Small Business Server and storage partitioning tips

Hiho readers! Harryb here – I am the publisher of the Advanced Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best Practices book and I love posting up a passage for your reading pleasure. Call it a virtual book reading my any other name. Let’s rock!

Partitioning Tips

Ok, so you buy a new server from a hardware original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and it comes with SBS 2003 pre-installed. At first blush you might ask, “What could be better?” For many customers, this is a good fit. But there are some partitioning issues that you should be aware of.

The first issue you will run in to is that when the hardware OEM builds the server, they typically create only one big partition and then “dump” SBS 2003 onto it. For them this is efficient, plus they don’t have to maintain the SBS 2003 system going forward-you do!

BEST PRACTICE: In all fairness, some hardware OEM vendors such as Hewlett Packard allow you to specify multiple partitions as part of your purchase process. That’s good news, but be advised that even when you can specify multiple partitions, you cannot tell the manufacturer where to put the Users Shared Folders folder (share name: users) or the Microsoft Exchange-related databases (although you can move these later).

So let’s take a moment to see why I think having a single partition is not such a great idea. To start with, today’s hard drives range from around 150 to 250 Gigabytes (GB) of storage. Have you ever run the Chkdsk utility on a 250 GB drive? If not, take my advice and send the users on your client’s network home because this disk utility job is going to take a few hours.

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Reasons to Partition

You may find it valuable to partition in order to:

  • Improve performance.
  • Isolate fragmentation.
  • Isolate files that need protection from a utilities, such as anti-virus or defragmenter applications.
  • Separate data and system files for easier disaster recovery.
  • Isolate files that you want to protect with Volume Shadow Services (VS S). I recommend the following partitions:
  • System partition. At least 10 GB. Use this partition to store core oper­ating system files. On a average system I build this is a 32 Gb partition
  • Data partition. At least 30 GB. Use this partition to store company data and User Data. This partition will have VSS enabled.
  • Library partition. At least 10 GB. Use this partition to store source files (I mentioned this earlier in the chapter).
  • Swap partition. I usually make a 7.68Gb C: Drive and put the swap file and log files on it. If you have multiple physical drives use the fastest one for this partition.
  • System Data partition to hold the Exchange and SQL databases

Partitions and Performance

How about performance? As you probably already know, if you split up your load between different physical drives, performance will be better. But even if all you have is a single mirror or a single RAID 5 array, you can use some tricks to speed up data access and make maintenance quicker.

I’m sure some of you just jumped to your feet and started yelling at me through the book. Sit down and take a breath-there’s a method to my apparent madness. When you talk about drive partitioning and different types of RAID arrays, people are ready to defend their point of view to the death. So keep in mind that

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Partitions and Fragmentation

Here’s another topic that seems to rile people up: fragmentation. Some folks will tell you that they never defragment their drives, while others will tell you they are constantly doing it. Fragmentation is a fact of life with today’s file systems. But it can be kept to a minimum by careful partition placement of the files that fragment the most. On an SBS server, this means locating the page file and the log files on a separate partition. That will keep most of the fragmentation isolated and also keep the disk heads from swinging widely back and forth across the disk (which is the slowest part of disk reads and writes). This also assists in the quest for improved performance.

People have asked about this issue at the SBS forum that I moderate for the Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine (www.mcpmag.com). Let me expand on what I mean about placement of log files. I’m not talking about the event viewer logs; I’m talking about the logs for Exchange Server, Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS), and Microsoft SQL Server. These are very active files that are constantly being updated with new information. In the next few sections I explain how to move these log files from their default locations so you can relocate them to a different partition. The following procedures are provided below:

  • Moving Exchange Server Transaction Log Files
  • Relocating IIS Log Files
  • Relocating ISA Server Log Files
  • Relocating RRAS Log Files
  • Moving SQL Server Log Files

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cheers….harrybbbb

Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J

PPS – my spring show, SMB Nation Spring 2009, is in the NYC-area on May 1-3, 2009.

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