Everyone knows you need to have a disaster recovery plan in place, but many companies never get around to implementing one. Downtime, expense, indecision about which solution to go with…are excuses that become meaningless when the unthinkable happens, and you’re left staring at a blank screen.
For Max Re, a Bermuda -based insurance company with additional offices in Dublin, Ireland, no excuse can compensate for the simple reality of the weather: Bermuda is home to regular hurricanes. Without a highly-effective disaster recovery plan that incorporated extensive, real-time data backups, the company wouldn’t be handling risk-based investments; it would be risking its own viability.
Kevin Lohan, the company’s VP of technology and systems, was charged with finding a solution the company could implement quickly.
“One of my major considerations was bandwidth,” he says. “In Bermuda, Internet access is two or three times more expensive than in the US or Canada, so I needed a solution that wasn’t going to be exorbitantly expensive to maintain.”
Lohan went through industry magazines and newsletters and narrowed his choices to a handful of enterprise and asynchronous replication solutions. He built a test lab, limited the bandwidth capability, and started backing up. He quickly found a clear winner: XOSoft’s WANSync line of products, which includes backup solutions for application servers of any type, Microsoft Exchange, SQL, and Oracle databases.
“Some of the bigger solutions were effective, but $120,000 is overkill for a company our size,” he says. “We’re an international company, but we have just 57 people here and in Dublin. WANSync is enough for us.”
The installation—another significant feature—was “extremely simple,” says Lohan. “All I had to do was install a service on each of the six servers that I’d be replicating. Using Windows Installer even eliminated the need to reboot the server, so our downtime was negligible.”
Lohan particularly likes that WANSync allows him to allocate bandwidth for individual scenarios: files, database, and e-mail. If he chose to, he could also make those allocations different during business and evening hours.
Lohan also appreciates the actual recovery process. “For our purposes, if we lose the Bermuda data center, we need to be able to pick up operations in Dublin immediately. We’re constantly replicating data in a spool file between the two locations, all day long in real time. Let’s say we have an e-mail database that’s 18 GB, and an earthquake in Bermuda interrupts the replication and takes us offline. That file could be corrupted, rendering it useless on both ends. But WANSync has a data rewind feature that lets me backtrack in Dublin; I can go back in time 10 minutes, to the last completed replication.”
The Rewind technology is embedded in all XOSoft products, says company founder and CEO Leonid Shtilman. It allows enterprises to simply rewind affected data sources to their last consistent state—essentially undoing application and database corruption.
Another major advantage the software offers, says Shtilman: its rewriting capabilities. “Most companies need a remote backup site. They’ll copy a 200-GB database by synching locally, then ship the backup server to a remote location. So communication is interrupted while the server is shipped. We can then rewrite the database to make up for the lost time. That’s a critical feature,” he says.
The company’s products recently passed a large-scale test with flying colors: When the power grid failed on August 15, 2003 and left much of the Northeast and Canada in the dark, Richard Fleischman and Associates, a network solutions firm for New York-area portfolio managers kept their systems up and running with the help of WANSync global business continuity platform. Data replication times for WANSync-protected servers were about half of what RFA experienced with other solutions, and the system was so simple that the company gave a senior engineer a single sheet of instructions to keep hedge-fund clients monitoring and trading their portfolios while most of the Northeast was still without power.