We are a small business (~100 emp) with a creaking server running AD, Exchange 2003 and more. We need to upgrade the hardware and it has been proposed to put Win Svr Std 2008 on one new server with AD on the physical server and Exchange 2010 on virtual server. But from what I see this is not a recommended configuration.

I can see two options: 1) use Win Svr Ent 2008 and put AD on one virtual server and exchange 2010 on another (the extra virtual servers for Ent edition will always come in useful) 2) buy 2 independent servers and put AD on one and exchange 2010 on the other

There must be many many small businesses running AD & Exchange. Can anybody tell me what is an optimum configuration in terms of performance and cost?


The best-practice configuration would indeed be having AD and Exchange on different physical servers, and also have at least two domain controllers, because losing your only one is definitely something you don't want to happen. But it's commonly acknowledged that having a couple servers there only to act as domain controllers can be a bit too much for a small business (particularly if you only have them and Exchange).

The virtualization route is a good option here; but with this approch, it's definitely not recommended to have services running on the host system: that should be dedicated exclusively to hypervisor duties. Just create two VMs, one for AD and the other one for Exchange, and you should be ok (provided the server has enough CPU/RAM/storage, of course).

Oh, and do yourself a favour: go with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1; Hyper-V is much better there than it was in Windows Server 2008. And of course, running the latest OS release is also recommended for your virtual servers.

You can, of course, also run AD and Exchange on one single physical server. But virtualization is a lot cleaner, and also more flexible should you later need to add other services to your network.

  • Thanks Massimo. Going down the virtualization route ...since 2 virtual servers could be required and Windows Server 2008 Standard comes with only 1 virtual server, is it possible to add an additional virtual server to it? Or would you think buying the Enterprise edition (with 4 virtual servers) could be a better option? – Rory Jun 21 '11 at 20:01
  • I'd suggest Enterprise, so you'll have space for future upgrades, too; besides, two Standard licenses cost roughly as much as an Enterprise one... – Massimo Jun 21 '11 at 23:05

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