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Implementing Disaster Recovery Using Microsoft Hyper-V

Implementing Disaster Recovery Using Microsoft Hyper-V

Microsoft Hyper-V is a leading virtualization platform that supports advanced clustering and failover of virtual machines running on the hypervisor. Hyper-V can also be used to implement a disaster recovery plan in order to ensure continued business operations in the event of some catastrophic interruption or unavailability of your normal production server environment. This could include weather events, power grid failures, terrorist attacks, or even a system virus outbreak. If you have decided on Hyper-V as your virtualization platform and know your business requirements for a disaster recovery plan, it is important to understand how to prepare properly your hardware, networks, and replication environment.

Configuration of the server environment is one of the more time-consuming aspects of any disaster recovery site planning and setup phase. By definition, the environment needs to physically remote and selecting this location is obviously of critical importance. Remote offices with adequate server space and network bandwidth can be the best option for many but before deciding on this, several additional items should be thought through. For example, in the event of some sort of catastrophic event, is it possible that the remote office could also be a victim of the same event (if the remote office is also a critical business location, a terrorist attack could also target it).

In terms of physical resources, are there information technology professionals onsite ready to assist in monitoring and administering the server environment when it becomes the live production environment? Finally, given the size of the virtual machines, being replicated (more on this later), you will need to be certain that network infrastructure into the remote office is capable of handling the load. A clustered environment using a technology such as Windows Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2008 will need to have shared storage properly configured in both environments to ensure seamless failover.

Proper network configuration is also a critical component of proper highly available (HA) disaster recovery (DR) environment setup. In an HA DR environment, a virtual local area network can be extended across the network to include both the production and DR environment. This was not possible in Windows Server 2003 but is supported in Windows Server 2008 using the Windows Failover Clustering option.

Using this option, multiple networks with separate subnets will need to be configured in both the production and failover environment with one network used for internal cluster communications and the other used for production application networking. If an external network storage device is used (such as one based on iSCSI), a third network would also need to be configured in parallel in both environments.

The final step is just as critical and goes beyond a one-time setup phase as it deals with the regular scheduled replication of the data storage and virtual machines once the environment goes into production. Replication options vary based on the replication solution you opt to use but it is important to note that Hyper-V environments do require two-way replication between the production and the DR environment if Hyper-V clustering is enabled. This allows the VMs to be replicated not only from production to the DR environment but also supports the replication back to production from DR, once production is back online.

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