4 biggest challenges for IT Managers today

happy birthday virtualDCS - cloud computing expertsvirtualDCS has recently celebrated its ten year anniversary, and for us it’s been both a time of reflection and a time for looking ahead to what the next ten years might bring.

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. What started out as a few conversations in a coffee shop is now a thriving business with 16 staff, including five recruited in the past 12 months as part of our major growth plans. Our team is like a family and we have very little churn, which for our clients means continuity and the guarantee of a familiar friendly face.

We’ve had 50% growth year-on-year for the past five years, with one of our customers being a very large retailer with £2bn turnover across 500+ stores. Having enabled their back end systems, that £2bn now goes through our infrastructure.

Another big highlight for us has been working with interesting organisations, like the Royal College of Physicians, getting involved in their businesses and understanding how they work.

Innovation remains at the core of what we do, so we’re always thinking about how we can solve our clients’ future problems.

From being the first UK provider to offer Veeam Cloud Connect (now one of the largest in Europe) and the first VMware Service Provider Enterprise partner, virtualDCS has continued to innovate and push boundaries.

Plans for this year include being the first provider to release a fully customer driven 365 solution – so watch this space!

In this blog post we’re going to explore some of the key challenges that we see IT Managers facing now and in the future – and look at how they could potentially be solved or mitigated.

(1) Data governance, security and privacy

big data security - cloud security

According to Forbes, 2019 will be a critical year for data governance, security and privacy. This has always been a key concern for IT Managers, particularly around cloud based solutions – and it’s one we take very seriously in everything we do. But with Brexit on the horizon, data security concerns have come into sharp focus.

Ransomware is another concern we are hearing more and more about. Businesses have always protected against viruses, but with increasing numbers of office smartphones and BYOD “bring your own device” policies, corporate IT becomes more difficult to protect.

Many businesses are now using our Veeam cloud backup service to give them that air gap, which means if Ransomware is on their network, it can’t reach ours and corrupt their data.

For more information and advice on this, you might find these posts useful:

We’ll also be exploring cloud solutions risks Vs benefits in detail in another blog post soon, so do look out for that. 

(2) Cloud network issues

SaaSAlso in the top five Forbes 2019 ‘industry’s biggest challenges’ list are cloud network issues. Digital transformation has seen many organisations moving their workloads into the cloud. But building the right cloud network to support your data processing requirements is also vital.

It’s important to find a strategic partner who can work across your whole business and advise you an appropriate IT infrastructure model, rather than one who simply seeks to sell you a flashy “off the shelf” solution you don’t need.

A key differentiator of virtualDCS, compared with other cloud hosting providers, is that we are not exclusively wedded to the cloud. We have a mix of customers with both on premise and cloud based setups. This provides an interesting challenge for a techy like our Operations Director John, and gives our team variety which keeps everyone interested in different types of projects. But crucially it also gives us an insight into how we can really make a difference and fully understand a client’s architecture.

For example, when J R Rix & Sons asked us to migrate its 30+ physical servers onto the cloud to deliver lower operating costs, we knew exactly what needed to be done. We migrated the servers to a VMWare vSphere platform consisting of three high-spec hosts using HP Proliant servers and an expandable HP fibre channel storage solution, initially with three disk shelves.

 

Rix IT Manager Paul Codd said:

“This allows us to vMotion across the hosts when demand for CPU/RAM is needed without any impact on our users, specifically the successful outcome we were seeking. … Additional benefits included a power reduction to the server room, which helped to reduce our carbon footprint and lower our operating costs.” 

“One of the most satisfying aspects of this project was that we achieved all we had set out to accomplish with virtually no down time.”

Our approach is to work in partnership with our clients to ensure that their infrastructure is also ready to exceed the service currently demanded by their business.

(3) Quantity of data versus GDPR

cloud computing and big data storage

When we talk to CIOs and CTOs, a lot of their current issues are around the

quantity of data they have to manage. Storing data is cheap, so the tendency has been to hoard it. You can buy a 1TB USB flash drive for just for a few pounds. Consequently, companies have tons of data in lots of different places.

