Cory Albert, President
Data disruptions are an existential threat and unpredictable risk for any business, whether they are caused by natural disasters, power outages, or other technical issues. Well-crafted disaster recovery (DR) plans and backup solutions enable organizations to be prepared for and resume mission-critical functions quickly, without significant losses in revenue or business operations.
However, are they enough to thrive in today's competitive business landscape?
The answer is no, and there are several reasons for this. For one, most companies’ DR programs and traditional backup systems fail to include unified communication servers and the network layer as part of their business continuity plans, making it challenging for businesses to stay connected with their clients, providers, and teams during catastrophic situations. Without a proper backup and recovery plan, it can take weeks to retrieve or rebuild the data in the voice servers. As environments grow, restoration can take even longer. Secondly, data corruption occurs in traditional backup systems that don’t have application level awareness which puts reliance on the designed backup methodologies provided by the vendor. Conventional backup systems are focused on application awareness for specific servers within an environment such as Windows servers; in other words, they are limited to file-level recovery and often tend to overlook the delicacies of some servers within the environment.
To ensure business continuity and gain full data backup and restoration capabilities for all servers in the cluster, organizations require a robust DR solution; and that is precisely what Oakland, CA-based VoIP DRS’ namesake storage-focused disaster recovery solution offers. At its core, VoIP DRS is an SFTP server and a dynamic SSH automation tool that is designed to bring the greatest level of data resiliency to Cisco Unified Communications customers. The solution is directed at gaps that traditional backup solutions do not target.
Cory Albert, president at VoIP DRS, informs, “The whole product came into being from my experience in the field as a network engineer and a unified communications engineer. VoIP DRS is a value add network appliance that is developed to augment any network environment and has features targeted to provide bold disaster recovery enhancement features for Cisco VoIP environments.” VoIP DRS augments the Cisco provided backup system and mimics a system administrator’s actions to automate backup processes that target the network layer and rarely getting done as they typically require an engineer to perform. The tool offers an easy-to-use interface where users can see backup status and historicals, what’s coming through and what’s not, their error status, and so on.
With VoIP DRS, businesses can back up everything from routers and switches to video conferencing endpoint, Expressway, firewalls, or any other devices that have configuration stored in an SSH or Telnet accessible CLI.
VoIP DRS is a value add network appliance that is developed to augment any network environment and has features targeted to provide bold disaster recovery enhancement features for Cisco VoIP environments
Currently, there are no DR focused solutions in the marketplace for Cisco unified communications users in the event of a major disaster. Talking about the benefits VoIP DRS brings to Cisco UC customers, Albert mentions, “We also provide cloud-based services for small businesses that need an affordable, simple solution. Not only can users utilize our service to backup directly to the cloud, they can recover their servers in a swift manner by restoring directly as well.” VoIP DRS is highly dynamic, it allows users to backup more from their devices than just the configuration such as license keys and any other information that can be gathered via a CLI.
Unparalleled Benefits across the Entire Network
In contrast to backup solutions such as Cisco Prime Infrastructure and Solarwinds Network Configuration Manager, which use predefined templates to access the needed information, VoIP DRS allows custom template creation, enabling dynamic functionality for the system administrator to target specific information for backup and empowering them to access a much larger range of devices and functionality. While the Cisco Prime Infrastructure focuses on Cisco device configurations and Solarwinds Network Configuration Manager targets key infrastructure components, VoIP DRS is more similar to Kiwi CatTools (now owned by Solarwinds). “VoIP DRS is a Linux-based network appliance with a web GUI for configuration, management, and monitoring of backup processes which we believe is far more advantageous for system administration,” says Albert.
VoIP DRS is delivered either as a virtual appliance or a cloud service. Some of its unique features and functionalities include storage replication, SSH management proxy, multi-tenant capability, reporting, among others. The solution can either be used as a single point of storage or utilized to replicate backups to multiple locations such as the data center, a DR site, using NFS or iSCSI. Alternatively, it can also be relayed to other cloud services, such as OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. “VoIP DRS’ SSH management proxy feature facilitates seamless management of SSH devices on a network without the need to share login credentials for the device.
Everything can be managed with just a click of a button from the interface,” explains Albert. It is a great feature for giving a user temporary management access while logging all of their activity.
And for managed services providers that have point-to-point VPN connectivity with their customers and want to add the VoIP DRS backup services as a value-add can easily do so given the VoIP DRS’ multi-tenant capability. Each user account provides isolated views and stores data that are only accessible to those accounts providing easy access for a multitude of separate accounts. More recently, the company added two new features to the solution: device-initiated backups—businesses can schedule backups from any devices—and instant message (IM) archiving. Upon receiving unidentified file transfers (from any device), the VoIP DRS server will automatically create a backup relationship based on the IP address and start tracking backups from the device. Historical records will also be tracked from that point on from the sending device. And, if the backup contains multiple files, then the collection of files will be identified as a single backup procedure; all of the files are easily identifiable in the GUI and can be individually accessed for download. Via the instant message (IM) archiving feature, VoIP DRS provides PostgreSQL message archiving for Cisco IM & Presence Server. It also has a search interface that enables users to view chats messages in the archive.
Beyond Disaster Recovery and Backup
What’s more? The firm also offers DR auditing to help businesses ensure they are properly prepared for system failovers and disasters. Users deploy the solution as a virtual machine into their ESXi host or vCenter environment. It can also be deployed into AWS or other cloud-compute environments and run in other hypervisors besides VMWare. “We provide these custom installations as well as engineering services to perform those installations and integrate it with our clients’ systems,” states Albert.
At this juncture, having carved a niche for itself in the VoIP space, the firm is all set to expand its capabilities with a particular focus on HTTP backups and monitoring and remediation. Currently, some devices only backup via web GUI and do not allow scheduled backups. In such scenarios, manually going into the GUI and running the backup is the only solution. “We are seeking to automate this process. Alongside, we will be adding some basic monitoring features targeted at the call processing, call center, and SIP services and remediation processes that allow the system to automate corrective actions. This could be restarting a service, changing configuration on a router, changing configuration within a server,” reveals Albert. The team is also planning on expanding the message archiving feature to allow more involved searches and easier to read formatting and adding report archiving for Cisco Unified Intelligence Center that is right around the corner.