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Thinking about Active Directory Recovery

Probably the most utilised and under considered software
component in your organisation. Microsoft Active Directory underpins almost
every authentication activity.
  •           Workstation login
  •           Printer
  •           Email Access
  •           Federation to external resources
  •           File access
  •           Delegated access to resources
  •           SharePoint
  •           Office Communications server/Lync
  •           SQL server
  •           IIS websites

When Active Directory fails the fallout will be enormous and
most likely its not currently in scope for your Business Continuity Plans for
major application failure or when it is, it is poorly considered.

In my experience with customers even if it is in scope
Active Directory recovery will be a restore from tape and follow the Microsoft
recovery guide here:  

Unfortunately the steps contained in that document are not a
recovery process at all but rather a set of steps that you will need to
undertake when the problem occurs.  

Recovery is also not a simple Backup and restore system
state process when there are multiple DC’s and worse when there are constraints
on expertise and/or WAN.

Two types of constraint come to mind when a significant
Active Directory issue occurs that might require a full recovery of AD.

1. Political/People/Management
‘War room’ committee will require invocation and
plans for recovery process commence
People need to be mobilised
The right skills need to be available to perform
the recovery, as it’s a complex task
The recovery process needs to be current and
Every 60 minutes management will want an update
on progress
2   2. Technical
If running multiple Domain controllers, each
domain controller needs to be isolated from all others to ensure bad data doesn’t
Recovery may require multiple backup versions to
ensure the recovery doesn’t recover a previous ‘bad’ backup.
AD health needs to checked and confirmed to ensure
all services are back up and operational.
process might have to pause recovery of various servers to ensure the correct
restore process occurs
Rolling the RID forward needs to occur to ensure
there isn’t an issue with old corrupt data becoming authoritative and
overwriting good recovered data.

My experience with business disasters has been that as a
problem becomes larger more people are involved and the process of recovering
the failed system slows down due to people becoming involved and without a good
rollback position, people are more reluctant to attempt the recovery without
more time and additional people becoming involved. This becomes a nightmare of
epic proportions.

Recently we were invited to prove a recovery of Active
Directory against Microsoft Professional Services for a customer of ours to
highlight the difference in TTTR (Total Time To Recover).
Microsoft PSO and their recovery process required 17 hours to
restore AD

Our Software approach was 1 hour and 5 minutes and we proved
this 3 times. 

In addition to the recovery our software creates the recovery
process and automates it. It also allows the business to test full AD recovery
without risk.

Whether your organisation needs to be able to recover
quickly is down to the business leaders but in many cases the business doesn’t
understand the implications of a full forest outage and just how much business
may be affected and inoperable.

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