Having a copy of your data offsite has always been imperative in any Disaster Recovery (DR) plan. Back in the time before time, that was done by sending backup tapes offsite. Among our smaller clients, this was typically done once a week by a member of the firm. Our larger clients would send tapes offsite daily with services like Iron Mountain. Anyone who, like myself, has been in IT for a long time knows how logistically difficult this was. Who changes the tapes when the primary person is sick? What about holidays or weekends?
Thankfully, technology and bandwidth pricing have improved to the point where getting your data offsite no longer requires tape or constant human intervention. Most of our clients replicate data offsite at least once a day. Many even replicate data offsite once an hour. What if you wanted to replicate even more often without spending enormous amounts of money on storage-based replication? Enter Zerto.
Zerto works with virtualized environments such as VMware or Hyper-V to perform near synchronous replication at the hypervisor level to a DR virtualized environment. This brings your Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) down from days or hours to seconds. It does this without creating Virtual Machine (VM) snapshots, so there is no noticeable degradation in performance. Another big feature is the ability to synchronize between different types of hypervisors, which lets you have VMware in your primary site and Hyper-V in your DR site. Zerto also supports replicating to cloud providers. If you don’t want to maintain your own DR infrastructure, you can choose to replicate to Azure or AWS.
Zerto is managed through an easy-to-use web interface. You can see the status and overall health of your server replication or initiate a failover right from the main screen. There’s even a mobile app to keep an eye on your replication while on the go.
I found Zerto be be very easy to setup. A Windows server is required in each site as well as a small virtual appliance for each Hypervisor host. The other nice thing about the Zerto solution is that you don’t need extra storage for replication in your production environment. The journal (what keeps track of the changes in data) is stored in the DR location. Configuration is also not difficult as most operations are wizard driven.
A DR solution is only as good as it can be trusted. If you don’t think its going to work, you may not even try and use it when the time comes. Zerto makes testing and performing live failovers a painless process. Replicated servers are organized into Protection Groups (ZPGs), which are used to group servers together by application so that you can guarantee all servers required for an application are kept in sync. For example, a web application may have a database server and a file server in addition to the web server that the users access. Grouping those three servers into a ZPG will ensure that the data required for the web application is restored in the DR location in a consistent matter.
In addition to being a DR solution, Zerto can be used for file-level restores. As checkpoints occur every few seconds, you can restore data from nearly any point in time as far back as your journal goes (we have ours set for 24 hours). If you get hit with a crypto virus, for example, you can restore from seconds before the virus hit to ensure minimal data loss.
While Zerto is an excellent way to get near real-time replication to a DR site, I’ve found it not to be an ideal backup solution. While Zerto does allow you to take point-in-time backups that you can keep long term, these backups are full backups only and are time-consuming to create. While this can be good for archiving of data, its not a good fit for day-to-day backups. Our clients that use Zerto also use more traditional backup software like Veeam. We’ve found Veeam and Zerto to complement each other nicely without interfering.
Kraft Kennedy has been supporting Zerto for our clients for some time now and we use it to replicate our own critical systems offsite. Its ease of setup and low impact on production systems make it a good fit for many environments. If you have a primarily virtual environment and have a need for RPOs in seconds, Zerto could be an excellent fit for you.