SharePoint on a VM: Can Peter rescue a nonprofit in peril?

A naive server setup compounded by lack of backup forces our intrepid columnist to make a leap of faith -- that falls a bit short

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Bracing for the leap of faith
And now came time for my leap of faith. I had been reading reports of things "breaking horribly" when you try to remove a domain controller running on a parent VM, with your only other domain controller being a child VM. It all works great until the reboot part, supposedly.

The smarter solution would have been to configure a separate physical system as a server and make it a domain controller, so when I dropped down the parent system and removed it from the domain, I wouldn't have taken a 50-50 shot that everything goes black. I knew this was the smarter solution but didn't have the .iso file with Windows Server 2008 on me to make the virtual machine on my laptop. Instead, I decided to push ahead.

As I rebooted the parent, all I could think of was the line from "Ghostbusters" where Bill Murray is told that crossing the streams is bad: "Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light."

I closed my eyes and rebooted -- and it all worked great! The Hyper-V parent system came up as a member server in the domain, and we were ready to move forward. Or so I thought.

As my fear of breaking Active Directory subsided, I was left with a new fear: that my child virtual machines were wrecked. Although my new domain controller came up just fine, my other two VMs, including my SharePoint server and another server running Enterprise QuickNooks, were not initiating smoothly. Urgh.

After some TechNet Forum research, it seemed the solution was to remove the parent from the domain and make it a workgroup again -- another leap of faith. I did it -- and it worked! Now my VMs were all up and running again. I succeeded in bringing the parent virtual machine back to a neutral state and putting all the functioning services into three child VMs.

Now I'm ready to install SC DPM. And it fails. Why? Because now the system is not a member of the domain. So I rejoined the domain as a member server (again) and rechecked to make sure all the VMs are functioning (they are -- whew!), then performed all the tests to make sure everything was as it was before I started this 10-hour nightmare.

With all of this work, I still had no backup solution in place. Leaps of faith with no recovery path are just plain stupid, and I was foolish for not even taking a simple precaution with my virtual machines. I should have paused when I had three child VMs (domain controller, QuickBooks, and SharePoint) and done a simple export of the three. Or at the bare minimum, I should have brought the three servers down and copied the virtual machine .vhd files over to an external drive.

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