If I'm talking to a non-stop, fault-tolerant provider like Stratus, it doesn't happen, but with many BC/DR solutions and their providers, it often feels like they're being less than forthcoming about the realities. It often feels to me like while the acquisition cost of a fault-tolerant, high-availability solution may be greater than a BC/DR one (although not necessarily -- see my ScaleMP post), but if there's any actual need to utilize BC/DR, the total out-of-pocket cost including resuming operations can be higher (not to mention the cost of lost availability, productivity, and sales).
Plus, this kind of provisioning can be unaffordable or daunting to many small-to-midsized businesses, even though their need for this kind of "keep the engines running" operation is as great as any larger company's. Today's customers have 24x7 expectations; saying "Sorry, we're too small to do this" doesn't go over well.
When I talked with cloud services provider Geminare about version 2.0 of their Cloud Storage Assurance service for my InformationWeek/SMB news article, I found their other product, just renamed Cloud Recovery, interesting, but mostly outside the scope of my news article... but not outside the purview of these blog posts.
Geminare's Cloud Recovery provides "critical server failure through automatic failover and redirection of your users to a real-time, replicated server environment in the Cloud," according to their web site. (CR only has current data; CSA is archiving, retaining deleted items, older versions, and so on, along with providing non-availability-oriented features.)
According to Joshua Geist, Geminare CEO, "We create a secondary server on the network, and replicate the data between them -- we do block-level replication of data as it hits the disk -- which allows dramatic failover and failback. We currently protect Windows-based applications, like Exchange, Oracle, BlackBerry, SharePoint, SQL, file serving, and Active Directory."
The company claims it can provide "Zero System Downtime," "Zero Data Loss," and "Failover and Failback in seconds."
If your active server fails (or there's some other failure that renders the server inaccessible) -- or if you want to schedule downtime like for upgrade or maintenance, Geminare does a failover to their site; for example, for a Microsoft Exchange server, it "We take care of DNS and email records, and redirect users to our cloud."
And when the original server is available again, Geminare does a failback, including resynching the data.
What's interesting about Geminare's Cloud Recovery, particularly for small-to-midsized businesses, is:
- It's remarkably affordable -- like $399 to $499 per server per month, which includes the protection, and things like several days of failover service per year. (Extra days will cost more.) But there's no capital investment, like a hundred thousand or more for remote hardware, and set-up fees, if any, are likely to be less than that of one month's protection, according to Geist -- versus the large consulting and services fees often required for traditional server protection set-up.
- Near-instant failback. "Normal BC/DR can mean a week to do a bare metal restore for failback," says Geist. The switchover is so smooth that, according to Geist, one company using took a hit to their Exchange server over a weekend, but come Monday morning, none of their 350+ users noticed anything different, even though they ended up working off the cloud recovery server for the entire week. This being law firm, "They saved about half a million dollars in billing by avoiding downtime," says Geist.
Geminare isn't doing the hosting, that's through third parties. Geminare's services are available white-labeled so that channel partners can re-brand them. (Current partners include like Bell, Hosting.com, CA, and Qwest.)
The service in failover mode can be so good that, not surprisingly, it's also leading SMBs and others to consider or re-consider running these apps in the cloud all the time. And it also begs the question: if you do currently have some form of server availability protection, are you spending more than you should, for less than you need?