But with GDRP you can no longer hoard data without reason. And with cyber security issues frequently resulting in data being extracted from these companies, the financial penalties are huge. Potentially it could bankrupt a company that doesn’t manage its data carefully.

Basically it’s all a big headache that needs cleaning, organising and securely storing. You can do this yourself, but most companies now choose a specialist partner who can do all this more cost effectively and more securely than they can.

(4) Managing backups for multiple operating systems

Businesses are increasingly running multiple operating systems and environments, with more Apple Macs being used as part of the mix. Apple Mac virtual machine users have had to use Apple’s own cloud backups or a separate system for disaster recovery. Of course this equates to additional cost, time and management, with all the complexities that integration between various systems can bring.

We knew there had to be a better way. So we developed integrated apple failover protection for Veeam, becoming the first company globally to offer Veeam Virtual Apple Mac Replication. Our system removes all the costs and hassle of separate disaster recovery backup systems. It provides complete control over all data, effective protection and flexible backup using Veeam Cloud Connect.

For us, the next ten years will see us become more internationally focused. Brexit will probably generate challenges for some of our clients, but the global nature of cloud computing makes it easy to accommodate and diversify.

We will continue to research the best solutions for our clients. For example we’re already heavily involved with Microsoft Azure, but we expect to see huge growth in that are in the next five to ten years.

As a company we will continue to innovate the technologies and we’ve tried to stay quite specialist with that, hopefully that will continue.

If you would like an informal no obligation discussion about finding solutions to your current IT challenges, call us today on 03453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualDCS.co.uk

Simple 5-Step Disaster Recovery Planning Process for SMEs

The start of a new year is a great time to review your IT infrastructure and plan ahead for future business challenges.

Business Continuity

Effective Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning are vital to protect against major outages and other disasters.

How robust are your Disaster Recovery plan and systems?

In a previous blog post, we discussed some of the concerns around protecting your data, post-Brexit. If you’re reviewing your systems in line with a post-Brexit world, it makes sense to look more widely at where and how you back up your data, and the process you have in place for Disaster Recovery.

One of the big challenges for small and medium-sized businesses is achieving similar levels of resilience and continuity as larger organisations, with fewer resources. Limitations on budget, time, staff and the technology available can all make parity difficult to achieve.

This is where cloud technology comes into its own. With the right partnerships in place, enterprising SMEs can utilise a multi-cloud strategy to ensure Business Continuity while making intelligent use of their resources. 

Cloud hosting ensures you have access to your data from anywhere, and backing your data up through a trusted third party platform like Veeam will give both your team and your customers additional confidence in your business resilience.

On-site server continuity

Key steps for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning

1) Define your needs

Make sure you are clear from the outset on your specific recovery needs. Which applications, systems and data are business critical? Next, identify the recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).

For an RTO, specify when the clock starts ticking and consider what tolerance could be accepted for an outage. For an RPO, how current is the data before the disaster?

Once you have these, organise each recovery set into logical groupings around similar recovery objectives. You now have an overview of all your business critical technology and datasets organised into workload recovery tiers. This can then be used as a framework to begin discussions with potential cloud service providers.

2) Assign responsibilities

The internal roles and responsibilities for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity should be clearly defined and understood. Who would be available to recover the data and initiate a Disaster Recovery plan?

Each person that will be involved should know what they need to do, who they need to communicate with, and the full chain of command. Chaos often accompanies a disaster, so the ability to calmly and confidently react to rapidly changing circumstances is vital. The time it takes to reach and notify the relevant people should be built in to the overall execution process.

3) Find the right partner

The majority of businesses don’t have the in-house expertise to create a comprehensive and robust Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan. This is why it is important to engage a provider who can also act as your strategic partner. The right provider can help you craft a bespoke plan of how your business would utilise various cloud services to cover your needs.

