By SVV Satyanarayana

Introduction

Novell offers disaster recovery and business continuity solutions so your organization can plan for the worst. Planning for disaster recovery now ensures your data center is protected and prevents the loss of productivity and money. Here is how we used Novell PlateSpin Forge to help us prepare our home office and 18+ branch offices for disaster.

Disaster recovery is a process of preparing and getting ready to recover all of the Information Technology (IT) and infrastructure that is critical to any organization, when some disaster happens. Disasters can be natural or intentional/non-intentional.

Most companies have critical machines in their data centers that hold important data, files, web servers, critical functionality and many other things that are responsible for running for their business. But no one can predict a disaster due to any natural calamities or human errors. So each company must be ready to recover from the disaster and continue its business as usual. For that purpose, each company must plan for “Disaster recovery” properly. In recent years, handling disruptive situations has gained much popularity and has become a high-priority task in most companies.

Novell’s PlateSpin has different applications that will help with workload management as well as handle disaster recovery that balances the decision between complexity and effective cost. One of the applications of PlateSpin is called “Forge” (most recent version is PlateSpin Forge 2.5) which is used to take backups as well as recover the data at a much faster pace, and it’s pretty simple to use.

How PlateSpin Forge is effective

PlateSpin Forge is a product from Novell that provides a cost-effective, pretty easy to use hardware recovery appliance that works for both physical as well as virtual environments. Using this, we can rapidly power on the recovery environment and get back to business after a disaster very fast without much interruption. This comes loaded with all of the necessary application software (that avoids installation and maintenance), storage (ready to use) and embedded virtualization technology. So, you just plug it into your network and it’s ready to use.

This works well for all sizes of offices from small-size offices to multi-national companies spread across different geographic locations in the world. It basically protects you by making copies of physical as well as virtual servers, by creating virtual copies of all machines in it.

Features of PlateSpin Forge and their use

  1. Easily replication: It’s easy to replicate whole workloads in the office including branch offices. It includes operating system, data and applications. Backup can be done locally or off-site over the WAN. So, no overhead of duplicate hardware or redundant OS licenses are needed.
  2. Monitoring metrics: It offers a web interface to manage, monitor as well as report. So, auditing of status of the recovery plan, any failures, setting the policies, etc., can be done from any machine (in the network). Reports can easily be exported to Microsoft Excel.
  3. Alerts and Events: All the logs are maintained by Forge to facilitate better management. In case of critical events which a user wants to monitor, it can be configured in such a way that it sends email/SMS. Event logging provides a better audit option to review the recovery plan and take necessary actions to improve it.
  4. Replication: It allows not only file-level synchronization, but also block-level. It is done in an incremental fashion, so the backup is done at a much faster pace. High speed block-level sync allows backing up of email and database servers. This allows us to make backups without application interruption.
  5. One-click test and recover: Another challenge in disaster recovery is to bring up recovery at the expense of time. As said above, whenever an admin receives mail or SMS regarding failover, they can easily bring up the recovery workload just by a single mouse click using the web interface.
  6. Accessibility: It provides a web-based rich UI which makes access of this appliance much easier. Access it from any of the machines which it is connected to. It’s for managing, monitoring as well as reporting in all important aspects of recovery and workload status.
  7. Flexibility: PlateSpin has flexible restore options. It supports multiple platform work-load portability technology. It can be extended from physical host to virtual host irrespective of provider, make or model.
  8. Easy to install: The product comes with the necessary application software, storage space as well as embedded virtualization technology that makes the product installation easy. Just plug it into your network and it’s ready to use. So simple to install. No CD’s, boot medium or physical contact is needed for installation.
  9. Scheduling: We can schedule different servers for different time durations depending on the importance of machines. For example, file servers must be scheduled at more frequent intervals of time than web servers.

How PlateSpin Forge helped us with disaster recovery planning

Ours is a mid-sized company that had 11 branches spread across different parts of North America. After doing some market research about disaster recovery systems, we opted for Novell’s PlateSpin Forge for taking our backups. All is going on well and by God’s grace we have not yet faced any failure. In a span of 6 months, we started 7 more branches and we are now 18 and counting.

Our first task when we start a new branch is to plan our backup and recovery in case of disaster. Our task is made simple by adopting PlateSpin Forge. We just create a virtual machine copy with Forge and that’s it – the new branch is ready to handle a disaster.

As you might know, by default 25 workloads are supported with a PlateSpin Forge appliance. We maintain 18 workloads (one in each of our branches), which leaves us with 7 workloads still available to expand our business easily.

Tips for your disaster recovery plan

I thought I’d share some tips in planning for disasters. (Might look silly, but just make a note of them when designing your disaster recovery plans.)

  1. Consider the geographical location of your office.
  2. Identify which things are critical and which are non-critical. Schedule your backups according to their importance. For example, a file server has high priority than a web server. So, file servers must have more back ups than web servers.
  3. Maintain your backup at a different location away from the current office. If using tapes, immediately transfer them to different place.
  4. Use the latest technology that provides faster recovery. For example use SAN for backups and so you can recover it fast.
  5. Use RAID technology to handle data corruption troubles.
  6. Use UPS, surge protectors, fire prevention devices, etc., to prevent unexpected disasters.
  7. Prepare robust planning.
  8. Monitor reports on a regular basis and edit your disaster recovery plan accordingly.

Conclusion:

Organizations must choose the best products for workload management as well as for recovery. You must think differently to gain effective productivity with less complexity involved and at a cheaper price. Of course, once the recovery plan is in effect, maintenance must also be considered. You have to consider both physical as well as virtual environment in your offices in different geographic locations of the world. When you think in these terms, you can obviously see better growth in your business. A one-stop solution for all these objectives is to use PlateSpin Forge. Forge is a one-stop solution for a unified view of workload management as well as disaster recovery for your data center.

More Information about PlateSpin Forge

  • Want to see it for yourself? Here’s a quick 5-minute video where you can see the PlateSpin Forge interface.
  • Here’s a 13-minute demo showing how you can use PlateSpin Forge to test your disaster recovery plan.
  • For more information, or to request a Sales Call about PlateSpin Forge, visit this page.
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Disclaimer: As with everything else at NetIQ Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by NetIQ, so Customer Support will not be able to help you if it has any adverse effect on your environment.  It just worked for at least one person, and perhaps it will be useful for you too.  Be sure to test in a non-production environment.

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Mar 18, 2010
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