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PHD Virtual’s ReliableDR Adds DR Assurance, Subtracts Cost and Risk

PHD Virtual’s recent acquisition of the ReliableDR product is a win for businesses stuck in a manual approach to disaster recovery (DR). PHD Virtual Backup already provides VMware environments with reliable backup, replication and recovery tools. ReliableDR adds service recovery testing against RPOs/RTOs and disaster recovery orchestration to enable businesses achieve what PHD Virtual calls “DR assurance”.
A number of years ago our local bank was robbed one morning, but the thief was apprehended just moments after leaving the bank. How did the bank manage that? It turns out that just two days before the robbery the bank had gone through a drill rehearsing what each staff person should do in the event of a bank robbery. With the rehearsal fresh in their minds, everyone executed their roles flawlessly. 
Unfortunately, most disasters do not occur immediately on the heels of a DR test. Because of the direct costs and opportunity costs, DR testing is done infrequently – quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Because testing occurs infrequently, many months may separate an actual disaster event from the most recent recovery test – months during which many changes to the IT environment or even IT personnel may have occurred.
If your systems went down, would your company be able to get them up and running again within a timeframe that meets your business requirements? If your IT Manager was one of the 500 respondents to a February 2012 IT Manager Survey, the unhappy answer is, “Probably not.” Although half recognized that a data restore problem could put service level agreements with customers at risk, 68% indicated their data was vulnerable in the event of a disaster. 
Beyond the basic ability to recover data, the speed with which applications and services can be recovered can have significant bottom-line effects. Research from Emerson Network Power reported that businesses lose an average of about $5,000 per minute in an outage. When it comes to service recovery, speed matters. 
Disaster Recovery Challenges
In response to business needs, IT services are both proliferating and becoming more complex, with a growing set of interdependencies. These dynamics make DR planning and testing more complex and costly, too. They also add business risk because DR plans/runbooks may not be updated in a timely way to account for new interdependencies – even if an organization has enough operational discipline to recognize that a particular change will need to be reflected in the DR plan.
The traditional manual approach to DR testing is time consuming, costly, and – ironically – includes some risk of service disruption. Therefore DR testing is done infrequently.
In some industries, the existence of a DR plan no longer suffices for auditors or regulators. Instead, auditors demand proof that DR plan will achieve required recovery point and recovery time objectives. This regulatory compliance trend is likely to spread.
Finally, in the event of an actual disaster, one element of DR risk is that key personnel may simply not be available at the time when business services need to be restored. 
Given the above dynamics, more and more business owners want assurance that disaster recovery processes actually work; they owe it to themselves, their employees, their customers, their investors and other external entities.
ReliableDR addresses these disaster recovery challenges in the following ways:
  • It tests not just data restoration, but restoration of IT services and business applications
  • It automates frequent testing that is non-disruptive to normal operations
  • It tests and reports against RPO/RTO limits 
  • It orchestrates automated service recovery 
Ultimately, businesses care about more than just data restoration–they care about service restoration. ReliableDR is designed to test the ability of an organization to bring business applications back into service within RPO and RTO limits.
Because ReliableDR testing is both automated and non-disruptive to normal operations, testing can occur as frequently as RPO/RTO requirements dictate. Many ReliableDR clients run DR tests daily. As a result, changes to the operating environment that affect DR processes are quickly and automatically discovered. 
ReliableDR uniquely tests service recovery against RPO/RTO requirements and then reports the results via a green/yellow/red dashboard. The dashboard makes it possible for owners, managers and IT staff to see at a glance which data and services can be restored within required time frames and which services require some intervention. This frequent testing and reporting against RPO/RTO requirements provides DR assurance to business stakeholders and auditors. 
After successful test completion, ReliableDR certifies and catalogs the recovery point. This gives the business a known good recovery point that conforms to its RPO/RTO. These certified recovery points are the data foundation for automated service recovery.
Beyond the benefits that come from frequent testing, ReliableDR’s orchestration capabilities can be used to automate service recovery in the event of a disaster.  This service recovery orchestration means that either no skilled staff intervention is required, or that service recovery can be completed by a much smaller group of people – and more rapidly – than in the traditional manual DR process. Orchestration reduces both the cost and the business continuity risk associated with a disaster event.
ReliableDR Is More than Just DR
With ReliableDR, the DR site can become a development test bed where software upgrades can be applied against a known good recovery point, and then tested to see if the upgrade would create a service disruption. Thus the business gains an operational benefit from what would otherwise be primarily an “insurance policy” that the business hopes never to use.
ReliableDR speeds implementation and time-to-value compared to competing solutions by including pre-built, application-aware tests for common business applications. Pre-built scripts are currently available for Active Directory, DHCP, Exchange, SharePoint, IIS, Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and for all web-based applications.  
ReliableDR adds automated testing and DR orchestration on top of existing replication environments. This makes it an especially good fit for organizations that are already replicating data to a secondary data center or DR site and don’t want to re-implement their replication setups.
There are very few products on the market that even attempt to solve the problems of DR orchestration and testing for virtual environments. To the best of my knowledge, ReliableDR is the ONLY product that provides such granularity and automation of testing, assured recovery with certified recovery points, as well as business-centric tracking and reporting of disaster recovery performance.

PHD Virtual and VirtualSharp/ReliableDR are Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate 

Although ReliableDR is in no way dependent on PHD Virtual’s Backup, there are significant synergies between the products. Like peanut butter and chocolate, PHD Virtual Backup and ReliableDR are better together. PHD Virtual Backup provides reliable backup, replication and recovery of virtual machines and individual files. ReliableDR adds service-focused, application-aware disaster recovery testing and orchestration in order to achieve disaster recovery assurance.
In terms of corporate synergies, the two companies had complementary products that can now be sold together. This has the potential to turn two decisions into a single decision/transaction. For customers that license both products, an ongoing benefit will be “one throat to choke” when it comes to data protection and service restoration.
Another synergy of the acquisition is that each company’s products will get additional exposure where the other company had better presence in terms of business size (SMB, SME, Enterprise) or region (USA, APAC, EMEA). The acquisition of VirtualSharp by PHD Virtual also brings ReliableDR to PHD Virtual’s sales channel and marketing organization; and PHD Virtual to VirtualSharp’s storage partnerships.
ReliableDR adds service recovery testing and DR orchestration to PHD Virtual’s solid VM and file recovery capabilities. ReliableDR is going to make it possible for many more businesses to more quickly and effectively prepare for – and recover from – disasters, at a cost that is substantially lower than traditional manual approaches to disaster recovery. ReliableDR changes the disaster recovery equation: it adds disaster recovery assurance and subtracts cost and risk. 

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