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We’re all familiar with the savings that can be gained through IT virtualization in terms of reduced data center floor space, energy, and server maintenance costs. But the benefits of a virtual environment also extend to disaster recovery and continuity of operations (DR/COOP). Virtual environments make it easier and less costly to achieve rigorous recovery objectives.

In fact, our decision to virtualize the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) Microsoft® Office® SharePoint® Server 2007 environment was driven first and foremost by the need for operational resiliency. The data center savings realized from having fewer physical boxes to power and maintain was an added benefit.

Virtualization helps reduce DR/COOP complexity and costs because it uses images, which can be easily manipulated and re-created. In many ways, the recovery process is similar to the way setting a restore point works on Microsoft® Windows ®systems. If something goes wrong, it’s possible to re-create an image off a last known image very quickly.

Virtualization facilitates the restoration of corrupted files or systems as well as DR. It makes it easy to logically group and re-group images, test recovery plans, and make changes in a granular way, without impacting the production environment.

Moving our SharePoint environment to high-availability virtual infrastructure with redundancy in two sites separated by more than a thousand miles helps us meet demanding recovery time and recovery point objectives cost-effectively. In the event of a failure, automated virtual failover software and data replication technologies work together to speed and simplify COOP/DR.

As are result, we have been able to return to operations in a few hours—rather than many days, or even weeks.

Disclaimer: Mention of particular vendors and technologies does not signify endorsement by the DoD