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The Long Road to Small Business Sever 2008

March 3, 2009

I spent most of this past weekend migrating our home server from Windows Small Business Server 2003 to Windows Small Business Server 2008. If I had it to do all over again, I would have migrated to Windows Home Server instead.

As the rest of my family was out of town for the weekend, I had set aside the weekend to do the migration. After doing some reading and preparation in the days ahead I was ready to begin on Friday evening.

I attempted to install SBS 2008 on a new (clean) Dell server connected to our network and to a migration install. I got though the initial install process only to discover that it had produced an error saying that it could not install certain updates. It suggested reformatting and trying the installation again.

Late Saturday morning, I attempted in vain to find definitive information on the source of the error. In looking at the  WSUS on the SBS 2003 machine I noticed that some updates for Windows 2008 had not been approved. Perhaps that was the problem. I approved the updates, restored SBS 2003 from a backup, and attempted another migration installation of SBS2008. This time the installation completed, but noted that some updates had not been installed. The error implied it was ok to proceed after any necessary updates were installed. So I did do.

I then went through the long involved migration process outlined in Microsoft’s migration guide (which is about a 100 page document). Although it was involved, that process proceeded apace and was seemingly all but complete by late afternoon. The only final step involved demoting the old SBS 2003 server from being a domain controller.

Unfortunately, I noticed that there were certain function that weren’t quite functioning (in fact none of the client PC’s could log on to the new server!) correctly and the source of the problems appeared to the by RPC-related errors. Thinking that the problem might be related to remaining SBS 2003 domain controller, I tried demoting it,but was unsuccessful in doing so. Related problems appeared to be preventing transition from the old SBS 2003 machine to the new SBS 2008 server.

I then spent hours searching on the error codes I saw and running various diagnostics in an attempt to fix the problem. All to no avail. DCDIAG.exe identified a number of problems with the setup of the domain, but it wasn’t obvious how to fix them. Presumably these errors were baked into my existing SBS 2003 domain. I had run SBS 2003 Best Practices Analyzer prior to the migration and my SBS 2003 machine had been given clean bill of health, but I probably should have run some additional diagnostics as well.

After a fruitless search for a solution later Saturday night I decided to just to a clean SBS 2008 install, manually move Exchange data to the new server via Outlook clients, and the set up the domain manually. Early Sunday morning (late Saturday night) I completed the install of SBS 2008.

Sunday I awoke midmorning and started to collect Exchange data to move to the new system. This proved more difficult that I had thought (and I probably should have focused more on this issue, but I figured I could always go back to an backup of the SBS 2003 server) and I ended up getting the information from OST files on a number of client PCs. Luckily we had been running Outlook in cached mode! This a few hours. I then commenced connecting client PCs, setting up users, groups, and file shares on the SBS 2008 server.

I was not quite out of the woods yet, however. Sunday afternoon I discovered that the Xbox 360’s we use as Media Center Extenders could no longer connect to the Media Center PC that is part of our domain. A couple of hours of testing and finally a Google search revealed the solution (changing the group policy status of the Media Center PC to that of a server). Two of our three Xboxes could now connect. (A third cannot, but I am not convinced that this issue is SBS 2008 related.)

Early Sunday evening the new SBS 2008 machine had downloaded 23 updated and proceeded to apply them and restart. After the restart, various services were not working resulting in anything that needed access to the domain controller producing an error. At this point, I was considering giving up on SBS and just going to Windows Home Server. Luckily, restarting the NetLogon service and then a half a dozen other dependent services (helpfully identified by the SBS console) fixed those problems and the SBS 2008 has been running fine ever since (except that Sunday evenings scheduled backup needed to be run manually). A few other installations and tweaks and I was done for the evening.

Monday, was a work day, but I managed to correct a problem with Remote Web Workplace access, by some combination or propagating a DNS entry for remote.[domainname].com instead and running the network connection wizard again. I ended up installing Orb and J River Media Center on the Media Center PC (why take chances with these on 64-bit Windows 2008?). I did install my AIS Backup software on Windows 2008 without incident. Finally, I ended up installing several family networked printers on the Vista Media Center PC and then sharing them from there. (Again, I figured why deal with trying to make 32-bit client drivers available on the SBS box when I had a 32-bit Vista box that could serve the same function.)

I three days after starting the migration process it is pretty much complete with a couple of known exceptions: HomeSeer 2 is still running on the old SBS 2003 box, until I figure out what to do with it and I need to configure the Media Center PC so that I can get remote desktop access to it. Everything else (including out media center extenders, network printers, Roku Soundbridges and Ikan have all adjusted well to the new domain. I hope they stay happy for the four-years I hope pass before any more migrations!

 

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