June 26th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

**Disclaimer:  I have previously published a book with Packt Publishing.  This book review was not approved or seen in advance of Packt Publishing and is my own opinion.  This book was provided to me at not cost to read and review**

Long book title, long blog post title!  Packt Publishing has given me the opportunity to review Disaster Recovery using VMware vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager (http://bit.ly/1kosrhz).


The book is very straight forward and is very easily consume.  The book covers installation and configuration of VMware Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication.  While the book is mostly a step by step guide, the author does include design and installation considerations where appropriate as well as a review of background tasks happening which might not otherwise be controlled by the administrator; for example the cleanup tasks after testing a recovery.

Even though the book is on the shorter side, it is a worthy read for anyone interested in implementing either VMware SRM, vSphere Replication or both.

Packt has also provided me with 2 eBook copies to give away for readers of my blog.  To participate, please follow me on Twitter @jfrappier and re-tweet this article by July 3rd  (be sure to include my Twitter handle, @jfrappier so that I can track the RTs if you are using something like Buffer which may not show an RT on the original tweet).  Only July 4th, I will select two winners.

Disaster Recovery using VMware vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager Book Review and Contest

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January 6th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

ReliableDR from PHD Virtual, now Unitrends is an application that “helps assure business continuity by automating the disaster recovery process to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of fail over, fail back and testing.  Now you can certify your VMs will recover as planned, and within corresponding SLAs.”  That’s the marketing version, what does it mean for an engineer/administrator?  Its a tool that allows you to test your DR plan, pretty straight and simple, then when you actually need to perform your DR plan it provides the tools needed to automate that process as well as the process to fail back, which is generally the harder process of the two!

Installing ReliableDR was amazingly simple and complete, you will need a Windows 2008 OS or greater; you can’t install on Win7 for example, and from there the installer handles all of the dependencies such as .NET 4.0 and IIS 7.  I haven’t come across many applications recently where even the installation process was so well done and documented.

  • Download and start the installer from PHD Virtual
  • Next, Accept/Next, Next
  • Here if you do not have IIS 7 installed, the ReliableDR installer configures that for you, Next
  • You will then be prompted on whether to use a local SQL instance or an existing ReliableDR instance, selecting to use a new local instance will configure the ReliableDR database (when is it appropriate to use a separate SQL server – N number of Hosts? VMs? Data?)
  • Option to change components, which appears to be no options to change, but just click Next
  • Select your path for the web services, Next
  • Select the IP(s) and ports you wish ReliableDRs web services to run on, Next (the installer will also stop the Default Web Site)
  • Next to start all the bits moving around for the installer to configure the service.
  • The installer went though and completed the installation, now click Finish.

Once the installation is complete there will be a ReliableDR shortcut on the desktop which will connect you to the web UI, the default username is Admin / password.


Once you are logged in, you do need to hop around a bit as no wizard was presented, but its a very straight forward process to configure.

  • Click on Servers and then click the Add button
  • Add your vCenter servers, and credentials for each and click save.  If you only have one for testing or POC just enter that vCenter.
  • For testing you may want to create an isolated network/vSwitch.
  • Click on Mappings and click the Add button
  • Select the primary and secondary server based on your use case and click Next
  • Under each vCenter, click the link that says “Mapping not set, click to change”
  • Here you can see I selected my VM Network and IsolatedDR next I created for testing.


  • Click OK, click Next
  • Select the failbox network, this is likely the opposite of what you selected above.  Click OK and Next.
  • Name your mapping and click Save.
  • Click on Jobs, here there was no Add button like there was for Mappings (maybe a bug?) but if you right click on Jobs you will get the Add job button; click that.
  • You will have 3 options here, the first however will be to setup ReliableDR replication.
  • Select your source and replication server, click Next.
  • Select your mapping that we just created and click Next.
  • Select the VM you wish to protect, and drag the VM to the datastore on the right you wish to replicate to, repeat for each VM and click Next.
  • Name and review your job options such as RTO and RPO and click Save.

