How virtual desktops enhance a virtualization disaster recovery strategy

When disaster strikes a virtual infrastructure, it's a mad dash to get apps back on track. But with virtual desktops in your DR strategy, you won't be out of breath.

With the dizzying array of disaster recovery tools for virtualization, one can quickly lose sight of disaster recovery's ultimate goal: keeping users connected. For a solid disaster recovery strategy, using virtual desktops may be just the ticket to maintain connectivity.

When disaster strikes a virtual infrastructure, data must replicate to alternate sites and affected server workloads must migrate seamlessly. Adequate connectivity and network bandwidth are critical to an effective virtualization disaster recovery strategy. Virtual desktops can help provide this replication and connectivity.

VPNs aren't enough
Because they are a well-respected technology with well-understood security implications, VPNs are often the go-to method for connecting users to the environment -- even post-disaster. But a virtualized desktop that's specifically configured for use in disaster scenarios may be a better option. That's because virtual desktops can be made easily available anywhere that has an Internet connection.

Even better, you can use virtual desktops in your disaster recovery strategy without implementing full virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In a production environment, virtual desktops typically require fully redundant VDI for their provisioning, management and maintenance -- plus additional technologies that facilitate desktop deployment, user-to-desktop orchestration, remote access and user-state management.

VDI also usually requires desktop personalization. However, virtual desktops make the most sense when they can be personalized the least, and that's immensely valuable in a disaster recovery strategy.

While that personalization is perhaps necessary during the regular workday, everything changes the moment a disaster strikes. At that moment, most companies find themselves simply focusing on keeping the core business alive. Delivering core business applications atop a cohesive and easy-to-understand desktop is one way to maintain that all-important corporate identity.

Spare the infrastructure, spoil the desktop
One way virtual desktops can support a company's virtualization disaster recovery method is through distributed virtualization, or essentially delivering DR-ready virtual desktops right onto end-user devices.

More on virtualization disaster recovery:

Creating a disaster recovery plan for View virtual desktops

Virtual disaster recovery FAQ

Distributed virtualization requires some kind of hypervisor to be present on each user's desktop. Virtual machines require distribution as well. Both of these activities require some effort in getting the right data transferred to users, but what results is the same cohesion as centralized VDI at a lesser cost.

For virtualization disaster recovery, a distributed approach lets users continue working with their original hardware and operating system. At the same time, the virtual desktop provides a carefully connected and secure portal into the services you need during a disaster. Using a separate virtual desktop for disaster recovery from the desktop used in production can also reduce training efforts and decrease the recovery time.

Notwithstanding how you develop your virtualization disaster recovery strategy, make sure you aren't forgetting about the end user's experience. For many users, it's easier to simply use a virtual desktop and be told "here are all your apps and data" -- right away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Greg Shields
, MCSE, is an independent author and consultant based in Denver with many years of IT architecture and enterprise administration experience. He is an IT trainer and speaker on such IT topics as Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. His recent book Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed is available from Sapien Press.

This was first published in February 2012

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