In this day and age, backing up your data isn’t really an option anymore, it's a requirement, especially with the amount of sensitive data most people handle every day. If the primary version of a document is lost, backup systems can recover the information. The chance of a massive system failure can be a large worry for many companies. This failure can come from a disk crash or a fire in your data center. While you can’t predict when or if those things are going to happen, it’s good to be prepared for any issue. This is why server virtualization is emerging as an excellent option in disaster recovery due to its low cost and improved recovery time.
Prior to virtualization technology, if a server crashed, there would be a number of steps to follow to get back up and running. For example, first a new server would be ordered. Once that server was received all systems would need to be reinstalled with the previous settings, and the most recent data backup would be restored. Most likely this last backup would go as far back as the end of the previous business day, and any data that was in memory at the time of the failure would be lost.
What are the advantages to virtualization?
The increased use of virtualization is changing the way disaster recovery is executed. In the virtual environment, systems have the ability to recover data by duplicating images of entire virtual machines and then recreate them in a different location. Virtualization now offers IT professionals more advantages:
- Data can be easily backed up as an image on the virtual machine (VM)
- The physical server does not need to be rebuilt as the VM can be recreated in compatible environments
- Costs of redundant systems are eliminated
- Faster recovery time objectives can be achieved
- Quicker and easier recovery
There are several approaches offered by the leading suppliers through the disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) model. Suppliers, such as Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware, and Citrix Xen provide VM replication services already embedded in their products, which are tightly integrated into the hypervisor thus limiting the backup to a single virtual landscape. Unfortunately, this does not allow them to achieve continuous data protection performance which minimizes RPO’s and RTO’s.
Another product that tightly integrates VM replication is EMS’s RecoverPoint, which supports the recovery of multiple VM’s and coordination replication. This allows the system to ensure VM’s running different applications are consistent with a database VM. The Zerto product minimizes the impact on the runtime environment and supports VMware but is working to add Hyper-V and Amazon Web Services. This will allow support for a failover from in-house systems to a non-VMware-based system.
There are several suppliers emerging in the industry as virtual environment backup professionals. Veeam, a Swiss-based firm, launched its first product in 2008 which supports Hyper-V and VMware. Nakivo, which was founded in 2012, only currently supports VMware, but its products have been built specifically for a virtual environment. The only real difference between the traditional and new suppliers is their capability to support older physical environments and new virtual platforms. This is the situation in most organizations so the VM systems are typically used for migration thus involving backup of a physical server and restoring the system as a VM.
As a result of the widespread virtualization implementation, many providers have moved to DRaaS, which takes the customer out of the mix and provides a seamless service. Many could/hosting providers offer this feature, such as NTT Communications, as well as disaster recovery specialists like SunGard and IBM. DRaaS providers deliver exceptional value due to their offerings, such as guaranteed recovery, nightly testing and support for Hyper-V, VM ware and Xen.