Upgrade Active Directory Functional Level

Blog, Information Technology, Microsoft, Servers, Windows

If you are a systems administrator for an older company (like me), you probably have a few servers running Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 operating system on your network. Most sysadmins are aware that support for Windows Server 2003 will end on July 14, 2015 (6 days from writing this post), which means no more software and security updates from the folks over in Redmond. Luckily our company has a big enough IT budget to have purchased Server 2008 licenses a long time ago but migrating servers is a slow and daunting task. One of the last 2003 servers we have on our network is a 2003 domain controller. Replacing this DC are two 2008 R2 AD servers but we need to demote the 2003 server and raise the functionality level of our domain so we can use new features like the AD recycle bin which lets admins restore deleted objects from active directory. Older AD functionality is still supported so any applications or services that used those functions will continue to work as before.



First we need to run demote the 2003 server.

Note: you need to have at least another domain controller in your network, otherwise you will lose your entire AD.

  1. On your 2003 domain controller, log in using a domain admins account.
  2. Click Start, and then click Run.
  3. In Open, type dcpromo to open the Active Directory Installation Wizard, and then click Next.
  4. On the Remove Active Directory page, click Next, and then continue to follow the wizard.

After your server is demoted, we need to raise the functionality of our domain.

To check the functionality level of your domain, open up powershell and type these commands

# Get the Forest functional level            
# Get the Domain functional level            

And you should get results like mine.


Now, lets raise the functional level….

On your 2008 domain controller, open up Active Directory Domains and Trusts, right click your domain and click Raise Domain Functional Level… 


On the Raise domain functional level page, choose Windows Server 2008 if you AD is running Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 if you are running Server 2008 R2. Click Raise.


That is it for the domain.

To raise the forest functional level, on the same Active Directory Domains and Trusts page, right click Active Directory Domains and Trusts and click Raise Forest Functional Level… 

level forest

Pick the appropriate forest functional level from before and click Raise.

raise forest

Check to see if the levels were raised using the same powershell commands from before.

# Get the Forest functional level            
# Get the Domain functional level            

You should see your updated results.


And that is it. Good luck with the rest of you migration!

Add SAN storage to Microsoft Failover Cluster Fileserver

Blog, Information Technology, Servers

This post assumes that you already created a failover cluster between at least two servers and have already created the file server role.

Note: In my example I am adding 2 disks, one 10 GB and the other 5 GB at the same time.

After you are done creating the volume on your SAN,  we need to connect to it on our two servers via the iSCSI initiator. Open the iSCSI initiator on both servers by clicking Start > All Programs > Administrative Tools > iSCSI initiator. Find the volume you created on the SAN and connect to it.

So, now that we have presented the new disk to all nodes of the cluster, we see the newly connected disk in the Disk Manager set to offline.


The next step is to bring our new disk online. This only needs to be done on one of the servers in the cluster. It does not matter which server. In Disk Manager, right click the new disk and select “Online”.

Set Disk Online

Now we want to create the new volume as a “New Simple Volume”. Right click the disk and select “New Simple Volume…”

New Simple Volume

Got through the “New Simple Volume Wizard” like you normally would when you are formatting a disk (disk letter, file system, volume label etc.) and click finish. Now your disk manager should show your newly create drives.

New Disks

Now open the Failover Cluster Manager and select “Storage”. In the top right corner select “Add a disk”.

Add Disk

Check your new disks and click “OK”.

Add Disk 2

Now we have to add the available storage to our file server. In the Failover Cluster Manager, expand services and applications and select your file server service.

Select Service

On the right hand side of the service under Actions, click “Add Storage”. Check off the new drives and click “OK”.

Add Disk to Service

And that is it.

Server 2008 R2 Failover Clustering

Blog, Information Technology, Servers

One of the neat things about Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise is the ability to cluster servers together so that if one server were to fail, the other could pick up the load without the user ever knowing. This makes it so that your company has little downtime when disaster strikes or for scheduled maintenance. Some of the services that failover clustering provides are DHCP Server, File Server, Print Server or a Virtual Machine.

To test out the failover cluster I first made 2 volumes in the Dell Equallogic PS4000 SAN(Storage Area Network.) One volume is the Quorum disk and the other is the actual volume we wish to store data on. The quorum, in a failover cluster environment, is designed to handle a scenario when there is a problem with communication between the set of cluster nodes, so that two servers do not try to simultaneously try to write to the same disk at the same time. If two servers were writing to the same disk at the same time it would result in disk corruption. By having this concept of quorum, the cluster will force the cluster service to stop in one of the subsets of nodes to ensure that there is only one true owner of a particular resource group.







Next I opened up the iSCSI Initiator in Server 2008 R2 and connected the two volumes on both of my servers.

After creating a new volume in disk management, I opened the Failover Cluster Manager. From there I right clicked “Failover Cluster Manager” and clicked “Create a Cluster.” I went through the setup, added the two servers, made sure they were on the same domain and made sure they passed the validation test. I actually ran into a problem when running the validation. It seems that having both of these 2008 R2 servers on a Windows Server 2003 domain will not pass the validation. I only had 2 servers running server 2008 so I had to make one of the servers run active directory, DHCP and DNS server roles. After I set that up I added the other server to the new test domain and voila, it validated!

The next step I had to do was add the two volumes to the cluster by clicking storage in the left hand column and right clicking “Add a Disk.”

Once the drives were setup I was able to add a service to the cluster. Right click “Services and Applications” in the left hand column and selecting “Configure a Service or Application.” I selected “File Server” and the drive I wanted to use. I then gave the service a IP and a Client Access Name.

Now I can configure all the servers that need access to this volume by mapping a network drive and entering the client access name I gave the service before. Now if I need to upgrade RAM or install updates on one of the node I can without disrupting any of the machines. No longer will I have to wait until Sunday or late at night (when most users are not using the servers) to update/ upgrade machines.

This service is such a great utility for systems administrators. I cant wait to dive more into its capabilities.