Hurricane Harvey and #HoustonStrong

The media will bring you the facts. Houston has been hit by one of the largest storms of the century. Despite this catastrophe, Houstonians have come together demonstrating compassion for their neighbors in need.

The community at large has come together like never before. #HoustonStrong has begun to trend on Twitter, offering up numerous examples through pictures and videos of what it means to be a strong Houstonian. The hashtag was made in honor of the city of Houston’s collective birthday. This hashtag highlights the resilient spirit of the city and its citizens throughout the many years of its existence. People from all over Houston and beyond are volunteering to help in the relief of victims caught in the path of the storm.

Multiple posts have shown evidence of people from around Texas bringing their boats to the Houston area to assist in amateur search and rescue operations. Other posts show more personal stories, one being of a Houston officer purchasing emergency supplies and food for victims of the tremendous flooding (this might be a good spot to put a link to the source). The Cowboys and Texans have officially canceled their Thursday preseason game so players can return to Houston to further help their community.

While official government funding for the relief effort is still being debated, others have taken up the mantel in an unprecedented way. Both MLB Texas teams, the Astros and the Rangers, have pledged $4 million and $1 million, respectively, in showing their support for Houston during this difficult time.
in addition to organizations and citizens, celebrities have also contributed to humanitarian efforts with their money and time. Kim Kardashian West, for example, has donated $500,000 to the relief of Houstonians. Despite how you may personally feel about certain celebrities, their contribution and their compassion for those in need have made a difference for the people in Texas.

The hashtag isn’t exclusively for content showing humans helping humans; it also includes anything that inspires hope for the people affected by the storm. The spread of positive news has inspired those in Texas and around the nation of the hope that still lingers on the horizon. Clear skies have opened up over Houston as the storm has started to migrate to southwestern Louisiana, and the sun is shining down on a different Houston, a damaged but still standing one.

Through this crisis, we have seen the resilient spirit of the American people, the unquestionable durability that America is known for. Houston is a shining example of how different people can come together and help one another. We now have confirmation that everything is indeed bigger in Texas, even their hearts.

Resiliency

According to Webster, resiliency is:

1. the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2. an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

I think that the word has more depth to it which can best be seen by looking at some examples that history provides us with.

To me, resiliency is defined as General Washington and his exhausted men, many of which didn’t even have shoes, dealing with brutal winters and endless setbacks and still managing to defeat the British in the decisive battle at Yorktown to win the Revolutionary War. Washington and his men’s’ resiliency won that war.

Resiliency is the US getting surprised at Pearl Harbor, losing countless lives and much of our naval force and then entering the war and enduring the battles throughout the Pacific (like we witnessed in the recent movie Hacksaw Ridge, which portrayed Desmond Doss’ unthinkable heroism in another display of resiliency). Resiliency can be seen in battles like D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, which featured intense and committed leaders like General Patton and General MacArthur, who famously said “I will return” and did so. From leaders to POWs to frontline soldiers, our military heroes are those who showed and continue to show the world what the word resiliency truly means.

Hopefully, none of us are forced to display resiliency in one of those situations, but many of us hear it often regarding our businesses. How resilient are you and your organization? How grounded and committed are you to staying steadfast and how prepared are you to keep yourself and the organization that employs you operational amid an unplanned event or interruption?

Most people and organizations set themselves up to be reactive instead of resilient, which can be a recipe for disaster. Reaction is what you do after the fact. Resiliency is your already established ability to adjust and recover. We become resilient by implementing changes to move ourselves and our organizations from being reactive to being resilient.

If you take a minute to ponder what actions you can personally take to be more resilient in your life, your family, or your business, then I believe that my blog was worth reading. If you don’t, then you just received a history refresher.

If you think resiliency in all you do and make it part of who you are, your accomplishments can be as endless as the heroes mentioned above. Those people didn’t wait until disaster hit them to react, they were prepared to adjust to the changes they faced and recovered.

Zerto or Veeam?

As a director working in the field of disaster recovery, I often get asked which backup and replication software is better: Zerto or Veeam.

