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Housing developer builds resiliency with DRaaS

Ann Bednarz | July 6, 2017
Lightning strike puts disaster recovery plan to the test.

Milhaus checked out several providers before selecting Online Tech, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that offers hybrid cloud, colocation, disaster recovery and offsite backup services. Online Tech hosts Milhaus’s DRaaS environment at their data centers, along with file-level and image backup services.

The fact that Online Tech offers geographical diversity was a draw; it operates seven data centers in three states. Support for cross-hypervisor failover and failback was also a priority for Milhaus, which is standardized on Hyper-V. The Online Tech service is powered by Zerto’s virtual replication technology, which enables cross-hypervisor replication across VMware and Microsoft hypervisors and multiple sites with native multi-tenancy.

Getting everything moved over and replicated through Zerto at Online Tech’s data center in Michigan took several months. “There were bumps in the road, but Zerto’s engineers worked with us,” Werner says.

In December, Milhaus had its first planned test of the disaster recovery environment. “I thought ‘It can’t work this way.’ But literally, a couple of clicks and the server is up, and you’re able to log into it, and it’s just as fast as turning the VM on here, directly on the hypervisor,” Werner says.

A few months later, Milhaus had an unplanned test, thanks to a lightning strike. “We lease some land right next to our building for a cellular tower, and lightning hit the cellular tower, apparently, traveled down into the ground, hit our ground wire, and then traveled into our server room,” Werner says. “It took out all of our switches in the server room. It was major network damage.”

While technicians worked on-site to see if they could restore or replace the IT gear, Werner reached out to Online Tech. “We got on the Zerto-based portal with them, and all the servers came up, just like in the test, within minutes.”

In the end, Werner was able to get Milhaus’ core services – in particular its VoIP phone services – back online without doing a complete failover. “I didn’t want to go ahead and effect the DNS changes at that point. But everything stood up and worked perfectly as it should have in the event of a disaster.”

Looking ahead, Werner aims to move some of the company’s most critical services to a more high-availability cloud environment.

“We can’t provide high-availability power, and obviously we can’t insulate well enough from lightning strikes and things like that," he says. Probably Milhaus will enlist Online Tech to further insure reliability.

“Now we’re looking to move those tier-one services out to their cloud, so they’ll be replicating directly between two of their data centers. And then we have less worry that we’ll go down.”


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