Organizations today face several challenges that threaten business continuity. One such challenge is downtime. While disasters are inevitable, unplanned downtime disrupts normal business processes, reducing employee productivity with risks of increasing client dissatisfaction and financial loss.

To minimize downtime and sustain business operations, you must back up your organization’s critical data and ensure redundant IT infrastructure is implemented. Geo-redundancy and backups are a crucial part of any business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan to help businesses bounce back quickly from unplanned disruptions such as natural disasters, technical glitches or power outages.

Geo-redundancy and backups may seem similar, but they are not really the same. Read on as we discuss the differences as well as the importance of geo-redundancy in maintaining a robust business continuity strategy.

What Is Geo-Redundancy?

Geo-redundancy is the distribution of mission-critical components or infrastructures, such as servers, across multiple data centers that reside in different geographic locations. Geo-redundancy acts as a safety net in case your primary site fails or in the event of a disaster or an outage that impacts an entire region.

Should a workload fail due to hardware, networking, power or some other issues, it can failover to one of the alternate locations with minimal impact to the service. That way, your business continues to function as normal (ultimately leading to improved end-user experience).

What Does Failover Mean?

Failover in computing is the ability to automatically switch over to a redundant or secondary site (a standby server, computer system) when the primary server, application, hardware component or network is unavailable. Failover helps eliminate the negative impact on end users that arises due to system failure.

A failover process initiated by IT administrators for scheduled maintenance or system upgrades is known as planned failover. When failover is triggered due to a failure or when critical applications, server or hardware stops functioning abnormally, it is considered an unplanned failover.  

Why Is Geo-Redundancy Used?

Production: In a production use case (i.e., communications application), geo-redundancy provides extra capacity that the unified communications (UC) application can utilize should the network reach its peak load (maximum capacity of simultaneous users and devices it can handle) or if an equipment, network or application fails. Geo-redundancy helps minimize network connectivity issues and downtime and improves efficiency by ensuring traffic is actively transferred to alternate nodes if one node fails.

Backup: In a backup use case, geo-redundancy helps protect your business in the event the backup storage in your current location is impacted by outages, and enables recovery of applications and workloads in an alternate location. This provides resiliency in the event of a data center outage. For instance, during a site-wide failure (caused due to extreme weather, power failure or fire), a backup is readily available for recovery on its replication target.

When it comes to backups, it is best practice to follow the 3-2-1 rule, i.e., 3 (three) copies of data (i.e., primary, backup, backup copy), in 2 (two) different formats (i.e., on-appliance, on removable media), 1 (one) of which is stored off-site. A redundant backup at an off-site location enables you to recover with minimal downtime.

What Is the Purpose of Geo-Redundancy?

Geo-redundancy aims to protect your data while minimizing downtime by replicating your organization’s data and IT infrastructure to other sites, such as secondary data centers or colocation facilities, spread across different geographic regions. This helps ensure your mission-critical applications and workloads will remain available and unaffected in the event of a region-wide outage or disaster at your primary site.

Why Is Geo-Redundancy Important?

Unplanned disruptive incidents, such as hurricanes, power outages or hardware failure could interrupt normal business operations, leading to downtime and data loss. Geographic redundancy will help you maintain business continuity in the face of disasters by enabling you to seamlessly failover critical applications and data to one of the geographically dispersed secondary sites.

You must ensure that IT systems and applications that require high availability have geo-redundant configurations to be able to seamlessly failover to a backup site if your primary site fails or is inaccessible.

How Does Geo-Redundancy Work?

Geo-redundancy works by duplicating IT infrastructure, such as servers and network resources, and storing them as a backup in two or more data centers located in different regions, thus making the components simultaneously available. By hosting IT infrastructure not only in a primary site but also in a secondary site, geo-redundant storage (GRS) helps improve your organization’s resiliency and provides better protection. GRS enables you to restore applications and data quickly by initiating failover to the secondary data center during unplanned disruptions or in case your primary site fails.

What Is the Difference Between Redundancy and High Availability?

Redundancy of components ensures that you have extra resources ready to assume the role of a system in case the system fails or becomes inoperable. Redundancy, however, does not necessarily equal high availability. Redundancy may involve flipping a switch, recovering from a backup or powering up a replica. On the other hand, highly available systems are considered to be always on and always available.

High availability means all resources are available for use regardless of any incident. A high availability environment design employs multiple servers, routers, firewalls, WAN links, etc., to ensure the availability of applications and workloads.

What Is the Difference Between Redundancy and Backup?

Redundancy and backup are similar, but not identical. Backups involve creating exact copies of data so that they can be used to restore and keep your business operational in the event of a disaster or data loss. Redundancy, while applicable to data storage and backups, is not limited to that use case. Redundancy ensures your organization has continuity of applications, network, storage, power, etc., to provide services in the event of a disaster. Redundancy does not necessarily mean your data is backed up. If a critical piece of data is deleted from a redundant network, simply having a redundant server may not be enough to get that piece of data back.

Geo-Redundancy Use Cases

Network

Installing additional instances of network devices and communication lines ensures network availability in case the primary path of communication fails or is unavailable. This serves as an alternate source for network failover.

Power

IT infrastructure should have a backup power supply to protect servers and other devices. You must ensure there is reliable, network-grade power, which also serves as an emergency battery to protect devices from sudden shutdowns (such as a power outage) that may damage equipment. Devices such as Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) or generators help provide time for graceful shutdown and/or alternate sources of power.

Colocation

By having meaningful distance between two physical locations, if one geographical area (e.g., Southeast US) experiences a disaster or an outage (e.g., a hurricane), operations could be failed over to a different facility (e.g., the Midwest) to maintain uptime.

Accomplish Geo-Redundancy With Unitrends

Unitrends helps you minimize downtime and maximize uptime with tools and methods such as:

Managing Backup Copies: Replication can be applied to create backup copies that are hosted on secondary appliances, storage targets, cloud storage buckets, removable media or a combination of all these mediums.

Replication can be performed locally, with media being moved off-site or over the WAN to a target at a colocation. Depending on the location of the “colo” relative to the primary site, geo-redundancy may be accomplished.

Unitrends Cloud: We offer dedicated cloud services for long-term retention, off-site replication and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). Our cloud data centers and their services are available in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and Australia.

While Unitrends adheres strictly to the data privacy and data sovereignty regulations of each region, all Unitrends Cloud data centers leverage a high-availability cloud strategy with redundant copies of data replicated automatically to multiple locations within the Unitrends Cloud (within the respective region).

UniView: With our centralized management portal you can easily monitor and manage backup appliances across a geographically redundant configuration, whether backup instances reside in different physical locations or across public cloud provider(s).

Find out how Unitrends makes business continuity and disaster recovery seamless and hassle-free.

About Adam Marget

Adam is a Technical Specialist on the Unitrends marketing team supporting digital and in-market events. Over the last 4 years with Unitrends, he has been delighted at the opportunity to work with customers, prospects, and partners alike to help solve challenges around data protection and business continuity. Adam joined Unitrends in 2016, bringing with him experience working with variety of manufacturers’ technology from edge to core as a coworker from national IT solutions provider CDW.