The short answer is that I highly recommend both. Each has their own unique qualities. Both are consumer friendly, and most people would have to agree that they are competitive in the market. When considering which is best for your business, it’s important to take a hard look at what your needs are to decide the best fit. Below is a quick review of each technology and a comparison of their features.

Round 1 – Veeam

Veeam was created in 2006 with a strong focus on virtual machine data backup and replication. Veeam changed the backup and recovery market with their virtual machine first approach.  While many legacy backup products were trying to retrofit their existing technology to support VMs, Veeam focused solely on them until 2016, when they released an agent to protect physical systems to augment their software.

Veeam uses VM snapshot technology in combination with changed block tracking (CBT) to create a replica of a virtual machine. While the snapshot is being taken, a redo file is created, and all changes made during the replication process are written into this file. Once the replication job is finished, the redo file is merged with the snapshot into a live disk file. The next time the replication job is started, only changes made since the last job will be copied to the replica virtual machine.

Veeam also utilizes backup protection that is optimized to allow for long term data retention, and one of Veeam’s key features is that it performs both backups and replications.

Round 2 – Zerto

In 2009, Zerto was founded and built to provide high availability protection to virtual machines. Zerto’s focus is on instant data recovery, and that has helped them become an industry leader in the field of disaster recovery. Another feature that sets Zerto apart from legacy backup products is simplified user interaction. Zerto, like Veeam, integrates painlessly into both Hyper-V and VMware environments.

Zerto doesn’t use snapshot technology like Veeam. Instead, Zerto deploys small virtual machines on its physical hosts. These Zerto VMs capture the data as it is written to the host and then send a copy of that data to the replication site. This process results in near-synchronous replication, since the data is sent to the DR site at the same time it is written to the production disk array. This replication process is continuous, so the delay between writing data to the host machine and sending it offsite is minimal.

Round 3 – The difference

The main difference between Zerto and Veeam is their recovery point objectives (RPOs). Zerto has a tighter RPO than Veeam due to the method it uses to capture data. However, Veeam has the advantage of being able to more efficiently capture and store data for long-term retention needs. There is also a significant pricing difference, with Veeam being cheaper than Zerto. Both solutions provide best-in-class solutions designed for the recovery of virtual infrastructures in the event of a disaster.

I have worked with many customers who utilize both products in order to meet their high availability needs while also achieving reliable long-term data retention. The recovery time objectives (RTOs) for both solutions are similar; when a VM is replicated it only takes minutes to boot the VM in either case. However, the RPO is a big difference, as Zerto provides in seconds what Veeam often needs a minimum of 15 minutes to accomplish (depending on data links and change rates). Most companies running Veeam replicate their data once a day, while Zerto users continuously replicate theirs.

Conclusion

Both solutions are leaders in the disaster recovery market today, but which one is right for your business depends on your unique requirements. If you already invested in Veeam for backup and your company has low RPO requirements, then Veeam is a nearly free option to use for replication. If you are looking for the fastest RPO on the market for your Virtual Systems, then Zerto is probably the product for you.

To conclude my analysis, there is no right or wrong solution. Both solutions are winners, and what is right for your business truly depends on your RTO/RPO requirements. For some users, the best choice is to use BOTH for added reliability.

Having to Pay for Something You Don’t Think You Need- Until You Do!

I know it sounds cheesy, but no one likes to pay for insurance, myself included. A long time ago I was friends with a family that had 3 small children and was witness to their devastation when their house caught on fire due to a faulty outlet in the garage. My best friend was the sister of the gentleman that lost the majority of his important property. She also lived in the same neighborhood as him, so I passed by the house frequently. Human nature is to stop for a minute and think about what someone is going through when something terrible happens to them, but most of us go right back to our lives afterwards. In this situation, I was not able to block it and move on. You literally couldn’t ride through the neighborhood without smelling it, pull in to my friend’s driveway without seeing it, or think about them without remembering the kids’ toys melted together in the yard and driveway. On a positive note, he and his family, although they too loathed their monthly insurance cost, were relieved and secure knowing that this was only a short set back since their insurance would take care of their important property in a committed amount of time.

