This content is part of the Essential Guide: Understand VMware disaster recovery from start to finish

The crucial steps to include in a VMware DR plan

Establishing a DR plan for a VMware environment can be overwhelming. How do you design a plan that prioritizes VMs and manage your infrastructure to prevent failures?

Data center administrators can choose from a variety of outstanding tools to handle disaster recovery in a VMware environment. But tools are not enough, and even the best tools can be ineffective in the absence of a cogent disaster recovery plan. Most well-considered plans can be broken down into four general steps: assess, design, deploy and manage.

Assess your DR goals

Assessment is basically the process of gathering disaster recovery (DR) requirements. It starts with a thorough determination of DR goals -- what do you want to achieve with DR? This is essentially the measure by which you judge a DR product's success. Assessment also involves a review of the current data center infrastructure to determine the local and remote resources available, as well as identification and prioritization of VMs in the enterprise -- what do you need to protect, and what gear, if any, is available to work with?

Design a DR plan

The design process crafts a VMware DR plan. This often includes a comprehensive examination and prioritization of VMs and the DR needs of each one. Remember that one size doesn't fit all. The importance of each VM varies, and DR plans accommodate different recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) to accommodate each VM. DR tools easily allow such granularity, which ensures that the most important workloads are protected most aggressively, at greater cost.

The design process also determines desired compute and storage targets -- where will the DR tool run, and where will it store DR content? Sample storage targets include local, remote and cloud storage. Don't overlook the importance of workflow in DR planning. For example, you need to add new VMs to the DR plan and remove unneeded -- stopped or retired -- VMs from the DR plan. This should ideally be achieved automatically or as nondisruptively as possible.

Design also includes a selection of the actual DR tool or service. Selection starts with a comparison of potential candidates based on features and costs; carefully evaluate these to produce a narrowed field of candidates. From this narrowed field, make a final selection best-suited to the organization's requirements and available infrastructure. Evaluation allows businesses to plan for additional infrastructure -- if needed -- to support the DR tool.

Deploy a VMware DR platform

Once a DR plan is in place and a suitable tool is selected, the business can deploy the new DR platform for the VMware environment. Deployment might involve installing and configuring additional infrastructure as needed, then installing and configuring the new native or third-party DR platform for the business. At this point, the tool can test and refine initial DR activity.

A DR plan doesn't stop at deployment. IT administrators must actively manage the DR tool or service. Management includes reviewing DR messages and reports to verify that VM workloads are being protected as intended, and making periodic changes to DR plan activity as business workloads and requirements change over time. Even more important, IT staff must implement a regular testing regimen to ensure VM workloads can be restored successfully. Testing is perhaps the most overlooked part of any DR plan.

Manage your DR plan

Finally, a VMware DR plan should never be a static entity. Administrators should review and update the DR plan periodically to ensure that it meets the needs of changing workloads and the business. For example, if a VM workload is more or less important to the business, it might be possible to adjust the resources allocated to protect it -- such as more or fewer snapshots, more or less frequent replication and so on -- while new workloads should easily be added to the DR plan.

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