Now you are all set to run your first test!  Just click on the job, click the Actions button and select Run Test.  You will see the status of your replication and….




In less than an hour I installed the product, configured for my environment and was able to successfully test a DR scenario.  I can’t think of many tasks that only occupy and hour of your time at work that are more worthwhile than building a DR solution, ReliableDR makes it that easy!


You can find all the current documentation at https://phdreliabledr.zendesk.com/entries/24880616-ReliableDR-Installation-and-Configuration-Guide

Getting started with PHD Virtual ReliableDR

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November 29th, 2013 by DStringF

Years ago I took a Project Management class that covered lessons that I still find handy to this day regardless if I’m wearing a PM hat or not.  One of those lessons really sticks out in detail though.  Our project was simple.  We were given a bucket full of lego parts, and told to build a car.   Everyone scrambled to start assembling something that resembled a car.  No two cars were alike and everybody was missing parts to make something truly functional.


The moral of the lesson was that we failed to define success.   Nobody stopped to ask what the car’s requirements were, or what options were available in building the car.

My experience has shown, ironically enough, that defining success is probably the hardest part of any technical project.   It sounds simple enough to implement an HA cluster with some backup software, and as engineers we have a tendency to take those high level request and start building a solution before we nail down the details.    It might work exactly as you planned, but it may not work the way the business needs it to work.

Not taking these steps usually leads to one of three scenarios which often leads to failure of some kind in the end.

  1. No metrics are defined by either the business or IT group.
  2. Metrics are defined by the business without any realities of technical capabilities or cost.
  3. Metrics are defined by the IT group without any realities of the business needs.


Instead, start with taking a look at already published SOP’s if the exist.  Talk with leadership outside of the immediate IT organization to understand their requirements and what future roadmaps they have.  In big organizations with in house application teams that support specific business functions  they can provide a wealth of information where non-technical business leaders might be lacking.  Make sure any in-house legal or regulatory group is also included in the conversation as well as they may have additional input or need to review others requirements to ensure they don’t conflict with compliance requirements driven outside the business.  Don’t offer solutions on this first pass as this is only for information gathering.

Next, take these details and break them down into standardized categories.  Start to build a matrix that you easily fit each component into and make sure its documented in a easily understood format.  If there are requirements that seem ludicrous, don’t scratch them off but instead put a note to further investigate more detail.   With all of these details in hand, have the leadership within IT sign off on these requirements and make any adjustments based on what they are willing and able to support.  The final step of course is to go back to the business owners and have them sign off on the standardized requirements.

You will of course need to make further revisions once you start designing a solution around those requirements, but it gives you concrete business objections to meet.  If the only solution to a requirement is too complex or too costly, you may get permission to scale back or better yet will have the documentation you need to justify an increase in the budget with the business.

If you do all the legwork and still nobody has an idea where to start, take a page out of ITIL and come up with several standard service offerings and use that as a starting point to negotiate from.

For starters, here’s common questions that should be asked.

  1. Is this system / application critical to a core function of the business?
  2. How much does data unavailability cost the business?
  3. Are there any contractual or legal requirements imposed on the availability of the system?
  4. Are there any contractual or legal requirements imposed on the retention of the data produced by the system?
  5. Who are the end users of a system, where they access it from, and when do they use it?
  6. How is data stored?
  7. Where is the system located or planned to be located?
  8. Are there any windows of time (be it nightly, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc) that are acceptable to take the system offline to performance maintenance?


My last parting advice is to ensure that you stick to common methodologies.  They don’t need to be the same “industry standard” way of doing things that everybody else claims to use, but they should be consistent based on where something falls in that matrix.    The fewer the options and variations, the easier it will be to manage and automate.


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November 26th, 2013 by NerdBlurt

Sharing a new tool from PHD Virtual, that will help in your Disaster Recovery planning and execution.

Release info 

PHD Virtual has released today a free Recovery Time Calculator to quickly and automatically calculate how long it will take to recover virtual machines and critical applications in the event of an outage or disaster.