With Winter Storm Jonas coming out of nowhere, my first concern (after my personal family, of course) was to ensure that my customers were confident that, should they experience any type of outage that would impact their important property, we would be there to make sure that it was only a setback (if a problem at all) by honoring the delivery for their DR “insurance,” a feature that some wish they didn’t have to pay for.

Knowing on Thursday evening that the storm was brewing and headed our way, we made sure to let our customers know that they could count on us and remind them of the process since panic typically sets in during emergency situations. Those that have tested on an annual or even bi-annual schedule were able to respond back right away and thank us for being proactive and caring about their business; no worries on their part when it comes to their professional property. Not only have they paid for their “insurance,” they have tested it once or twice a year to be sure when they go to sleep at night that, if something should happen, they have taken the right steps to ensure that their family can remain their one and only concern.

6 Shocking Statistics on Disaster Recovery

According to most experts, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being created each day, and 90% of the data that exists in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. By the year 2020, it is estimated that 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

More data brings more opportunities to businesses, but it brings new challenges with it, too. A specific challenge that many organizations are facing is safely storing and backing up the unprecedented amounts of data that they are finding themselves in charge of. Research shows that 60% of companies that improperly manage their data and lose it to a disaster will shut down within six months of the event. The importance of a proper disaster recovery plan is more critical than it ever has been before.

Here are six shocking statistics you may not know about Disaster Recovery. They might make you rethink the necessity of having a proven, tested plan in place should something go wrong.

  1. Human error is the top cause of datacenter downtime, accounting for 60% of disasters.
  2. 60% of companies that lose their data to a disaster will shut down within six months of the event.
  3. One hour of network downtime costs 80% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) at least $20,000.
  4. For the other 20% of SMBs, one hour of downtime runs at hefty a minimum of $100,000.
  5. 90% of companies have reported that they have more than one backup and recovery tool in place.
  6. 79% of companies have had a major IT failure in the past two years. It’s a common occurrence.

Data and technology are at the core of every modern business. Without them, an organization can’t run properly. Backing up your systems and your data and having a way to keep your people able to do their jobs in the face of a disaster is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.

Do Not Let Good Replace Great

We get so focused on our daily accomplishments that we often forget to enjoy the small things around us. How many times have you ignored a conversation or an individual in your presence to accomplish something which you believe to be necessary or important? I know I’ve done it plenty of times.

Despite having 3 amazing kids, I often find myself focusing on what needs to be done and not enjoying what is going on around me. One morning last week, my wife took our two little ones to daycare on her way to work, so I was home alone with our 1st grader. We had 45 minutes before the bus would come, and I was thinking about what I could accomplish on my computer for work and what house chores I could knock out before it arrived. Then my son said “Dad, let’s go get breakfast before school.” Immediately I wrote off the idea, “There is too much to do.” I thought. Well, in a persistent way, my son asked the same question again and I listened to him and started thinking about it. The dirty dishes would not mind if I did them later, I was about to spent nearly 9 hours doing work “stuff,” and my son wanted  just 45 minutes of my time. We went and had an enjoyable bagel and cinnamon roll while talking about his school and just enjoyed being together. It was GREAT!

While accomplishing the dishes or laundry or that proposal for work would have been good to do, I would have missed a Great opportunity with my son to have a quiet breakfast with just us. These are the moments that we often overlook in our busy day to day lives. Please take a moment each day to enjoy the Great opportunities that are right in front of you.

Having to Pay for Something You Don’t Think You Need- Until You Do!

I know it sounds cheesy, but no one likes to pay for insurance, myself included. A long time ago I was friends with a family that had 3 small children and was witness to their devastation when their house caught on fire due to a faulty outlet in the garage. My best friend was the sister of the gentleman that lost the majority of his important property. She also lived in the same neighborhood as him, so I passed by the house frequently. Human nature is to stop for a minute and think about what someone is going through when something terrible happens to them, but most of us go right back to our lives afterwards. In this situation, I was not able to block it and move on. You literally couldn’t ride through the neighborhood without smelling it, pull in to my friend’s driveway without seeing it, or think about them without remembering the kids’ toys melted together in the yard and driveway. On a positive note, he and his family, although they too loathed their monthly insurance cost, were relieved and secure knowing that this was only a short set back since their insurance would take care of their important property in a committed amount of time.

