The Online Hot Spare service completes the trio of elements to the total Business Continuity Service and is dependent on both Remote Backup and System Snapshot.

Online Hot Spare is ideal for the business that simply cannot tolerate more than a few hours of system downtime and need their business servers to function properly at all times. Online Hot Spare provides a business with the reassurance of a disaster recovery plan that is usually only affordable to very large enterprises.

The principal behind Online Hot Spare is through a combination of Remote Backup and System Snapshot together with a managed, hosted server 'tenancy', a business has the facility to restore their business systems very quickly onto servers at a remote datacentre without needing to concern themselves with finding replacement hardware or premises on which to restore their systems. If disaster were to strike, either through failure of a companies system hardware or even to the extent that their entire office premises were destroyed, they can call upon ITbuilder to restore an exact copy of their servers and keep data accessible, mail moving, information available and business processes flowing.

Online Hot Spare

With the business data already backing up daily to the ITbuilder data-centre, we combine this with a periodic collection schedule of your System Snapshot images that are physically transported and loaded onto our own high-end, clustered server hardware. Loading of the server images onto reserved space on our server cluster represents the 'tenancy' arrangement and server images are updated at a pre-agreed schedule to ensure that they are always reasonably up-to-date. Each time a server image is loaded onto the server cluster, it is booted up and checked for inegrity to ensure it is working in the event of it being called upon in a disaster scenario.

If the worst happens and a business is faced with a prolonged period of system downtime, we are able to invoke a documented plan to start up the hot spare servers and restore from the last Remote Backup. With the restored servers now running in a remote datacentre, we can invoke a documented plan to switch access to the systems at their temporary location to keep the business functioning.

When the incident that resulted in the switch over to the Online Hot Spare system has been resolved, a process of transferring the snapshot images back to the original configuration can be executed.

Online Hot Spare – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What do you mean by a disaster?

A disaster is any event that takes a company’s core IT systems out of operation for a sustained period of time. By core IT systems, we mean your email server, file server, database or application server. These are the systems that your business simply could not operate without for a sustained period of time.

Some scenarios where your IT systems could be out of action for a sustained period are:

- Theft or vandalism to office IT equipment

- Fire, Flood or large-scale damage to your office premises

- Equipment failure where no fast-turnaround hardware replacement service is in place

What do mean when you say the Online Hot Spare is ‘Virtual’?

Virtualisation is a new technology that involves the abstraction of computer hardware resources into a virtual software environment.   Multiple, virtual computers can be created on a single physical computer enabling complete independence from the hardware layer on which it is running. It enables different computer operating systems such as Mac, UNIX and Windows computers to run on the same computer hardware, even simultaneously on a single server.

There are many advantages to virtualisation, such as consolidation of server to conserve space and power consumption or cross-platform computing, but in a DR scenario it works ideally as server cloning tool with which you are able to take exact snapshots of server systems that will run on a computer anywhere that is running a like virtual computing environment.

How are the virtualised copies made and does it require taking our servers offline?

We use a software agent that is installed on the server and copies the image off onto a USB external hard drive. This is all done whilst the server is up and running and doesn’t require the server to be restarted. We dispatch an engineer to collect the copied images and transport them to our hosting facility where they are copied onto the tenant server.

How often will you make a virtualised copy of our server(s)?

Anything from between quarterly and annually, depending on how often the configuration of your servers changes. The more frequently the copies are made, the more quickly we can get them online and active in the event of the DR plan being invoked.

How do I access my server when it is running at your hosting facility?

As part of the Business Continuity Service, we prepare the systems for your chosen method of access from a variety of options. Your servers will be accessible by webmail or VPN, in the same way that your current systems are accessed if working from home or a remote office. This enables access to most email and file systems. All you need is access to the Internet from anywhere to tap into your business data. For a more expansive solution, we can provide a ‘Terminal Server’ service which enables users to Remote Desktop to a replica of their office desktop computer and access email, files, databases and business applications from any computer anywhere on the Internet, enabling staff to keep your business ticking over whilst sat at home or at a temporary office facility.

Why would I need the ‘Terminal Server’ option?

In some scenarios, a company may only need a place to be able to log into their Outlook mailbox and respond to messages or access shared folders to deal with quotes or orders. In this case, a user can use home computers or laptops in the same way that they access the company servers from home. Other systems, such as accounts packages or industry-specific database application require fast network connection to run effectively and do not work across the Internet or via a VPN connection. In these cases, we use a Terminal Server, which is a Windows server that can host multiple remote desktop sessions. This enable multiple users to log onto a remote system, on the same local network as your server in DR mode, and access your systems as if sat at a desktop computer on an office network. This remote desktop session can be accessed from any computer anywhere on the Internet.

How can you be sure the plan works when required?

When the virtualised images are copied onto the tenant server, we run a test procedure that involves:

- Starting the virtualised server to make sure they boot successfully and that all services load correctly

- Restore your last good backup dataset from the offsite backup server

- Test the required connectivity predetermined in your DR plan to ensure that all of the data is accessible and the data integrity is sound.

- The procedure is documented and a copy of the report is sent to you for your records.

How is this combined with your Snapshot and Remote Backup Services?

Snapshot and Remote Backup are a dependent services and a requirement for Online Hot Spare element. If you already use this service for your office backups, then there is no change required. We will simply continue these as normal and introduce a tenancy for your Online Hot Spare and commence with regular collections of your server images.

The reason that Online Hot Spare is dependent on the other services is because almost every server system is made up of two components. The server system (the operating system and program files which are almost always the contents of the server C: hard drive ‘partition’) and the data (files, folders and databases that are stored in other partitions e.g. D: E: etc.) The Snapshot service takes backups of your server's system, which doesn't change that frequently so is done monthly or quarterly. This image forms the basis of your Online Hot Spare and is merged with the Remote Backup that runs daily to ensure that data that changes all of the time is right up to date. The most recent System Snapshot image and last Remote Backup are very quickly assembled to get an exact replica of your server at the point of its last successful backup running in no time.

This process is very fast because the Online Hot Spare server sits on the same Gigabit Ethernet network as the Remote Backup Server enabling us to restore your data at very high speeds to get your server back in action as quickly as possible.

How quickly can I expect my server to be online following a situation where we have lost our main servers?

This will depend on the number of servers and how much data there is to be restored which will, of course, change over time as your business evolves. During the regular tests that are done when copies of the server images are made, our engineer will document the approximate time it took to start-up your server, restore the data and bring it back online.

We already have two fully-equipped offices in different regions. Could we not make use of these somehow?

Sure. If you have two offices with adequate space to host a redundant server in each, we can create a custom solution for you. Instead of using our tenant server, you can lease or purchase your own redundant servers we will take regular ‘snapshots’ and move them between your sites as well as running daily backups.