Workstation Disaster Recovery: What are my options?

Nick Cavalancia

When thinking about the best way to recover workstations within the context of what specifically needs to be recovered, a few options begin to emerge. None of these are earth-shattering, but serve as a good look into what choices you have, whether they are cost-effective, and how they impact the customer.

Imaging

  • The potential – quickly push out replacement images to every workstation, providing every user with a working environment. 
  • The reality – this seemingly appears like the “easiest” option because it appears to have the least amount of work. But if your customer wants an SLA that includes all applications and personal settings of the user(s) at a given workstation, this option will prove to be one of the most costly to you. Images will likely only contain a base OS (that being one only as up to date on patches as the day it was created) and be missing applications (beyond that of, say, Office) as well as personal settings (printers, drive mappings, application settings, etc…). This means the amount of work necessary for the fixed monthly cost you charged will put you in the red. The image will be pushed out, applications will need to be installed and configured, and the user’s personal settings will need to be recreated to the best of your ability. Oh, and don’t forget all the helpdesk calls when users try to get used to the new machine they’ve been given.

Virtualization

  • The potential – Assuming you have this lying in wait, this is the fastest way to get customers back up and working. It adds an “anywhere, anytime” availability and gives your customers far more flexibility to recover from disasters, as they don’t need to be in a specific physical location.
  • The Reality – This option has far more upfront costs to you, but with very visible benefits to the customer – should a disaster strike. And, therein, lies the real problem – unless you’re planning on moving your customer to virtual workstations, this looks like a lot of expense, with little ability to customize the implementation prior to a disaster (after all, you can’t have virtual farms just sitting there for every customer, so you’d most likely have a single farm with a basic application set). Which raises the other issue with Virtualization- like imaging, a virtual workstation is based on a standard image, which has the same issues around application needs and personal settings. 

Hybrid Cloud Backup and Recovery

  • The potential – Quickly backup and recover every detail of each workstation.
  • The reality – this option delivers. If your disaster allows on-premise recovery, a restore can be done from local storage, bringing systems, both virtual and physical, backup from even bare metal. If your disaster requires recovery to an alternate site, the cloud copy, while providing less performance than a local copy, can yield the same full recovery of workstations, even from bare metal.

The good news is you have options of how to provide recovery services to your customers. The choice of solution will depend on the SLA with the customer, and how much investment you wish to make in preparation for a disaster.

In the 3rd part of this 3-part series, we’ll discuss the benefits to you and your customers when adding workstations to your disaster recovery as a service offering.

To get a more in-depth look at the opportunity of offering workstation disaster recovery, read the whitepaper, Workstations: Disaster Recovery’s Untouched Opportunity

Are workstations part of your Disaster Recovery plan? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below!