Fast Track latest to turn on failover messaging system
Companies of even modest size appear to be building failover protection into email and mobile messaging because the applications are becoming increasingly business critical, and staff want the flexibility and the assurance that they can work when and where they want.
“E-mail has become the backbone of business. If that environment is not being continuously monitored, then a company is putting its reputation and its revenue on the line,” said Andrew Barnes, SVP of Neverfail, explaining the reasoning why businesses are moving to high availability environments.
A latest example is the sports marketing and events management company of Fast Track. Its 170 staff need reliable 24 x 7 access to email and mobile messaging and support for remote access from which ever event they are working at. “The business has a very high dependency on IT and we really have to have 100% uptime,” explained Magnus Leask, the company’s IS Director.
Fast Track is based in London and has offices in Madrid, but likes to offer clients a dedicated on-the-ground service at events that are held all over the world.
“Our people are always on the move. We have a team working in the Middle East right now,” Leask commented, “So for them Sunday is a normal working day. For me, it means the window I have available for scheduled downtime is extremely limited.”
In the lead-up to events, employees rely on email to manage marketing activities and during an event engage in social media activities such as Facebook and Twitter, which has become an increasingly important element in creative client campaigns.
In the event of an unexpected IT outage Leask can provide the business with the service they expect, using Neverfail software to provide seamless failover for Fast Track’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which powers the handhelds that are used by around 70% the company’s work force.
Fast Track’s server assets are housed in its primary data centre at the company’s London headquarters, with a secondary disaster recovery site based around an eight server virtualised infrastructure from VMware housed along the Thames in Maidenhead, served by co-location provider Blue Square Data.
“Neverfail’s Heartbeat technology ensures application availability and disaster recovery” Barnes explained. “Should the primary server be lost Fast Track’s virtualised environment would automatically kick in. There is continuous replication of data from the active server to a passive one, so that the secondary site will always have all the latest data that was held by the primary site.”
The Neverfail software is deployed at around 4,000 organisations worldwide, Barnes claimed, and is used to provide high availability failover and disaster recovery for a wide spread of applications and workloads. These stretch from SQL databases to SharePoint document management systems, unified messaging and IIS web server traffic, he said. It is also to be found embedded in a version of VMware’s VCenter server virtual infrastructure management line.
There is a sizeable and mature market for on-premises e-mail continuity that includes vendors such as CommVault, Double-Take, EMC, Quest and Symantec.
Leask said that he had considered alternatives such as Double-Take Software but was won over to Neverfail because of its advanced management interface and also with its ability to offer cluster protection for Microsoft exchange.
“We were so impressed with Neverfail’s ease of use that we also implemented Neverfail ClusterProtector for our Exchange environment, as it is imperative for us to be able to failover our BlackBerry Enterprise and Exchange servers at the same time to support continuous email exchange.”
Another key driver in the decision to implement Neverfail was the way the software handles the fail back, after the switch from the primary physical server to the secondary virtual server environment. “It’s easy to failover one way for disaster recovery purposes, but with other systems we looked at it seemed much more difficult to bring the workload back to make the switch over back to the primary server.”
He added, “We have invested around £100,000 in the system overall, taking in all the software licenses, new storage area network, routers and so on. Balance that against my calculation that an hour’s outage would cost us at least £8,000 in potential loss in productivity, and the ROI looks solid enough.”
Leask believes the deployment not only ensures the business can operate flexibly, but it has also built his own confidence to eventually virtualise Fast Track’s entire production site, which is the long-term goal as the carbon neutral company seeks to curb energy costs.