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LA HABRA, Calif.-South Western FCU here got two "killer" technologies for the price of one when it deployed server virtualization as part of disaster recovery technology.

"Our business continuity subscription is saving us major dollars with virtualizing our production environment," said Miriam Neal, VP-information systems at the $154-million CU.

Although South Western now pays $3,500 per month for disaster recovery technologies and consulting, the CU gets virtualized servers with the package, Neal said. That means the CU gets on-site and off-site backups of Microsoft SQL data every 15 minutes and can restore all major systems and connections within four hours.

Virtualization software licenses alone would have cost about $50,000 upfront and $13,000 for annual maintenance, said Neal.

The virtual servers save space, and save on heating and cooling costs. "I can already see the difference in temperature every time I walk into the server room," she said. Plus, if a server fails, South Western can switch over to its on-site virtual replication of the server and continue to do business.

South Western began by installing The Replicator, a failover server and backup and recovery device from Hagerstown, Md.-based Ongoing Operations (OGO), a business continuity (BC) solutions CUSO. Every 15 minutes, The Replicator backs up the CU's critical Microsoft SQL server to a recovery hot-site in Maryland.

Once South Western put physical backup in motion, it installed VMware's free virtualization software on a three-blade chassis, Neal continued. Since OGO creates a virtual version of each server as part of the process, South Western was able to take OGO's virtual version of the SQL server and run it in-house on the one of the virtualized blade servers. Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware provides virtualization solutions.

South Western has since added other servers to the replication and virtualization process, including Microsoft Exchange server, said Neal. So far, South Western has consolidated 12 servers onto one three-blade chassis, said Neal. South Western used to budget nearly $17,000 per year on Exchange recovery services, said Neal. "We could get our email back online within 30 seconds, but it was very expensive." With The Replicator, email takes about an hour to recover, but the service is included in the overall price of the package. "We can just about pay for The Replicator with the savings."

Virtualization is "easy" with The Replicator, she added. Whereas most organizations running a virtual environment have to install and maintain the virtual server as well as the virtual software, South Western simply restores the virtual servers that OGO produces to its chassis.

VMware's free software, which runs The Replicator virtual servers, gives South Western all necessary virtualization functionality, Neal continued.

Prior to OGO, South Western was backing up data to tape drives each night and then shipping the tapes off-site every morning, Neal said.

Beyond the data replication and restore solution and virtualization, South Western's OGO package includes the ability to recover all connections to Internet banking, account opening, loan origination, shared branching and ATM debit platforms.

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