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Chicago Firm Improves Failover With Virtualized BC/DR Services

Last summer, Mark Zwartz, manager of IT for the privately held JMB Companies, had a difficult choice: Continue managing a pool of physical servers at the business-continuity/disaster-recovery site for the Chicago-based insurance and realty company, or switch the company to a fully virtualized BC/DR site.

The company's data center was running out of space at its production site, and because the servers were starting to age, maintenance costs were escalating. One of the problems he was having with managing physical servers for fail-over was that a fail-over rarely ran as smoothly in action as it did on paper.

"We started to rethink what new technologies are available, and we seriously began considering the possibility of virtualization," says Zwartz.

For about three years, JMB had been replicating to its BC/DR site with physical servers using Sungard Availability Services. The servers were running Microsoft Exchange for email, SharePoint for content management, and BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Double-Take Software was used for data replication across both sites. Unfortunately, the hassles associated with hosting physical servers at the BC/DR site were many. First, certain applications such as SharePoint didn't replicate well, he says, and the secondary site was located about 35 miles away from the primary data center.

When something went wrong, it was time consuming and costly to have someone drive out to the BC/DR site. "There are all sorts of services you can purchase for remote management, but at the end of the day you still have to go out. Hard drives go bad and basic hardware issues arise, even if it just requires a power cycle. The reality was that it is going to cost two hours of productivity."

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