Not all cloud based hosting and Disaster Recovery systems offer the same level of security. And choosing one of the larger well-known cloud service providers isn’t necessarily the best option. Smaller service providers often deliver a much more personalised service. Look for a UK-based partner that specialises in Disaster Recovery and back up.

Read more on this in our blog post ‘Finding the right Disaster Recovery provider’.

Disaster recovery4) Choose the right level of support

By this stage you should have a clearer understanding of how much help you need and how much you can manage internally. Balancing the limitations of your time and staffing against the limitations of your budget, set out a clear plan with your service provider about what (and how much) input you need from them. Budgeting more than you expect to spend is a prudent approach to guarantee resilience for your business.

5) Select a suitable technology platform

If your business is harnessing a cloud approach, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) should be a key component of your IT infrastructure plan.

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is defined as “a cloud computing and backup service model that uses cloud resources to protect applications and data from disruption caused by disaster. It gives an organisation a total system backup that allows for Business Continuity in the event of system failure.

DRaaS is often offered in conjunction with a Disaster Recovery plan (DRP) or Business Continuity plan (BCP). DRaaS is also known as Business Continuity as a service (BCaaS).”

Our experience in the industry has led us to believe that Veeam offers the best and most cost effective cloud solution for most SMEs, which is why we recommend the Veeam DRaaS solution to our customers.

Veeam’s affordable and efficient image-based replication delivers image-based Disaster Recovery for ALL applications and operating systems.

The benefits of working with virtualDCS for your DRaaS include highly secure protection with our ISO 27001 accreditation and a guarantee of UK-based data centre locations only. We can deliver rapid and immediate recovery with increased flexibility over your data protection, depending on your needs.

Veeam cloud connect replication free trialFREE 14-DAY TRIAL

We also offer a free 14-day trial of our DRaaS solution.

To access your free trial or for more information, call the team on 03453 888 327 or complete the contact form here.

 

 

Which is the best data management solution? Compare Veeam with Double-Take and Zerto

Choosing an effective, intelligent data management and backup solution is essential for any forward-thinking organisation today.

Strategic decisions are increasingly being made based on data. so this data has to be accurate, easily accessible and secure. But data management infrastructure often fails to keep pace with data growth, particularly within small and medium or rapidly growing enterprises.

A recent survey by Rubicon Consulting found that SMEs managing explosive data growth often have backup processes that could put their data at risk.

According to the London Chamber of Commerce, 90% of businesses that suffer a major data loss have closed down within two years.

But for such an important decision, which data management and backup solution is the best one for your organisation?

Here we explore three of the main players – Veeam, Double-Take and Zerto – and compare the relative pros and cons of both Double-Take and Zerto to the popular Veeam solution.

 

About Veeam

“Founded in 2006, Veeam is the leader in intelligent data management for the Hyper-Available Enterprise. As the leader in Availability across multi-cloud environments, Veeam is uniquely positioned to help customers along their journey to Intelligent Data Management.”

Veeam is chosen by over 320k customers, including 80% of the Fortune 500.

What Veeam does

The Veeam Backup & Replication package is a powerful, easy-to-use and affordable data protection solution. VeeamONE integrates with Veeam Backup & Replication™ to bring its advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning capabilities to backup. Then the Veeam Backup Management Suite combines Veeam Backup & Replication with the powerful monitoring and reporting capabilities of VeeamONE to offer #1 VM Backup with advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning for backup and virtual infrastructures.

VeeamONE helps administrators to assess their current infrastructure and provides them with intelligent monitoring and alerting system a with built-in knowledge base for fast troubleshooting. Its reporting tools assist administrators in virtual resources optimisation.

VeeamOne delivers the visibility, scalability and control you need and protects your investment in virtualisation. It increases administrator productivity and helps mitigate daily management risks for virtual environments of all sizes.

