Anatomy of a DRaaS Event: National Manufacturer Maintains Continuity in the Face of a Hurricane With Unitrends
We implemented our DR plan at the approach of Hurricane Irma. Unitrends’ process worked just as advertised, and there is now no reason for us to actively manage our DR process. We’ve outsourced it to Unitrends. Dennis Hershey
Chief Technology Officer
Unitrends Solution for Safety Products
- Physical Windows servers
- Physical Linux servers
- VMware virtualized Windows Servers
Unitrends Backup Virtual Appliance(s)
- Ransomware protection
- Protection against accidental deletions
- Off-site, long-term data retention
Dennis Hershey has served as chief technology officer (CTO) at Safety Products Inc. (SPI) since 2015. With SPI located in Florida, disaster recovery functions are paramount given the propensity for storms and adverse weather events that can have a devastating impact on businesses in the area. “We are not a large company,” Hershey explains, “But data loss to us is really critical. It could result in the loss of the entire company.”
Before discovering Unitrends, SPI was attempting to use EMC in conjection with VMware DR capabilities to establish their disaster recovery solution. The configuration required SPI to establish a second site DR center; similar EMC hardware was located in each site with data synching between them, but SPI was never able to get it to work the way they needed. After a year of back and forth between SPI and EMC and no resolution in sight, SPI began to look for an alternative solution. At the same time, they were using Carbonite for local data backup and recovery, but according to Hershey, “backup was terrible and we could never get it to recover.” With their latest search, SPI was hoping to fulfill the need for both local backup and recovery and off-site disaster recovery with the same solution provider. Once a member of Hershey’s team discovered Unitrends, SPI sat for a live product demonstration of Unitrends’ solution, which looked to fulfill the various needs their previous vendors could not.
“We know that Unitrends is a solutions provider, not just a backup company.”
After engaging with the Unitrends team, SPI deployed Unitrends virtual backup appliances at their two locations, with appliances replicating mission-critical data to Unitrends Forever Cloud for long-term, off-site retention and Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). The combination of virtual appliances and cloud-based disaster recovery ensured SPI’s mission-critical data stored in local storage was protected against isolated downtime events such as disk failures, ransomware and employee errors. The arrangement also enabled SPI to securely store redundant copies of data in a warm state in Unitrends’ cloud to facilitate the failover of mission-critical applications with a minimal RTO. As part of the onboarding process, Unitrends engineers worked with the SPI IT team to test and align their networks to ensure their applications were functional and running the latest backups. The entire SPI infrastructure was replicated in Unitrends Cloud.
A few months after deploying their new Unitrends solution, SPI faced a major threat to their operations. In just five short days, Hurricane Irma was scheduled for a direct hit on Florida. Hershey wanted to be prepared and contacted Unitrends support to declare a disaster event and initiate failover. As Hershey recalls, “DRaaS spin-up began immediately.”
Especially important to SPI was their multitiered ERP application, essentially serving as the brain of their operations. Unitrends and SPI teams took special care to ensure the application was up and running in the cloud. Remote SPI offices had their network rerouted via a secure connection to maintain operations, while end users had all their applications available to them via the Unitrends Cloud without any interruption.
The exercise showed SPI they needed to update their DR plan. Their old plan was very much based on the knowledge and skills of particular individuals. SPI learned they needed a scalable plan that accommodated growth and change within their IT department. Their updated DR plan will empower any appropriate team member to follow documented procedures regardless of their individual knowledge or role in the organization. Learning from their DR event, SPI leveraged Unitrend’s DR template as a model for documenting their processes going forward. SPI also plans to consolidate its DR infrastructure since a secondary site is no longer required. They now leverage Unitrends Cloud, eliminating the need to fund and staff an internal DR site. Traditionally IT had to dedicate time and budget to crafting, testing, and maintaining their own DR services, all while they are heavily overloaded. That has changed for SPI with Unitrends.
“The Unitrends’ solution worked as advertised,” says Hershey. “There is now no reason for us to have to actively manage our DR program anymore. This was one of the first times in our experience that the promises made during the sales cycle were completely upheld in the product.”
Shortly after the Hurricane Irma DR event, SPI was hit with a Crypto Locker ransomware attack. Using the same Unitrends components that enabled DRaaS, SPI was able to recover in less than one hour. The Unitrends Backup software appliances include AI capabilities to detect an active ransomware attack and alert administrators to take action. “We were fully restored in under an hour,” said Hershey. “Our previous product would take 20 minutes just to locate the files that required restoration.”
“We are looking to expand our DR capabilities now that we have seen how the process works with Unitrends. We know there are many other capabilities that their solutions provide and we want to see what else we can add to our DR strategy.”