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Company protects critical remote and local data with single disaster recovery product

Beth Pariseau
The Maxim Group, a broker-dealer firm with headquarters in midtown Manhattan, has several reasons to be worried about outages on its critical Exchange servers. The challenge was finding a product that could address them all.

The firm's headquarters is located in the Chrysler building, and Maxim has suffered through steam pipes bursting, data center flooding and the death of an air-conditioner last summer that left the data center hot enough to melt the labels on cables. And the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center remain on Maxim CTO John Michaels' mind, as well. "Generally when I think of 'disaster,' I don't think about a hard drive failing, I think about the whole data center," he said.

But spot outages have been disastrous too. A hard drive failure in the company's Exchange server last summer took down the email system for 12 minutes. "That might not seem like a long time, but for a financial institution that relies on email heavily, 12 minutes is a long time," Michaels said.

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Between the total-data-center meltdowns and drive-failure disasters, Michaels decided the company needed a product to backup data synchronously at the primary data center, as well as asynchronously for distance recovery.

Originally, Maxim planned to install local synchronous replication and server failover software from Marathon Technologies and asynchronous distance replication from Double-Take Software. As he was preparing to fill out the final purchase orders for these products, Michaels said, he was introduced to a Teneros representative.

Double-Take required configuration changes to the Exchange server, specifically a change to its IP address. "Double-Take said scripts would be needed for failover and proposed three days of coming in and setting those up for us, plus testing," he said. This services engagement would've come at a cost of between $2,500 and $3,000, Michaels added.

Teneros would give the company local and remote data protection with just one product for about $50,000 – roughly half the cost of the other combination.

Maxim has two Teneros boxes, one in Manhattan, the other about 30 miles away in Woodbury, N.Y. Teneros assumes the IP address of the Exchange server automatically in the event of an outage and performs asynchronous replication to the remote site. It also performs local automatic failover and failback with a proprietary form of local replication, which is technically asynchronous but "uses inline network connectivity to replicate data in real time even though it is asynchronous," according to an email from a Teneros spokesperson to SearchStorage.com. "This allows us to provide a near zero RPO [recovery point objective] with no performance impact on the Exchange server."

Michaels said the setup for the product was easier than what Double-Take was proposing. "I set it up myself in 15 minutes while the service guy stood behind me," he said.

Maxim still wound up with double protection of email data elsewhere in the environment. Concurrent to the email protection project, the company also put FalconStor's Network Storage Server in place to protect other virtualized application servers. While protecting separate physical application servers with this method would've cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Michaels said Maxim cut costs by virtualizing 27 servers on seven physical hosts. This virtualization allowed Maxim to store, snapshot and failover application servers on NSS at a fraction of the cost.

This left Maxim with the ability to protect Exchange data twice, though the email server remains unvirtualized, and therefore needs the Teneros box to protect the application itself. Double-protecting the data comes without the same expense as the original two products Michaels looked at. Michaels said managing more than one product is less of an issue for him. "I'll protect [Exchange] five times if I can," he said.

In the meantime, however, Teneros hasn't allowed him to address his BlackBerry server in the same way. "I'd like an appliance-based approach to that also," he said. Many of the 350 mail users in the Manhattan office are heavy users of mobile devices, he said.

A Teneros spokesperson said such an appliance is on the roadmap.


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