What Veeam offers

  • Modern data protection solution for both SMBs as well as large enterprises.
  • Fast Backup and Replication using Near Continuous Data Protection CDP techniques giving the best RTOs and RPOs (what Veeam calls RTPO) of less than 15 minutes.
  • Agentless, application-aware backup and replication making the solution extremely easy to use and manage.
  • Storage agnostic solution, whereas no dependencies on storage type in production and DR site.
  • Single interface for Backup and Replication for both VMware and Hyper-V virtual environment.
  • Easily expandable backup architecture that can fit growing data centre needs, with built-in ability to monitor bottlenecks during backup/replication jobs
  • ‘Out of the box’ Deduplication and Compression technology.
  • Support for compliance with data protection best practices by keeping multiple copies of backup files on different media in different locations.
  • Advanced Application Items Recovery supporting every single virtualised application like Exchange, Active Directory, SharePoint.
  • On-demand sandbox environment for testing or recovery purposes through isolated network lab from both backup and replicas.
  • Self-Sufficient backup files to avoid single THE point of failure often associated with catalogs.
  • Intelligent failover mechanism with automatic VM network Re-Mapping and Re-IP on DR site.

About Double-Take

Recently acquired by Carbonite, Double-Take is a leading provider of high availability (HA), disaster recovery (DR) and migration software solutions for physical, virtual, cloud and data services. The software is used by more than 6000 customers from SMEs to Fortune 500 companies in over 70 countries.

What Double-Take does

Double-Take Software offers an easy to use and affordable workload optimisation solution, which gives users the ability to easily access data and manage desktop and server workloads in both virtual and physical environments, whatever the location or platform. Double-Take also enables users to move workloads for migration and offers continuous backup and recovery for applications and data.

Used with VMware, Double-Take can replicate application data from multiple production servers to a single disaster recovery target, then failing over to the disaster recovery target in the event of an outage.

What Double-Take offers

  • Availability: Ensure critical IT workloads are available for business continuity and disaster recovery using real-time replication and failover that can protect individual applications, entire servers or virtualized workloads running on VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V.
  • Backup: Continuously backup and recover workloads whenever required to a new physical or virtual machine.
  • Migration: Move workloads between different virtual and physical hardware (P2P, P2V, V2P, V2V or X2X) within data centres or across locations for data centre migrations and consolidations.
  • Flexibility: Double Take allows users to manage workloads without requiring specialised HBAs, by booting them from iSCSI SANs.

How does Double-Take compare to Veeam?

Veeam is a 2-in-1 Backup and Replication Solution with built-in Deduplication and Compression, providing best protection for VMware and Hyper-V environments. Double-Take is a Replication engine, so additional software is required to take care of the backup.

Veeam can go back in time from Replicas instantly. Recovering from an old restore point in time with Double-Take can take much longer.

Veeam Backup and Replication is an agentless solution, which is easy to deploy and scalable. Double-Take requires agents and additional resources and administration.

In case of Hyper-V, Veeam developed Change Block Tracking for Hyper-V which make sure that only changed blocks are replicated each time, which reduces bandwidth requirement, as Double-Take just replicates on the storage block level without any optimisation.

Veeam Backup and Replication performs application-aware image level backup and replication without the need for extra agents to backup/replicate applications. Veeam also has the ability to restore files and application items such as Exchange and SQL directly from the backup disk/replica without the need for any staging. Double-Take doesn’t offer this facility and requires agents for each application to be replicated.

Veeam is the only data protection solution that provides the ability to guarantee backups and replicas using SureBackup and SureReplica technologies, whereas Veeam automatically performs the test on the VM, OS and Application level. Double-Take doesn’t have this ability. Moreover, when data is corrupted in the source it is silently replicated in the DR site, which is a real risk.

Veeam has built-in software WAN Accelerators using different techniques such as caching, compression/deduplication and bandwidth throttling to ensure minimum impact on network and adopt a fault tolerant bandwidth (Veeam Replication can work on links as low as 1MBPS). Double-Take requires a lot of I/O through a lot of bandwidth consumption.

