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A data-related disaster is a worst-case scenario for any company. When systems crash or applications are corrupted, mission-critical business information can be lost forever. In the face of this, some manufacturers are struggling to update inadequate data recovery plans. This was the challenge facing Canfor Corp., a Vancouver, British Columbia-based producer of sustainable forestry products such as lumber and wood pulp. After thorough testing, Canfor implemented the Virtual Replication and Disaster Recovery software from Zerto.
Canfor chose Zerto in mid-2012, according to Dave Parker, senior technical analyst of the core infrastructure team at Canfor. The company decided that its "antiquated" disaster recovery plan was in dire need of a makeover and began looking for software in late 2011.
"It was based on physical machines and backups to tape," Parker said of the old recovery system, which resulted in inefficient use of IT resources. "If there was a disaster, we had to procure new equipment to replace it, and so we had a lot of spare servers sitting around to use as backup in case of a disaster," he added. "In 2008 through 2010, things started to get more virtual, but our recovery plan never caught up. We were still backing up virtual machines and restoring them from tape."
The company looked at a handful of other disaster recovery products -- such as VMware's vCenter Site Recovery Manager -- prior to Zerto, but the IT team wasn't satisfied at that time with any of the options that would fit within the project budget, according to Parker. After the search was put on a brief hiatus, Canfor made the decision in early 2012 to seriously commit to finding a disaster recovery system.
"My manager dropped some papers off on my desk, and one of them was about Zerto winning VMworld 2011's Gold Award," he said. Parker contacted Zerto to express his interest around the same time he was implementing VMware SRM in a test environment as part of 30-day evaluation. Zerto offered a comparable 30-day test license, which allowed Parker to compare both products side by side.
"We had several categories we rated the software on: how easy and intuitive the setup was, how the interface was, the visibility, and whether somebody just coming into this product could get a feel for what was going on," he said. "For our needs, Zerto just seemed to be a step ahead in each of these categories."
Testing aids in disaster recovery software adoption
The move from a test to a live environment was done through WebEx with assistance from Zerto, Parker said. Installing the software took roughly two hours, while the configuration took an additional week, including planning how best to group Canfor's virtual machines.
Parker remembers the implementation running smoothly, with the exception of one small snag. "For the evaluation software, I had to download 60 days before implementation," he said. "I hadn't checked for the latest update [to Zerto] beforehand, so when it came time to implement, about 20 minutes of it was redownloading the software."
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One step of the implementation that Parker was particularly pleased with was the ability to record the WebEx training session, which could be used later on if for some reason the software needed to be reinstalled. "[Zerto] was totally open to that, and it helped at subsequent times when I wanted to redo the documentation," he said.
The Zerto software has been well received by Parker's installation team, he said, as they were eager to fix the flaws in the old disaster recovery process. Education was necessary, he added, to help users change their old habit of procuring hardware and become accustomed to operating in a virtual environment. What used to involve going off-site to procure equipment now can be accomplished with a couple of clicks of a button. "It's been a big step forward for us in our disaster recovery plan," he said.
Zerto brings Canfor speedy data replication, backup
Canfor is currently running Zerto version 2.0, update 4 and will soon implement the newly released update 5, according to Parker. The company has concentrated its use of Zerto on the core areas that could essentially shut down business if a data disaster were to occur. Ordering, order tracking, payroll and financials were identified early on as essential systems that needed to be moved onto Zerto. The platform's ability to keep these four systems running and their data protected has been the measure of Zerto's success at Canfor, he said.
Parker has given feedback to Zerto on performance issues, such as the system slowness he experienced in the virtual environment while putting the ESX host in maintenance mode. After he brought it to Zerto's attention, the next update included a fix that eliminated the issue. Parker is confident that future updates will continue to feature user-generated improvements.
The most noticeable change at Canfor has been the speed at which data can be copied and protected, according to Parker. On the company's old system, replicating and backing up data took at least three hours per application. "With Zerto, we do it within an hour -- the way it should have been from the beginning," he said.
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