Small shops tackle DR on a budget

The Boston Celtics and Nancy's Specialty Foods grapple with the challenges of replicating Exchange servers and the tradeoffs between iSCSI and Fibre Channel.

Jay Wessel, senior director of technology at the Boston Celtics, recently discovered that creating a disaster recovery plan for Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory servers is easier said than done.

Wessel described Exchange as "great at clustering within a building, but not great at redundancy." The Celtics discovered that Exchange 2003 does not offer a replication feature. After haranguing Microsoft, they were advised to check out Double-Take replication from NSI Software.

The Celtics have about a terabyte (TB) of data between an Exchange Server and an Active Directory file server to store e-mail, team statistics, financial and ticketing data. The organization had always backed up to tape, but realized that restoring from off-site tapes was taking too long. "Recovering from tape in the event of a disaster would be a many-day process," Wessel said.

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He tested Double-Take against products from XOSoft, Steeleye Technology Inc. and the NeverFail Group and found that all the products had good replication engines, but Double-Take had the most flexible software features.

Key to Wessel's decision was Double-Take's ability to replicate to different directories from server to server and the flexibility to allocate bandwidth for backup purposes as needed.

The Celtics tested Double-Take when it purchased the software in November by shutting down its Exchange server in Boston, failing over to the Exchange server in Manchester, N.H. and then failing back to Boston. "Thankfully, we haven't had to do a real failover, but we'll do testing every six months," said Wessel.


Mirroring IP SANs for DR

Another small shop, Newark, Calif.-based Nancy's Specialty Foods, a maker of gourmet entrees and hors d'oeuvres, recently implemented two IP SANs from StoneFly Networks Inc. and is now doing synchronous mirroring between the two SANs for disaster recovery.

Nancy's is a 300-person company that uses 25 servers and stores a total of 2.5 TB. Over a year ago, the company was fed up with the poor disk utilization and difficult management of direct-attached storage (DAS) and implemented two SANs. They looked to an iSCSI-based SAN rather than Fibre Channel because of budget constraints.

"ISCSI is cheaper, takes less time to deploy and is easier to manage than Fibre Channel," said Terence Choy, network manager at Nancy's Specialty Foods. "It may not have the same performance, but it was a viable solution for us. The technology works."

When doing a head-to-head test between the StoneFly IP Storage Concentrator i3000 SAN and a Xiotech FC SAN, the company estimated that the price of the FC product was double that of StoneFly.

After deploying two StoneFly IP SANs, Nancy's began thinking about how to use them for disaster recovery. Terence Choy, the company's network manager, was eager to add StoneFly's synchronous mirroring software, called Reflection, which writes data to a primary and secondary SAN simultaneously.

Nancy's keeps a primary SAN in its data center and a second IP SAN on a different floor in the same building. This mirroring scenario is to prevent downtime in the case of an outage on either floor.

Budget constraints have kept Nancy's from implementing its own off-site replication plan, according to Choy. However, it does outsource its backup and recovery using EVault, which Choy views as another cost-saver. "We get off-site data protection and we eliminate the need for a tape library and the cost of backup software licenses," he said.

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