Ive finally got my hands on enough disk space and servers to create a mirror of our live sharepoint farm for CU testing and application testing and was wondering whats the best way to create the mirror. Is there a step by step guide that i can follow. We currently have 5 servers (2 wfe's / 2 application servers and 1 sql server), all virtulised. Any help is greatly appreciated.
I'd use the Sharepoint Farm backup option. This backs up everything including web applications, solutions, service applications etc.
The starting point would be decide between a physical mirror or a virtual mirror. Typically, a mirror farm also known as "staging farm" is a physically separate environment with the same hardware and software configuration to that of your production farm.
There are pros and cons to both creating a physical mirror and a virtual mirror , but the bottomline is if you want sanity in your patching , operations and release management keep the topology same in your staging farm as compared to the production. Additional replication consideration for staging should be given to :-
Site structure as your production environment.
Your staging SharePoint implementation does not need to have the same horse power as your production environment, as long as you are not completing performance testing on your staging environment.
Detailed steps for creating a staging farm is out of scope here however I can outline a few key considerations involved :-