Cosmopolitan Housing Association and Keylogic have jointly developed a virtualised, thin-client disaster recovery (DR) system.
Cosmopolitan has taken a pragmatic view of its DR requirements, choosing to focus on the rapid provision of its technology infrastructure in the event of a disaster, reasoning that the offices and sites which it already operates can accommodate staff or temporary office space can be rented, as long as they have an internet connection.
The system uses a permanent VPN link from Cosmopolitan’s network to Keylogic’s datacentre to continuously replicate the Active Directory domain. This has been set up to operate using only minimal bandwidth so it can use the existing internet connectivity without affecting other services. This replication delivers a real-time copy of the Active Directory and all associated user and computer objects within it.
A virtual capture of Cosmopolitan’s Aareon QL Server is taken after each major update. This is then transferred after normal business hours to Keylogic’s datacentre, with scheduling and compression technologies enabling the process to use the existing communications infrastructure. With only the Domain Controller live, the rest of the replicated servers are left dormant in Keylogic’s virtual infrastructure until needed.
The system currently covers Cosmopolitan’s Aareon QL housing management system, its Active Directory domain, Exchange email, the file and print infrastructure and the Kinetix booking system. In the event of a disaster, email is instantly re-routed to the Keylogic hosted environment without the loss of any inbound email. Due to the standby nature of the virtual environment, access to new email can be very quickly provided to any location with internet access using a ‘mirror’ of Cosmopolitan’s own Citrix thin-client environment. This also includes Microsoft Office and related applications so work can continue with minimal IT-related delays. Offsite backup tapes are then couriered by motorcycle and the data restore begins.
In a recent test of Cosmopolitan’s system, inbound emails were immediately rerouted to the DR infrastructure, 10 minutes later staff had access to webmail and their Outlook clients, and one hour later they were able to use their housing management system, complete with both current and historical records. Within four hours of the disaster point, staff even had access to all of their historical emails, files and data.
Following a disaster, Cosmopolitan staff can work from home, a remote site or temporary accommodation using PCs, laptops or even new hardware bought after the event, as long as they have an internet connection and a web browser.
Cosmopolitan estimates that its new virtualised, thin-client DR system has cost 60 per cent less than the traditional approach, while providing the necessary geographic freedom, ease of use, speed and reliability.