Small Business Server 2003, Mirrored Drives, and Power Failure

July 25, 2008

Yesterday, Onsite Computer received a call from a New Orleans client for service to their Microsoft-based systems.  The client claimed their accounting system was very slow.  As most small business clients can’t spell troubleshoot, and the ONLY remedy this client knows is ‘reboot’,  a service call was required.

When questioning the client he revealed the area experienced several power failures during the passing of Hurricane Dolly’s feeder bands and the associated wind and rain.  The area is located in a heavy industrial corridor along the Mississippi River, and power surges, spikes, and failures are common.  Although their SBS 2003 R2 is protected with a large UPS, and all the computing equipment is connected to a special circuit protected with high-capacity surge suppression at the circuit box, the server was not immune to the power failures.

With every power failure, all the systems, including the server, would abruptly shut down.  Upon power restoration the systems would restart; however the SBS 2003 R2 utilizes large mirrored drives and the drive resync requires significant time.  On several occasions before completion of the resync, the client would reboot the server in hope of repairing the slow system.  After four days of reboots before completion of the resync, the client called Onsite.

Upon examination of the recalcitrant UPS, we discovered the USB cable that connects the UPS and the server was unplugged.    Apparently, the UPS could not communicate with the server and power failures did not initiate the shut down process.  The server would continue to operate on battery power until the battery lost its charge and the server experienced power failure.  Additionally the UPS battery was four years old. 

Following power restoration, mirrored server drives attempt to resync.  The resync can require several hours, depending on the size of the mirror, and during this time a server is slow to respond.  Our client, not known for patience, would attempt to remedy the situation with a forced reboot before the resync completed.  As the server rebooted, the mirror resync would restart from the beginning and the server would continue its slow operation.  

This situation can be avoided.  UPSs require little service, but the USB port must be connected to the server and the UPS Service must be configured and running to protect against power failure and provide safe shutdowns.  Occasionally, UPSs require new batteries. 

If your business is located in an area plagued with power loss, a working UPS protected server is essential.  Testing a UPS  and the shutdown sequence is simple – simply unplug the UPS from its 110v connection and verify a safe server shutdown.  If the UPS battery is more than three years old, consider a replacement.  And finally, if a server with mirrored drives unexpectedly shuts-off, be patient and wait for the resync process to complete.  You can verify the progress of the mirror resync via the Server Management Console and the Disk Management Plug-In.

If you’re searching for New Orleans computer service or repair of your Microsoft based system or network, then call the Microsoft specialists at 504-469-6991. Onsite Computer Services, Inc. in New Orleans

You may also be interested in Onsite Computer’s Blog.

This New Orleans On-Site Computer Service post was provided by Eli Lucas. Eli can be reached at eli@onsitenola.com. Onsite Computer serves the Microsoft computing needs of small businesses throughout the Greater New Orleans area including Uptown, Lakeview, Broadmoor, Mid-City, Metairie, Jefferson, Kenner, Westbank, French Quarter, and the Warehouse District. Please visit our website for New Orleans Computer Service.

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