Providing protection for business through ‘Image’ based Backup and Disaster Recovery solutions

Comvision were tasked by a client to create a full Backup and Disaster Recovery model that could allow for rapid business continuity for anything from a single deleted file to a total site loss through fire, flood or theft. It was determined through consultation between Comvision and the organisation that the solution must meet the following criteria;

  • The organisation must be fully able to recover from a loss of all IT systems
  • All of the organisations Servers must be backed up hourly
  • All Servers must recoverable within 4 business hours of a failure
  • Daily offsite copies of the last 2 months backup set
  • All important organisation information must be backed up including that used by remote staff and users with laptops who travel away from the office
  • Critical end user systems such as the Accountant, General Manager and in-house product designer must be able to be fully recovered including all software and configurations

The organisation was currently using a Tape based backup solution. This method backed up files only, meaning that in the event of a Server crash or site loss the Server operating systems, user accounts, passwords, Email accounts and Server based software would need to be re-configured from scratch. This would be a very time consuming and expensive process and would lead to potentially days of downtime while the backbone of the Network was reconfigured.

This technology did not suit the organisations requirements and it was decided that a more appropriate backup technology would need to be used. Comvision determined that an “Image” based backup system would allow for a solution that would meet all of the organisation’s needs.

Image backup technology takes a ‘snapshot’ of the entire contents of the hard disk including the software and configuration. This snapshot can be restored in full to either the same system or using ‘hardware independent restore’ functionality can even be restored to a completely different system. This means that in the event of a Server failure or total site loss any other suitable system including a desktop PC can be used to to restore full Server functionality in a matter of hours, instead of days.

The Imaging software can be configured to take periodical full disk images or incremental backups, where only the changed files since the last backup are included. These incremental images can take less that one minute and can be run while the system is in use, allowing for continuous backups to occur during production hours.

Using the incremental Imaging system individual files or the entire system can be restored from any point in the backup chain. Additional managment software which verifies and compresses the backup images ensures that the backup chain remains intact.

An additional feature of the backup software chosen is the ability to ‘virtually restore’ an Imaged system. Using Virtualisation technology a dedicated backup system can boot an Imaged system from any point in the backup chain and make it fully accessible to the rest of the Network, meaning that a failed Server can be back online from its most recent backup point within a matter of minutes. This allows the organisation to continue production while the failed system is repaired or replaced.

To ensure that all of the end users critical data and documents were included in the backup routine the Network was configured so that their PC desktop and individual document folders would be stored on the file Server. Offsite users and those with laptops would have these files ‘synchonised’ to the Server, allowing them access when out of the office and having any changes automatically re-synchonised when they reconnected with the Network, either in the local office network or by a Virtual Private Network connection.

In addition to the Server systems, the critical end user systems had the desktop version of the backup software installed and configured. This ensured that were their systems were to fail their intricate software installations could be fully recovered to another system quickly and effectively.

A dedicated backup PC was configured to manage the backup software for the Network, centralising the process, managing the verification and duplication process and providing a platform for recovery or ‘Virtual booting’ if required. This PC also manages the replication of the backup images for all of the Servers and PC’s to an external hard disk drive which was rotated offsite nightly.

At the conclusion of the process the organisation had been delivered a backup and disaster recovery solution that met all of their initial requirements, specifically;

  • Ability to recover the entire IT system including all users files in the event of a disaster
  • Server systems that are backed up hourly including during production hours
  • Ability to fully recover Server systems within 4 hours in the event of an individual failure or total disaster
  • Copies of the last 2 months of backup data being stored offsite daily
  • All users files stored on a central file Server ensuring that all important data is included in the backup set
  • Critical end user systems were able to be quickly and effectively recovered in the event of failure or loss