With Winter Storm Jonas coming out of nowhere, my first concern (after my personal family, of course) was to ensure that my customers were confident that, should they experience any type of outage that would impact their important property, we would be there to make sure that it was only a setback (if a problem at all) by honoring the delivery for their DR “insurance,” a feature that some wish they didn’t have to pay for.

Knowing on Thursday evening that the storm was brewing and headed our way, we made sure to let our customers know that they could count on us and remind them of the process since panic typically sets in during emergency situations. Those that have tested on an annual or even bi-annual schedule were able to respond back right away and thank us for being proactive and caring about their business; no worries on their part when it comes to their professional property. Not only have they paid for their “insurance,” they have tested it once or twice a year to be sure when they go to sleep at night that, if something should happen, they have taken the right steps to ensure that their family can remain their one and only concern.

To Veeam or Not to Veeam

As a Disaster Recovery professional, who has been in the Business Continuity industry for the past 24 years, you come across a product or technology that’s a real game changer every now and then. Let me tell you, that is exactly what Veeam is to the Virtual Server world, a major league game changer.

15 years ago when someone spoke of requiring HA or needed immediate recovery of their Intel server environment, there was one path and that was primarily Double-Take. Today the highway leads to Veeam for its versatility and functionality, not to mention ease of use. As one of their tag line references: “It just works”, and that’s exactly what we have witnessed time after time with our various customers.

As a software technology built from the ground-up for the Virtual Server world, Veeam is robust enough to handle just about anything you can throw at it and still gets the data backup and replication job done. Its ease of use coupled with its Cloud Connect feature can have you backing-up locally and replicating data to any number of Veeam Cloud Connect host partners at a DC location and price point of your choosing in no time.  You can even find Veeam Cloud Connect partners who already have the recovery and server infrastructure in place so you can have a complete and affordable recovery solution that goes well beyond pushing data to the cloud.  Now that is exactly what intrigued me, a real recovery solution that’s testable and takes care of your critical virtual system environment when disaster strikes.

Reach out to your peers and friends in the industry and you will see why Veeam now has over 155,000 customers protecting over 9.1 Million VMs.

Veeam on friends!

Flat Tire? Now What?

If you were to get a flat tire on your ride home from work today, what would you do?  Would you sit on the side of the road and wait for help, would you call a family member or AAA, or would you already be prepared and ready to solve the issue? The key factor is preparation.

When is the last time you checked the air in your spare tire or looked to make sure all of the pieces of the jack are there?  Do you know where to put the jack on the car?  If you have not prepared, you will have a difficult time handling this flat tire on your own.

The flat tire is a simple example of how lack of preparation can dramatically affect your life. Recently, a friend of mine was on a business trip. He was running late to a customer meeting and racing down the freeway in his rental car when the tire blew. Because he was running late, he didn’t even think to check the trunk of the rental car for a spare tire or jack. As a result, he found himself on the side of the freeway in a suit in mid-July with a flat tire. He assumed he would be able to change the tire, so he popped the trunk and began to locate the necessary tools, but the wrench for the lug nuts was nowhere to be found.

Not only did he miss his meeting, but he was soaked in sweat and lost an entire day due to a simple problem that could have been resolved easily with the right equipment. Now let’s be honest, nobody checks a rental car for the spare tire and jack—nobody! But maybe we should. This is an example of how our modern society has become so accepting of potential risk and does little to prepare for it. Remember when you (or your parents) would check the oil in the car? When is the last time you did that? While newer cars notify you when to change the oil, they don’t always warn you when you are running low on oil and potentially damaging your car’s engine.

Our lives are filled with constant activities, and we are always moving from one task, project, errand, practice, or event to the next. Oftentimes we put ourselves at risk of major issues that could be avoided with just five minutes of simple preparation. With that being said, I challenge everyone to slow down for five minutes per week to do something proactive in order to prevent a future disaster. These simple details may seem insignificant, but they could have major impacts on our plans.

