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Improve Your System Recovery Times

January 28, 2009

Summary

This article considers some of the key challenges or “pain points” that stand in the way of complete and cost-effective system recovery.
It’s no exaggeration to say that businesses today require more from their Microsoft Windows systems than ever before. That’s partly due to the explosive rise in data volumes. But it’s also due to the very nature of today’s 24x7 business environment. Whatever the cause, the demand for system availability has never been higher.
For small and midsize businesses, this places a premium on finding ways to simplify and automate their backup and recovery processes. After all, if the systems aren’t up and running, the impact to an organization’s bottom line can be devastating—especially if those systems cannot be restored immediately.
This article considers some of the key challenges or “pain points” that stand in the way of complete and cost-effective system recovery. It then outlines a solution that enables businesses to recover from system loss or disaster in minutes, not hours or days, even to dissimilar hardware and virtual environments.

Backup and recovery challenges

Small and midsize companies today have to contend with a number of unique and persistent challenges when it comes to backup and recovery:
  • Downtime is getting costlier all the time. According to leading industry analysts such as Gartner, IDC, Forrester, and Yankee Group, organizations today stand to lose between $84,000 and $108,000 for every hour of IT system downtime.
  • Traditional backup approaches are cumbersome and costly. For most midsize businesses with Windows-based environments and multiple locations, backups take place at each individual site with separate servers, tape systems, and dedicated staff. Following normal business hours, personnel at each location conduct individual backups from local servers to backup tapes, which are then transferred to a primary storage location. If one of the individual locations experiences a system failure and thus data loss, the backup tapes are manually returned and the data restored to the local servers.
  • Manual server recovery is too complex. Manual server recovery can be a time-consuming and tedious process. Typically, manual recovery includes rebuilding a server by reinstalling the operating system, rebooting several times throughout the recovery process, reconfiguring the system, loading the tape backup software, and hoping that no errors have occurred along the way. This process, which can take hours or even days, generally exceeds the capabilities of the average small business.
  • Need to recover to dissimilar hardware and to virtual environments. Recovering to dissimilar hardware and to new virtual environments is essential to effective system protection. The ability to virtually store and restore server images allows companies to reduce the total numbers of servers in their IT environment. With the average cost of servers ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 for the hardware, software, and maintenance, this capability can generate substantial savings.

A disk-based solution

Symantec believes that a scalable, disk-based system recovery solution is the best approach for Windows-based servers, desktops, and laptops. Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery, geared toward small and midsize organizations, allows businesses to recover from a system loss or disaster in minutes, rather than hours or days. Key features include:
  • Hardware-independent restoration. Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery enables organizations to easily restore entire systems to dissimilar hardware, which dramatically reduces recovery times and allows them to save on significant hardware investments.
  • Support for the latest technology. Backup Exec System Recovery includes support for Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Small Business Server 2008, Essential Business Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 as well as support for the latest virtual environments, including VMware ESX 3.5, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer 4.x.
  • Elimination of backup windows. Backup Exec System Recovery eliminates backup Windows by capturing hot snapshots of the entire Windows environment, including the operating system, applications, files, system settings, and configurations—without disrupting user productivity or application usage.
  • Physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-physical conversions. Backup Exec System Recovery enables organizations to convert system recovery points into virtual environments, with new functionality to automate physical to virtual conversions for immediate system recovery. This is especially useful if there isn’t spare hardware on hand to restore to in the event of a failure. Once the system is running in a virtual environment, administrators can use this as a live production environment, giving users access to the virtual machine until they get new hardware in place to restore to. Or administrators can use the virtual environment to perform “preflight testing” of patches, application installations, configuration changes, or driver updates before applying changes to production systems. Once testing is complete, they can quickly convert the virtual environment back to physical again.
  • Offsite protection. Backup Exec System Recovery allows backup copies to be automatically stored offsite to an FTP location or secondary disk drive to improve disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Granular recovery. From a single, multi-tab interface, the Backup Exec System Recovery Granular Restore Option allows administrators to quickly recover individual Exchange messages, SharePoint documents, or files and folders in seconds.
  • System protection against IT threats. Administrators can easily configure Backup Exec System Recovery to automatically run a backup when the Symantec ThreatCon level reaches or exceeds the level specified. Additional events that can be configured to trigger backups include prior to application installation, user log-on or log-off, or based on executable(s) or .com files.

Business value of Backup Exec System Recovery

Recently the Alchemy Solutions Group identified different areas of business value created by Backup Exec System Recovery. Here’s what they discovered in the case of a regional airport authority.
For some time, outages related to the airport’s Flight Information Display System (FIDS) were proving particularly onerous. On one occasion the FIDS went down after two disks on the primary server failed within 48 hours, and the backup server was unavailable for failover support. A restore from tape would have taken between 8 and 24 hours. However, because Backup Exec System Recovery copied an extra image of the server to an underused hard drive on an administrator’s desktop computer, FIDS used that image and was back up in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Overall, Alchemy found that once Backup Exec System Recovery was deployed, average disaster recovery time fell dramatically—from 36 hours to just 2 hours. With 200 end users affected by each disaster, cost avoidance associated with disaster recoveries for one year was estimated to be nearly $2 million.

Conclusion

Today all businesses face the pressing challenge of recovering from a system failure quickly and reliably. Systems can fail at any time, making it essential to ensure they are always protected and recoverable.
For an increasing number of small and midsize businesses, Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery provides rapid, reliable system recovery—even to dissimilar hardware and virtual environments.
In naming Backup Exec System Recovery to its list of “10 Best Products of the Year,” eWeek Channel Insider recently observed: “No product better fits the wide array of business storage management and protection needs today than Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8.5.”
Small wonder, then, that this solution has been called the “gold standard” of Windows system recovery.

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