Dubbed the RTA Calculator, for the ‘Recovery Time Actual’ estimate it provides, PHD’s free tool can be easily downloaded and then immediately provides visibility into what your organization’s actual VM recovery time would be in the event of an outage.


PHDVirtual RTA Calculator

 The RTA Calculator has a built-in wizard to connect to VMware. Once installed you are prompted to select the VMs you wish to time for an RTA estimate, and set the appropriate boot order. The RTA Calculator will then take a snapshot and create linked clones for each VM. Due to the use of snapshotting and linked clones, the VM creation process is very quick.

The tool then simply powers up the VMs and times the process, calculating the total time it will take to recover that grouping of VMs – it’s that simple! This gives you an accurate Recovery Time Actual you can use to compare to your Recovery Time Objective and determine if you’ll be able to adhere to your SLAs.

Run the RTA tool as often as needed to produce an estimate with different production loads.

What You’ll Need

System Requirements

Like all PHD Virtual products, the RTA Calculator is highly effective while still maintaining ease of use. It requires no training or product documentation. All you need to know is contained within in this short video demonstration


Other than that just ensure you meet the following 3 requirements

  • The RTA Calculator is a Windows application that requires an Administrator account and .Net 4.0.
  • The RTA Calculator supports VMware ESX or ESXi with vCenter 4.0 (or higher) with default ports.
  • The RTA Calculator will need the VMware guest tools installed.

Download the FREE tool here: http://www.phdvirtual.com/free/rta-calculator

Nerd’s Blurt

I enjoy sharing free resources with my readers, tools make our jobs easier. Enjoy.

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August 27th, 2013 by NerdBlurt

Today PHD Virtual announced the release of  PHD Virtual Backup v6.5 and  ReliableDR v3.2. I had the luxury of playing with both releases prior to their launch this past week. I have to say that PHD Virtual is delivering a solid product. In addition to checking out the products, I was also checking out how well I was treated if I had a support problem. As much as we would love to have everything go smoothly, it¹s just not the case in life. I found PHD’s support  staff to be responsive and very professional while interacting with me. My initial request for help was met with-in a few hours and problem solved in matter of minutes.

What my problem was

For those that beta test products you know things don’t always work and I wasn’t aware of that PHD management consoles aren’t compatible with different versions of their products.

I wasn’t able to configure my host settings in the console. Reason being I was on a newer version VBA and an older version of management console. Simple problem and resolved quickly. But the response and treatment from PHD Virtual support in my problem was a great experience and for that alone I would recommend them.

What’s been added or changed

New in PHD Virtual Backup v6.5:

  • Backup Archiving: Automated backup replication capability that is WAN optimized and storage friendly. Backups can be archived to another location or to the cloud.
  • Exchange and SharePoint Recovery: Enables quick and easy recovery of granular Exchange and SharePoint items from any PHD backup in just a few clicks. This functionality is powered by Kroll OnTrack and is available with every Enterprise Edition license of PHD Virtual Backup.
  • Enhanced Scheduling for Granular RPOs: Schedule backup and replication jobs to occur as frequently as every 15 minutes.  When coupled with PHD ReliableDR, you now have cost-effective replication that can handle granular RPO requirements for critical applications, as well as guaranteed, automated DR failover and recovery testing.
  • Broader Support for 3rd Party S3 Compliant Providers: CloudHook is enhanced to support additional S3 compatible cloud storage platforms.


New in ReliableDR v3.2 includes:

  • CertifiedReplica: Leverages cost-effective, storage agnostic replication that can scale to large environments, save bandwidth with WAN-friendly data transfer, secure with government grade encryption, and conduct granular backup and recovery.

Now let’s also note that there is plans for Hyper-V support on the road map.

You can also check out their recorded session from the #vBrownbag Tech Talks

Nerd’s Blurt

Since I started working with PHD Virtual I have enjoyed watching the products grow and see how the company takes customer service serious. They engage with it’s customers on all levels and listen to their needs and try to incorporate that back into the functionality of their products. If you are thinking of backup solution for your company you definitely should give PHD Virtual a look.

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