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Surviving the Windows Server 2003 Cluster Bomb, Part II

The nightmare scenario is now playing itself out. You have pinched yourself a few times and still you do not wake from the horror. The cluster service is dead. Exchange 2003 and SQL Server are no longer operational. In a few hours, your users are going to be logging into work. Right now they cannot get their email and the company web users cannot place orders or track their shipments. Are you getting ready to change careers, or are you up to the huge task of rebuilding a totally destroyed cluster?

In Part I of this article, we described how the cluster database was unrecoverable and that there were no recent backups to be used to restore the cluster. We also told you that the only option was to rebuild the cluster from scratch and reinstall Exchange 2003 and SQL Server from the beginning. We also advised you to do a few critical tasks:

  • Back up the Exchange stores and databases on the shared disks.
  • Back up at least one of the Exchange nodes.
  • Backup the SQL Server databases (including the system databases such as Master).

Let’s be clear about one thing: As long as the cluster service, cluster databases and configuration data (quorums) are completely corrupt and you do not have backups, there is no other way to recover your cluster. At this point, however, as long as you backup your nodes and databases as described in the above steps (especially if you do not have recent backups), you will be able to rebuild the cluster and reinstall your applications.

Do not try and run Exchange on any of the nodes. The services will not run, and you’ll risk damaging the installations. Remember, the key to recovery of Exchange that was running in a cluster is not to do anything with the Exchange binaries and databases.

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