:19

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