I’ve written a few articles about security, but I want to write about something equally important – mitigating downtime.  Most people know that you need to have a good back-up strategy in place so you don’t have data loss in the event of a hard drive crash or a fire but often the downtime involved is overlooked.  When your employees can’t work and customers can’t do business with you, how much does it cost for every hour you’re down?  What if the outage lasts for a day or more?  There’s a financial cost but your reputation can also be at risk.

A recent Symantec SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey 2011 found some interesting numbers related to this.  Surveying 1288 small businesses with 5-1000 employees worldwide, they found the average number of outages per year to be 6 and the average cost per day of these outages to be $12,500.  That adds up $75,000 per year in lost revenue and productivity.

We are so dependent on technology in all businesses these days that it’s nearly impossible to do anything when your computer system is down.  Having multiple offices or locations won’t help when all of your technology assets usually reside in one location.  Even in a rather simple scenario such as hardware failure and with an up-to-date backup, the hardware needs to be repaired/replaced and the backup restored before you’re back up and running.

In the past, attempting to maintain maximum uptime has been expensive and required multiple servers of the same type, SAN infrastructure, dedicated network switches and usually some expensive software to facilitate the replication.  With the release of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 that is no longer required.   You can still use clustered Hyper-V servers with SAN infrastructure for a fully redundant, high-performance environment, but if all you need is to have a handful of servers replicated to another site in case of a disaster, you can accomplish it all much easier and at a fraction of the cost.   On Microsoft’s newest release Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 you can even replicate your servers to multiple different locations.

The first step is to virtualize all your current servers on Hyper-V 2012 R2.

If you already have your servers virtualized using Vmware or Citrix Xenserver you will need to convert them to Hyper-V 2012 R2. To accomplish this you will need to purchase a new server to install Hyper-V on and then migrate your virtual machines over to it.  Happily, you should be able to reuse your existing server as your offsite server, it will just need to be formatted and then installed with Hyper-V 2012 R2 once your VMs are running on the new one.  If you are running an older version of Hyper-V you can just upgrade but I would recommend the same migration steps as above for safety reasons and you’ll also need another server for your replicas anyway.

If your servers aren’t currently virtualized, I highly recommended it for reasons I will discuss in the next article.  If your servers are each running on their own physical hardware you will need to buy a new server capable of running them all, install Hyper-V server 2012 R2 and then migrate them to virtual machines.  You may be able to reuse one of your existing servers at the offsite location if it supports virtualization, and is powerful enough to run all your virtual machines.

When you have all your servers running as virtual machines on Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 the next steps are simple.  You simply need to install Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 on a second server (hopefully you have available hardware from previous migration steps, if not you will have to purchase a 2nd server).

EnableReplicationOnce you have Hyper-V 2012 R2 installed and configured on a secondary server you can simply right-click a server on your primary Hyper-V instance and select “Enable Replication” from the drop down menu (shown right).  This will run a wizard that will ask for the server you want to replicate to and have you choose some replication options.  Once complete the server starts its initial replication.  You can then open your secondary Hyper-V server in the management console and see the VM shows up there as well.  It will be ready to start up when necessary as soon as the initial replication finishes.  If you want to replicate the servers to a 3rd location, (if you want an onsite and offsite standby) all you have to do is right-click on the primary server again and choose “Extend Replication” and choose the 3rd server.

As you can see this is a very simple and inexpensive method of cutting potential downtime out of your business.   No expensive software (Hyper-V 2012 R2 is free!) and the only hardware required is two servers.  Additionally you have some snapshot capability on the Failover server in the case of software corruption or virus outbreak.   It is not a replacement for a good backup strategy but it does offer some limited but quicker recovery than having to do a full restore.
Virtualization can really benefit your business in many ways.   For a free, no obligation, virtualization analysis to see how new virtual technologies can benefit you, fill out the form below
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