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I have 3 Dell PowerEdge server, each with 2 quad-core processors. I am going to bring this office out of the stone-age network (P2P, share files on a flash drive, emails through Google, etc) and set up Active Directory and Exchange 2013. Our needs are not that great at the moment - our staff consists of approximately 40 people, and our network may eventually be managed by an external company. We need only one domain for our emails (though we may serve emails for a few other partners domains as well). I was thinking of setting something up like this:

Server 1: Primary DC. Active Directory and Exchange on separate virtual machines. Server 2: Redundant of server 1. Server 3: Shared resources, storage, backups, etc.

How would you utilize 3 servers for an Active Directory / Exchange setup for a small/medium office? We do have plans to grow, so my solution must be scalable, though I'm not sure that I want to split permissions, though I'd consider it if that was something that could be changed on down the road.

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Were you referring to virtual instances of Windows on server 1, a VM running as a DC and one running as an Exchange front-end connected to server 3 storage? – BigHomie Jun 12 '14 at 18:26
That is correct. – user3164638 Jun 12 '14 at 18:32

I wouldn't do most of what you want to do.

  1. Do not install Exchange on a domain controller. Full stop.
  2. Definitely do not install it on two domain controllers.
  3. Please go read about Active Directory. If you still, in Twenty-By-God-Fourteen, think that there are Primary and Backup Domain Controllers, I am scared about what other misunderstandings you have.
  4. Two DCs is a wise idea, absolutely.
  5. If this is current hardware, you'll be wasting a LOT of resources. Look into Hyper-V or VMware ESXi; all of the machines you want would do great as VM guests.
  6. If you have the budget for a managed service company, why don't you hire them now to help build this? It will cost you more if they have to survey and then remediate a bad design down the line. Get them in now.
  7. For 40 users, I would much rather go with Office 365 Hosted Exchange, or someone else's hosted Exchange offering.
  8. If you're dead-set on in-house Exchange, either learn it quickly and good (unlikely), or again, hire a pro. Same as item 3 and 6, really.
  9. I don't see anything in here about a server to host your backups. Why is that? - Wait, I see you mention that for server 3. Will your backups be to tape, or a cloud service, or some other offline mechanism? A second copy of files on the same disk is not a backup.
  10. I have no idea what you're talking about when you refer to "split permissions", particularly in the context of future growth and scalability.
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..If you still, in Twenty-By-God-Fourteen, think that there are Primary and Backup Domain Controllers, I am scared about what other misunderstandings you have... You only recommend a single DC? – BigHomie Jun 12 '14 at 18:27
Of course not. You know that PDC and BDC haven't existed since NT 4.0, right? That's what I'm referring to. He should have just two DCs, one isn't primary in any sense, other than some FSMO roles which can be spread around. – mfinni Jun 12 '14 at 18:27
We have cloud servers and iSCSI's for backups. Exchange setup offers an option for splitting permissions between AD and Exchange - such that if different people will be managing Exchange and AD, this would prevent Exchange admins from modifying AD objects and from AD admins from modifying Exchange rules. What about a redundant setup of one server having 3 virtual machines, one for AD, one for Exchange, and one for network shares, duplicated on another server, and backed up on the third? – user3164638 Jun 12 '14 at 18:29
You should hire a pro, because you're a little out of your depth. Some of your ideas are good, but some are kind of off-base. Few places use VMware Fault tolerance, and I don't think there's an equivalent feature under Hyper-V, if that's what you mean by "duplicated on another server." – mfinni Jun 12 '14 at 18:31
@user3164638 if you planned on going virtual you want to update your question then, because it's not entirely clear you wanted to do that. – BigHomie Jun 12 '14 at 18:31

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