Today, most businesses and non-profit organizations use one or more Microsoft operating systems and applications to drive their business. Whether it’s Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, IIS, or even Dynamics CRM, we all depend on Microsoft applications and the information and data created by using them. So it’s no wonder that when I talk to customers and resellers about high availability technology, I usually hear about protecting at least one of these applications.

Microsoft understands the importance of helping their customers ensure system and data protection and offers a number of technologies as part of their operating system and application. They offer Windows Server Failover Clustering for system availability and include technologies such as Data Availability Groups (DAGs) for Exchange 2010 and Database Mirroring for SQL Server.

OK, so what else is there to say?

The biggest challenge I see in using these Microsoft system and data protection technologies is the fact that there are different solutions for protecting your systems and the files, data or information being created and maintained. This means it’s more complex and costly for an IT organization to deploy, manage and maintain, plus you don’t get the same level of protection across the applications. Some Microsoft applications offer no inherent data protection at all. And what about protecting other Windows-based applications and data your company may be using? What about protecting Linux and UNIX systems and data? There are solutions in the market today that can provide a consistent level of protection, recovery and availability for all these Microsoft operating systems, applications and data.

I know from the many surveys I’ve driven as well as other surveys conducted by research firms and industry analysts that most organizations today use some form of commercial backup and recovery software for their Microsoft environments. But many organizations need more than just backup and restore to meet the demands of the business. Remember, backup is typically performed only periodically which means there are gaps in your protection. And even bare metal restore capabilities found in some backup solutions take time to use when trying to fully rebuild a crashed server or storage device. Between demanding service level agreements, line-of-business expectations, customer and partner expectations, and even compliance goals, IT organizations need ways to improve system and data protection and recovery while ensuring high availability for the most critical business systems and data.

A Better Solution

In the past, only large, global enterprise-size companies had the knowledge and experience to deploy complex technologies like clustering, redundant servers, RAID and SAN, never mind the budget and resources also needed. I’ve presented at numerous industry events over the last few years on technologies such as host-based replication and high availability software and have seen strong interest. Industry analysts such as IDC predict strong growth in this area which means more customers are investigating and adopting these easy-to-use and cost-effective technologies. That doesn’t mean that these solutions are perfect for every organization or environment, it’s just that they deliver what is generally needed in the market, especially for SMB and mid-market size companies.

These solutions provide a consistent level of system, application and data protection, recovery and availability across all Microsoft applications—whether deployed on physical or virtual servers. And some solutions can be used to protect other Windows-based applications, and even Linux and UNIX environments too. You get other built-in technologies like WAN-optimization, encryption, CDP, and automated recovery testing—all adding to your protection and recovery strategy. These solutions are hardware agnostic which means you can protect most distributed environments and also use the most cost-effective servers and storage in your replication and failover deployment, including server and storage virtualization products. And you can deploy these solutions using resources located on-premise, off-premise and in a private or public cloud.

Bottom line, you get ONE solution to learn, deploy, manage and maintain which makes IT’s job a little easier, makes staff more productive and should help lower costs.

Take a look

There’s no reason in my mind that you need to manage separate system and data protection solutions for each operating system and application, or different solutions for physical and virtual servers, or different solutions for SAN, DAS and NAS storage devices. I think we can all agree that to some extent, organizations need more than just backup alone, and replication and high availability software are the perfect complements. Why risk data loss and downtime that affects all parts of your business, your customer satisfaction, and even your company’s reputation? You could be a hero instead of a scapegoat.