Veeam has the ability to monitor production SAN latency during both backup and replication and can throttle the Read IOPS to avoid any impact on production (this is a patented technology of Veeam). Double-Take doesn’t provide this facility, keeping a high utilisation on production.

Veeam is licensed per CPU Socket regardless of the number of VMs and the disk space consumed on the production storage, which makes Veeam a budget-friendly solution.

 

About Zerto

Zerto is an Israeli-American software manufacturer specialising in data protection, owned by venture capital firms.

Zerto combines disaster recovery, backup and cloud mobility in a simple, converged platform. It is used by more than 6,000 customers globally

What Zerto does

The Zerto solution focuses on continuous data protection and near-continuous VM replication (no storage snapshot, no real backup, no long-term retention). Zerto protects virtual (VMware & Hyper-V) and Cloud (Azure, AWS) environments.

What Zerto offers

Zerto offers a single point-product (Zerto Virtual Replication), with several editions:

  • Zerto Virtual Replication (ZVR): CDP for replication and recovery of VMware and Hyper-V VMs on-premises, and replication to Zerto SP.
  • Zerto Virtual Replication to Public Cloud (ZVR PUB): CDP for replication and recovery of VMs to Public Cloud (AWS, Azure).
  • Zerto Virtual Replication Enterprise Cloud (ZVR ECE): CDP for replication and recovery of VMs across on-premises and public cloud data centres, and to SP.
  • Zerto Virtual Replication Migration (ZVR MIG): CDP for migration of VMs from one location to another.
  • VSS Agent: an add-on for ZVR to achieve SQL app- consistency. Agent to install on each VM.

How does Zerto compare with Veeam?

Unlike Veeam, Zerto needs third party tools to offer a complete data protection solution, which can introduce additional complexity (multiple tools to deploy, manage and support) and cost (administrative time of managing multiple tools and risk of paying for separate tools with overlapping capabilities). As there is no unified visibility across all data protection tools, this may lead to workloads going unnoticed or not being protected correctly.

Zerto can be an expensive solution, particularly as it only offers rigid VM replication. At less than half the cost of Zerto, Veeam offers compete data protection capabilities (replication, snap, backup and archive). While Zerto’s cost may be justifiable only for the most critical VMs needing the lowest RPO, it is generally too high for the other VMs. Veeam offers advanced VM replication fit for most VMs, at a fraction of Zerto’s cost, and integrated with backup.

Its non-customisable 5-second RPO can mean Zerto is unsuitable for most VMs, which need replication on a minutely, hourly, or daily basis. Veeam offers admins the flexibility to adjust the RPO to fit different replication SLAs.

In comparison to Veeam, Zerto facilitates the move from backup to long-term retention. However, its backup system lacks the flexibility and advanced features of Veeam and allows for retention of up to one year only. In Zerto, flexibility is limited as the backup job is based on the VM replication job (admins do not select specific VMs to backup), there are limited repository options (Zerto server’s local folder or SMB share at DR site), and you cannot restore a single VM if the backup job contains several VMs.

Zerto allows you to automate DR testing, which Veeam doesn’t. However, this facility has limited recoverability verification features, requiring considerably more administrator actions. The automation offered by Zerto can bring its own issues. For example: admins cannot select replicas to test (Zerto tests together replicas listed in a same VM replication job); there is no verification scheduling (admins must manually start/end test jobs using a 3rd party open-source tool to create schedules); there are no advanced verification tests (admins must manually verify that VM replicas work correctly); and no isolation from production network and VMs (VM replicas are just tested on a specified network, which could give rise to a potential IP conflict).

 

Hopefully this information has helped you narrow your search for the ideal data management and backup solution for your business.

But if you’d like to discuss your requirements in more detail with an experienced UK-based disaster recovery specialist, please call us today on 03453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualDCS.co.uk

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