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I am quite new to Exchange in general. I have done some server administration, but never with an Exchange box. Can someone point me in a direction that will give me a good overview and a set of best practices? I inherited a box with Exchange on it and works great all on its own, but would not know where to begin to start fixing it if something went wrong (gotta love technet). Ultimately, I am looking at this from a disaster recovery standpoint. Worse case scenario, If I have to build the box from the bottom, how to I get back up and running. Any insight would be appreciated.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Exchange 2003 Disaster Recovery Operations Guide is a decent place to start. I'd concur with the other posters re: you need to understand how the database engine works. I'd advise you, as well, to read up on recovery storage groups, which can allow you to restore individual mailboxes without taking the production database offline.

For a single server, single physical location Exchange environment you should be most concerned that you're getting good, regular System State backups of an Active Directory domain controller and an online database backup of Exchange. The Exchange Server itself, provided you don't have a lot of other software installed on it, is fairly easy to rebuild from a complete failure, provided you've got these backups. (The SETUP command-line switch "/disasterrecovery" will allow you to setup a replacement machine in the event of a complete failure of the original machine. Provided the new machine has the same drive letter structure, same computer name, and is joined to the domain you can run SETUP with this switch then restore the last online backup(s) you took and be up and running again.)

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When you say SETUP command-line, do you mean from the Exchange Installation disc? I am also running Backup Exec 11d, and have been doing some investigating on whats being backed up and how (full vs incremential, father, grandfather, etc). – hydroparadise May 13 '11 at 14:40

You'll really need to understand the way that Exchange works in order to be able to troubleshoot it, rebuild it, et cetera. Learning as much as you can about Exchange is the best first step you can take. There's lots of resources, but the most thorough ones tend to be books.

I'm a fan of the Microsoft Press books, if you're looking for a place to start. Kindof dry, but there's a decent amount of step-by-step examples:

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Well you already have the right idea. I'd recommend building a VM of an exchange box - if necessary get a temporary domain name and see how close you can come to duplicating the existing setup & features of the production box.

Learn how to back up & restore the databases & individual mailboxes. Learn about the separate config files, log files, transaction files. Basically you want a class or a good reference book (O'Rilley has a couple good ones on ex03).

But IMO, you won't REALLY know if you've covered all the bases unless you've built your own test server and duplicated all the features. Well, that and testing on the production mail server can lead to all kinds of adventures...

Also, browsing the Exchange-2003 tag here will give you the chance to pick up tricks you won't find in any books.

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