Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hyper-V High Availalbility for Small Business

Many of our small business clients are still running older hardware with Windows Server 2003 or SBS 2003. Since the hardware is pretty much end of life, these clients are looking at both hardware and software upgrades. As part of this process, we are introducing the option of virtualization for many of them. Often even small businesses have multiple servers and virtualizing them on a single host makes a lot of sense for hardware costs.

Everyone likes the idea of high availability for virtual machines running on Hyper-V, but the price is always a concern.We recently researched this for a client and I thought I'd pass along high level estimates of the costs involved.

  • 2 x Dell PowerEdge 510, dual processor, 48 GB RAM, quad port nic, 2 small mirrored drives, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise @ $6000
  • 1 x Dell MD3200i (iSCSI) SAN with 8 x 600 GB 15K drives @ $15000
  • 1 x 24-port 1Gbps switch for SAN network @ $400
When taxes are added in the total cost is about $30,000. In this configuration there is room to grow as the server RAM can be increased. The MD2300i can also hold an additional 4 hard drives if required.

The question becomes....Is this worth it? A single PowerEdge 510 with disk equivalent to the MD3200i listed above is about $9000. That is a lot less money overall.

Most smaller organizations don't have difficulty getting a maintenance window to apply updates on the virtualization hosts. So, the ease of maintenance where you can failover VMs to another host when updating the host operating system is of little benefit. Convenient, but certainly not important for most small organizations.

The server hardware components most likely to fail are disks and power supplies. These component are already redundant on any server that we sell. Consequently the risk of downtime due to hardware failure is already quite low. However, there is a small chance that other critical components such as a motherboard could fail and take down all of virtual machines. Each business needs to decide what the cost of that downtime is and whether they are willing to risk it. One way to mitigate the cost of downtime is increasing warranty service. For example, instead of next day service increase the warranty to 4 hour service. Or for the truly paranoid a second server with just hardware and less drives would be about $4000. You could keep that hardware as spare parts for quick recovery at a much lower cost that a full high availability

For right now, our clients have been willing to take the risk of outages for the cost savings. However, I should note that having a functional disaster recovery plan is an important part of this decision process. That plan identifies realistic time frames for recovery ins various scenarios and allows you to make intelligent decisions.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Unable to Edit SharePoint Document Library Template

This week I ran into an issue where a client was unable to edit the document template being used by a SharePoint 2010 document library. In the Advanced Settings of the document library, the user would click Edit Template (see figure below), but the document would open as read only and could not be saved back up to the site.

The user was logged on to SharePoint as a user with administrative privileges for the SharePoint server, but logged on to Windows as a different user account. This was the cause of the problem. When the user opened the document template, Word started and retrieved the template, but Word was using the credentials from Windows which did not have administrative privileges on the SharePoint server.

The fix was to have user log on to Windows using the same account as used for administration on the SharePoint server.