Disaster Recovery: Virtualization Advantages

By David Strom Print this article Print

IT manager: Hurricane, tropical storm, and natural disaster season is here. Learn how to have a disaster recovery plan for business continuity with the appropriate storage and backup strategies. Disaster recovery should be looked at not just in terms of business continuity and applications availability, but also for compliance reasons.

Disaster Recovery: Virtualization Advantages

Virtualization offers benefits for both virtualized storage arrays and virtualized servers, both of which are helpful for restarting critical services and replicating servers across different data centers and offices. Products such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware can be a less expensive substitute for close to near-time high availability. (See “Virtualization Is the New Clustering” in the August issue of Baseline.)

“The key thing for us was a very short recovery-time objective,” says Munder Capital’s Goerlich. The firm uses Compellent’s virtual storage arrays, with the DR baked in. He says it takes just one click to activate DR and boot up the systems on a new box.

Eighty percent of the systems at CIB Marine are virtualized. As a result, the company was able to cut its hosting bill in half and save recovery time by consolidating servers at its backup site. “Before virtualization, it took us 48 hours and

12 staff people to recover our systems,” Abner says. “Now, four of us can do it in 24 hours, and, for most of that time, we are just watching to make sure the systems are running properly.”

Virtualization has also been a boon for Wall Street Systems. “All our mission-critical servers leverage it, so we can be up and running in short order,” Tirschwell says. “We can use virtualization to make copies of a physical machine to help out with balancing our server loads. It saves us so much time with our operations.”

The company uses eGenera’s virtual rack-mounted highly available servers so it can quickly swap out blades or failing components without taking down applications. “Ten years ago, we would have needed a staff of 50 and pay a small fortune to do what we do now,” Tirschwell says. “Plus, we can grow our virtual infrastructure and manage it with the same number of staff.”

No matter what solution a company chooses, it should consider how it will staff the DR site, and whether the staff can actually get to the site—or be able to use the Internet to administer the machines remotely—in case of disaster.

“One thing we learned from Hurricane Francis is that the loss of centralized communications impacts your ability to work,” says MedVance’s Weiss. “Having a virtualized workspace means my staff can still get their jobs done as long as they have Internet connectivity and can log in to our Citrix portal.”

MedVance has taken other steps, such as hiring CDW to help set up a LeftHand Networks storage-area network. The institute has also found that cell phone service is restored faster than other communications links, so it’s supplying employees with cell phones for redundancy.

Finally, realize that no solution is universally applicable. “I can usually see the storms coming and have time to prepare for them,” Tidewater Marine’s Chaffe says. “So asynchronous replication works fine for me, but it may not work for others.”

Croy of Forsythe Solutions agrees: “Everybody has built their infrastructure differently, and organizations have to realize that they are unique, so they have to build something that will protect their particular business.”

This article was originally published on 2008-09-02
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