The tire analogy is merely one of many examples of how we can minimize potential inconveniences in our lives. We might need to slow down and work on a personal or professional relationship. We might need to reevaluate our finances and check our budget before making a purchase. We might need to monitor our children more closely and advise them to make smart choices. The list really is endless, but we all have one area in our lives that requires more focus. Please take the time to evaluate your current situation and prepare for an emergency. It might change your life.

Disaster Recovery: To Test or Not to Test?

How do I test? Let me count the ways…

When most customers think of a DR Test, their first thought seems to be, “We must test as if we are experiencing a disaster.” Although this approach is the most common, it is not necessarily the best. While testing certainly should be a time to prepare for the worst-case scenario, it is also a good time to understand the Who, What, When, and Where of the actual Disaster Recovery strategy. Understanding these basics will not only help you test more efficiently, but more importantly, it will help you recover in the event of an actual disaster.

Why do we care about the “who” in testing for DR?  Many companies make the mistake of assuming that every team member will be available to fill his or her role during a disaster, when in reality, resources will most likely be limited. I can think of two examples that should serve as lessons to all.

The first is the most recent—Hurricane Sandy.  While I was working for a different DR Service Provider, a customer declared a disaster, only to discover upon arrival at the Recovery Center that their System Admin for a particular platform was trapped at home by flood waters. The customer was left scrambling, trying to figure out how to recover the systems usually taken care of by that particular System Admin.

The second was a result of 9/11.  When I was working for that same DR Service Provider out of Scottsdale, AZ, I received a call the morning of 9/12, and the customer on the other end was in absolute hysterics. They were the West Coast office for a small company based in the World Trade Center (WTC).  The IT department was in the WTC, along with the entire East Coast office.  No one in their East Coast office survived.  They lost everyone when the towers collapsed.  They had absolutely no idea of what to do to start their recovery in order to get their business back up and running.  Regardless of how important your information is to keep your business moving forward, people are your greatest asset.

You might be wondering, “If I’m not testing as if an actual disaster is happening, then how do I test?” With over 16 years of experience in the DR industry (and over 18 in IT), I have seen testing done in many different ways. The good news is that none of these ways is wrong! Some customers want to test one particular platform from their data center at a time. Some customers want to test subsets of their overall hardware configuration. This is a great approach, as practice always makes us better. Other customers may use test time to pre-test an upgrade or fix they are getting ready to implement at home.  This gives them an opportunity to do a “live” run of the installation before they take it to production.   Another example of testing does not involve the IT hardware at all.  Sometimes it is a good idea to do a “paper” test.  This is an exercise to walk through all recovery steps and documentation that would be required at time of disaster so that the customer can be confident that they have everything they would need to recover in the event of a disaster.

When is the best time to test? 

That question is going to be different for everyone. Testing is recommended when any major changes take place that affect the IT organization or company, such as hardware and software upgrades or platform changes. Some companies are required to do audits every year, so they need to test prior to the audit. In a perfect world, the test would be a couple of months prior to the audit, so in the event there is an issue, the organization has time to correct it prior to the actual audit.

Where should you test? 

In the past, there was no option but to go to the Recovery Center for DR testing.  Advances in technology over the last 20 years have created numerous new possibilities. Today, with the network options available, customers can test from almost anywhere. One of the most common new models is for non-replication customers to send their tapes to the Recovery Center, where a recovery specialist loads the tapes and sets up a basic configuration on the hardware, and the customer tests completely remote from their own center. Many customers still like to be present at the Recovery Center during a test, as this is how they would operate during an actual disaster. Other customers use a hybrid of these two options—they send their IT DR team to the Recovery Center to handle the recovery while the end users remain home and test remotely.

As you can see, as technology has evolved, so have the means for DR testing. Whether taking advantage of the latest methodology and leveraging the latest technology or simply doing a paper walk-through and documentation check, testing is an important factor in being able to recover at time of disaster. The time invested in DR testing will only bring great returns when you are able to continue business in the event of an actual disaster.

RES-Q™ Services strives every day to out-service our competition, while possessing the unique ability to think outside the traditional DR box with relevant, cost-effective solutions.

 

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