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How virtual servers, desktops and storage can make DR a breeze

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Often, IT organizations are only prepared for disaster in the data center, leaving business continuity planning (how the entire business will function in the event of a disaster) to someone else.

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In many cases, because the logistics and planning required to supply end-user devices to hundreds or thousands of users is so complex, the final “plan” is often to just provide a few laptops to key employees while the remaining users fend for themselves. But companies don’t run with just a handful of key people at the helm, so to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster, you must arrange a way for all employees to do their jobs. That means access to all the same business apps and files they use on a daily basis. Supporting that need with hundreds of physical desktops or laptops, and keeping the OSes and apps updated can be overwhelming.

Consider the work involved with having redundant servers, storage and desktop/laptop devices, and then attempting to keep those devices updated with the most recent data.

How server virtualization eases DR

Planning for a redundant physical server at a DR site is difficult. Not only does the server need to be hot and ready, but it typically needs to be the same brand, model, configuration (CPU and RAM), firmware version, operating system version and patch level.

Hypervisors like Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere take a single physical server, replace the operating system and allow you to run multiple servers on top. The virtual machines (VMs) running on the host server are hardware independent and portable. In the event of a disaster, you can simply restore them to any other physical server at a DR site running the same hypervisor, recover your VM and power it on. It’s that easy.

In a pinch, those hardware-independent and portable VMs could even be restored inside a laptop or desktop PC to get a few users access to an application or to export data.

Portability means VMs don’t have to be restored to a host similar to the one they ran on in production. So you can have much higher consolidation ratios at the DR site if you choose, or even restore just your most critical VMs from across all your production hosts to a single ESXi host at the DR site, for example.

This was first published in October 2012

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