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Greetings fellow members,


New member here from Toronto, Canada. I found myself in this forum while searching for information about configuring WS2012R2E and am impressed with the value of the information from members.


Business Case:

I am trying to upgrade a 2003 domain that services about 10 people. It hosts file shares about 150 GB in size and a SQL Server with one 20 GB database.


Conversion to 2012 domain:

Since obviously this is a very small domain, I decided to use WS2012R2E on a Dell XPS 8700 desktop computer with SSDs.




A1. Single hard drive the System Partition and 2 SSDs using 2012 R2's built-in RAID 1 to store data.

A2. Build the old 2003 server with WS2012R2E for redundancy. If the XPS goes down, this will act as a backup DC. The DATA drives should be able to withstand one drive failure.



B1. 2 HDDs in RAID 1 using hardware RAID PCIe card for the System Partition and 2 SSDs using 2012 R2's built-in RAID 1 for data.



1. I tried using a Vanguard RAID controller but it failed due to 2012 R2's need for signed drivers. Looking for suggestions from forum members on what brands of RAID cards are compatible with 2012 R2? Obviously, cost is a factor and I am looking for something in the $50-$200 range.


2. Can 2 WS2012R2E servers run on the same network?


3. In Design A1, if I choose to add a PCIe hardware RAID card at a later time, how would I go about using the existing system drive without losing data?


I welcome your critical comments. Thanks in advance.




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Highpoint and LSI-based cards are fairly popular around here.  Also some people have used icydock enclosures to create a RAID array for the boot disk (the enclosure does everything I think, OS doesn't even know it's a RAID).  In that price range, the CPU is going to be performing most of the RAID logic I believe, I don't think there's any cards with dedicated RAM or battery back-up.


No, WS2012R2E (or any other server essentials or earlier product) wants to have several of the master operations assigned to it.  If it doesn't not have those operations, it will eventually go into a degraded mode where it reboots periodically.  You can however have a second computer running WS2012R2 Standard that is also a domain controller on the network, as long as the Essentials server retains the FSMO functions.


Are you planning on using the same drives for both system and data?  Your third question implies this to me.  That is not a good idea, you typically want the data on separate drives (not just partitions, drives) from the system.  If I remember correctly, there is a warning that shows up if you don't have your system configured this way.


I'll let other people weigh in on their setups as well, but my setup is to only have the redundant drives for data, my system drive is not set up for redundancy.  If I had to replace the system drive, I'd probably use the server backup to do so.  Make sure I have a good system backup, pull the current drive, put in a new one, restore the system drive partitions from the backup.


If you haven't bought the XPS computer already, I'd look at the Dell T20 (or the HP Gen8 MS or Lenovo T140 if you aren't tied to Dell) instead of a desktop.  Based on what I see quickly, I think even the Xeon version should be a very comparable price, and it's other hardware is better suited to a server workload and configuration.  It also may have better support for multiple hard drives, which is helpful in a server to allow the separation of OS and data.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andne.


3rd question was about making system drive RAID1 by adding a PCIe RAID controller and a new drive. 2 SSDs for DATA to separate SYSTEM and DATA, as you pointed out rightly. But I like your suggestion about system backup and restore, if or when the drive fails. Much simpler and I am sure some downtime is acceptable.


In fact, I currently have configured the domain the same way: 1 HDD for SYSTEM and 2 SSDs for data. I used software mirror to create 2 volumes, 1 for DATA and the other for SQL. The XPS is already purchased so I will have to go with it.


I am now testing the build. Once I have SQL Server installed and roaming profile, file shares, etc created, I will simulate a SYSTEM drive failure and see how well and soon I can recover.

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Yes you can have two 2012R2E servers on the same physical network but you will have to have two separate domains as Essentials must be the only DC within the domain and Essentials is designed to hold the FISMO roles.

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Another option would be a 2012 server with 2 hyperv one ad and a second with the essentials role which since the domain already exist it does not add the ad. You can then have a send ad server in this environment and with the hyper a you gain portability to new hardware in the future if you ever upgrade to a sbs server like a gen8 microserver or similar small server.

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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.


The design now is a WS2012R2E on a XPS 8700 computer. SYSTEM drive is a single HDD. DATA is stored in 2 SSDs that are mirrored. Like Andne suggested, if the SYSTEM drive dies, I will simply restore from backup to a new drive. DATA is protected due to the mirror.



1. In WS2012R2, what is the best practice to create RAID 1? From the documentation available from MS, with 2012 R2 all disks become merged into a Storage Pool. You create whatever you want from the Storage Pool. What is your experience? How robust is this design?


2. I will be installing SQL Server also on this box. How does Storage Pools work with SQL Server? Anything I need to be concerned about?


3. What would you recommend for backing up SYSTEM and DATA drives. I am looking at about 150 GB of DATA and SYSTEM drive backup is probably not very large. Azure? Other online data storage providers? I am assuming local backups are probably not worth it any more. An hybrid solution where I back up to both cloud storage and to a local backup disk is also not a bad idea.


Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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1. This is a slight controversial question around here.  A number of people prefer hardware RAID adapters, be it Highpoint, LSI or one or two others.  I actually do use Storage Spaces myself and it seems to perform reasonably well.  I have a two-way mirror for my main data that I work with heavily and a parity array for more archival-purpose data.  I believe that you can still create RAID arrays through the disk management interface as well, though I haven't done that in a long time.


2. I have no idea, I've not tried to use SQL server together with Storage Spaces.  I do use a two-way mirror space in a Hyper-V box for the VHDX files and it is usable, but I've never tried to gauge the actual performance of it.


3. I would suggest using the built-in server backup at least for the system drive, that way you have a fairly easy bare-metal recovery option.  For that little amount of data, it wouldn't be too bad to let it also run for the data drives as well.  Online storage is a matter of how much you're willing to spend.  I think that Jim Collison uses Azure to backup some of his data.  I personally have Crashplan running on my server and let it back up a large chunk of my data (around 750GB currently).  Some of the more critical (to me) of that data also gets backed up to another harddrive inside that computer, mostly to try and have a backup created ASAP upon files getting added (it's the main archive of all of my pictures).  The general rule around here seems to be 3-2-1 - 3 copies, 2 storage mediums, 1 offsite.  With that in mind, I would agree that it is good to have a strategy that includes both a local copy as well as an online copy.

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