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Zerto Virtual Replication helps healthcare organization boost recovery

Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic integrates Zerto Virtual Replication as part of comprehensive DR strategy, cuts failover and recovery times.

Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic has implemented hypervisor-based replication to replace array-based replication, lower its recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives, and bolster its disaster recovery planning.

YVFWC, based in Yakima, Wash., manages 17 clinics and 15 administrative offices that support a network of 150 physicians scattered across the Pacific Northwest. The 1,600-employee nonprofit provides a range of healthcare services to low-income families, including medical, dental, behavioral health, counseling, prescriptions and nutrition programs.

Todd Pappas, the company's network systems engineer, said switching to Zerto Virtual Replication to replicate 10 TB of primary storage -- about one-third of its total storage -- had a surprisingly strong impact on RTOs and RPOs.

"Zerto lets us fail over in less than 15 minutes. People here at first didn't believe me until I showed them the documented failover times. I took out a stopwatch and timed it. We expected Zerto to work well with several servers at a time, but an entire production system?" Pappas said.

In addition, Pappas said the clinic's RPO typically is within 15 seconds.

Manual failover gave diminishing returns on DR

Like other healthcare providers, the clinic must meet compliance regulations imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), including meaningful use requirements pertaining to electronic records and reimbursement.

Up until 2013, the clinic lacked a dedicated DR site. It used a mix of SAN-based replication with EMC Celerra NS-12O NAS arrays and log shipping to protect critical data, including discrete systems for electronic medical records, heating and cooling, payroll and various health-services systems. Manual testing resulted in several hours of downtime, which proved unsustainable with internal data growing at a 35% clip.

"The log shipping worked pretty well for meeting our recovery point objective, but the SAN replication was killing us. As we started adding more and more systems, we couldn't come close to meeting our recovery time objective of one hour," Pappas said.

The clinic uses VMware vSphere 5.1 to virtualize file servers and domain controllers at remote locations, with plans to upgrade soon to vSphere 5.5.

No tolerance for array-based replication

The clinic installed Zerto Virtual Replication as part of a comprehensive DR upgrade that started in November 2013. The company added a remote DR site at a data center it shares with the Yakima County government, with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to a metropolitan-area network.

The DR site includes a Cisco Systems' Unified Computing System eight-blade chassis, standalone EMC storage on VNX array and Cisco Nexus Unified Port switches. The Farm Workers Clinic invested in Cisco Overlay Transport Layer and Cisco ASR routers to extend layer 2 network applications over a layer 3 virtual LAN to ease administration of failover tests. It uses F5 Global Traffic Manager for load balancing of Microsoft Exchange Server, enterprise resource planning software, and electronic health records systems

While building out its DR site, Pappas sifted through his options for virtual backup software. That included EMC RecoverPoint, but Pappas said Zerto Virtual Replication fit the company's budget and impressed him with its intuitive management console.

"It's one-stop shopping from a single pane of glass," he said of Zerto. "You're always working right in the hypervisor. Availability to vSphere is three clicks away. We've run into a couple bugs here and there, but the product is very stable and makes it easy to do updates. There aren't many components to it and everything is right at your fingertips."

Testing involves a full interruption of production data, failing it over, writing new data and then verifying the delta blocks. Pappas said the recovery time averages 15 minutes even for systems configured with nearly 20 servers.

The testing capability of Zerto Virtual Replication also makes it easy to keep pace with emerging mandates of ACA. "Within months of adding a new system, we have a full testing procedure in place. We'll take a weekend and let people know the systems will be down. We invested in the backup DR and wanted to make sure it performed as advertised, and it really has," Pappas said.

The clinic's data backup architecture continues to evolve. The company is retiring an aging Unitrends backup system at its main data center and replacing it with EMC Avamar software and EMC Data Domain data deduplication disk backup target.

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Do you require virtualization software to run your backups?
Virtualization software is important in creation of storage virtualization and its therefore necessary in running backups. This software involves bringing together physical storage from a number of network storage devices into what seen to be one storage device which is monitored from a central console.This technology is highly used in networks storage and its thus important in running backups.
Hi Harold: Thank you for replying. What is your experience with managing VM sprawl as you virtualize more and more backup storage?

To what degree do they have meaningful use EHR and how does that affect their backup and disaster recovery requirements?