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Altiris Deployment Server Disaster Recovery Strategy

Created: 19 Sep 2007 • Updated: 19 Sep 2007 | 2 comments
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Ryan Rackley's picture
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When recovering Altiris Deployment Server, proper planning is the key. A very large part of the recoverability of an Altiris system is in the hands of the everyday administrators of the system.

Altiris documentation is very good at helping you recover the application files and get you to the point where you have a working system, but that may not cut the mustard if you ever needed to execute your disaster recovery plan.

If a corporate disaster were ever to be declared, my company plans on using Altiris to rebuild servers through backup images that are taken at regular intervals. What good would it be if you recovered your Altiris executables, you backed up and restored the eXpress database, but missed backing up the directory of your server images? If that were the case you would have a perfectly usable Altiris server that is worth absolutely nothing to you.

This document is intended to be a holistic approach at identifying what needs to be backed up from an Altiris Deployment Server so that you can recover not just the system itself, but also the custom functionality that your company uses it for.

Pre-staged Server Hardware

This document has been authored with hardware independency in mind. It would be very nice to have a duplicate of your Altiris server's hardware at your disaster recovery site; but in reality this is hardly ever the case. This document has been authored with hardware independency in mind and can be executed on a 'hand me down' server.

Pre-staged Server Software

Once you get a server designated for your Disaster Recovery Altiris Server you will want to pre-install some of the software such as your server operating system and SQL Server. Doing so will greatly reduce your Recovery Time Objective.

It may not be a bad idea to install Deployment Server on your pre-staged server; for those of us who test quarterly installing Deployment Server is a no brainer, but if you test once in a blue moon you probably would not want to install Deployment Server as doing so would just add to your administration overhead when going through the update process.

Backing up Deployment Server Application Files

The application files are needed to restore the Deployment Server infrastructure, these files are needed so that you will be able to drop a job on a computer and have it run. Two folders and a database have been identified in order to be able to do this.

DSSetup - A copy of the installation CD, the license file, as well as the boot files needed to recreate your boot images. This will be needed when you install your disaster recovery Deployment Server.

eXpress share - The current configuration of the Deployment Server including the images folder and boot images. Keep in mind that it is always better to recreate your boot images after installing deployment server; you will want to copy them to your disaster recovery server as more of a reference than anything.

eXpress Database - The Altiris Deployment Server Database. Make sure that you have a maintenance plan setup in SQL Server to backup your Deployment Server Database. The backup file is what you will need to copy to your disaster recover deployment server.

Identifying All Directories Where Images May Be Stored

Run this query on your eXpress database to identify any jobs that have been created to create images that would save the image outside of the Deployment Server Datastore.

SELECT it.image_file
FROM image_task it
WHERE it.image_file NOT LIKE '.\%'

Depending on what the query returns you can either decide to include or exclude the directories from your disaster recovery plan. The main part in doing this exercise is to be able to identify all directories where you are storing images.

Identifying All 'Copy File' Task Files

Run this query on your eXpress database to identify any jobs that have been created to copy files for the files that exist outside of your Deployment Server Datastore.

SELECT cft.local_file
FROM copyfile_task cft
WHERE cft.local_file NOT LIKE '.\%'

Depending on what the query returns you can either decide to include or exclude the directories from your disaster recovery plan. The goal of this exercise is to be able to identify all directories where you are storing files that need to be copied.

Identifying All 'Install Package' Task Files

Run this query on your eXpress database to identify any jobs that have been created to install software for the installation files that exist outside of your Deployment Server Datastore.

SELECT it.install_file
FROM install_task it
WHERE it.install_file NOT LIKE '.\%'

Depending on what the query returns you can either decide to include or exclude the directories from your disaster recovery plan. The goal of this exercise is to be able to identify all directories where you are storing files that need to be copied to your disaster recovery server.

Identifying All 'Capture Personality' Task Files

Run this query on your eXpress database to identify any jobs that have been created to capture personalities on your Deployment Server.

SELECT cpt.template_file, cpt.folder
FROM capture_pct_task cpt

Depending on what the query returns you can either decide to include or exclude the directories from your disaster recovery plan. The goal of this exercise is to be able to identify all directories where you are storing files that need to be copied to your disaster recovery server.

Identifying All 'Back Up Registry' Task Files

Run this query on your eXpress database to identify any jobs that have been created to backup registries on your Deployment Server.

SELECT rt.*
FROM registry_task rt

Depending on what the query returns you can either decide to include or exclude the directories from your disaster recovery plan. The goal of this exercise is to be able to identify all directories where you are storing files that need to be copied to your disaster recovery server.

Keeping Your Disaster Recovery Deployment Server Up to Date

Once you have identified all of the files and directories needed to restore your Altiris Deployment Server you will need a mechanism to keep these files and directories in sync with your production Deployment Server. How you accomplish this synchronization will certainly be dependent on a couple of factors; the main one being the size of the network connection between your production site and your disaster recovery site. The best case scenario would be to utilize file synchronization tools such as Robocopy or SyncToy. The preferred method would be to use Robocopy that is run with an Altiris Task Server Job and then have an Altiris Notification Policy to drop the results into your email inbox so that you can monitor the synchronization process efficiently.

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riva11's picture

An additional comment for this nice and interesting post, is related to maintain on a regular base a Disaster Recovery test. In my experience there are a lot of thing that can be a bad way, e.g. file restoration with slow performance, software license key not found and so on.
A good DR plan should be tested every year with a similar IT infrastructure environment.

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riva11's picture

[quote]Keep in mind that it is always better to recreate your boot images after installing deployment server[/quote]
I had to recreate also images when moved from demo to production version.

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