REVIEWER: Steve Magriby, director of Instructional Services, University of Tampa.
BACKGROUND: The University of Tampa (UT) is a four-year private university located along Florida's western coast on the Gulf of Mexico. The school enrolls approximately 5,000 students, 2,500 of whom live on campus. Undergraduate and graduate degrees range from the liberal arts and sciences to business.
HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Windows 2003 Enterprise server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our team was very concerned about the risk that natural disasters posed to our email systems. Growing concern came after two consecutive summers of frequent hurricane threats and was punctuated by the devastation that we saw others experience with Hurricane Katrina. We knew it was time to implement a disaster recovery plan. We examined several different ways we could go about implementing a disaster recovery strategy. The bandwidth necessary to run production at an alternate site was cost prohibitive. We embarked on a search for a solution that would address all levels of availability requirements.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: LifeKeeper has now been in production for almost a year. This product is continuously replicating incoming and outgoing email to an alternate (identical) email server at a remote location across a private 10MB Internet pipe. LifeKeeper for Exchange is installed as a "manual, manual" process so that the software does not attempt failover during any temporary unplanned outages. Replication is occurring across a 10Mbps private pipe. The primary benefit of LifeKeeper for Exchange is peace of mind. Although we hope we never need to use it, we are confident that, if necessary, we can failover our email system in a very short time to an alternate location and allow our University community to continue using this vehicle as a means of communication when other means of communication may be unavailable.
STRENGTHS: What sold our team on Steeleye's LifeKeeper software was the ability to control failover every time. We were very concerned about day-to-day IT issues such as short-term power failures, DNS failures, network card failures, normal shutdowns for system maintenance, etc. During testing, the other products continuously tried to failover during these forced outages, often resulting in a corrupt email system. LifeKeeper only attempted to failover when we wanted it to.
WEAKNESSES: The only problem we had with LifeKeeper was in downloading and installing the license codes. Although this went wrong, SteelEye was there to help us.
SELECTION CRITERIA: SteelEye was the only product of the three we evaluated that did not corrupt our email system when we forced a typical "problem" situation, such as simulating a network outage or a power outage. SteelEye was also the only application that we didn't have to continuously reinstall whenever we tried to failover. Other products tended to failover even when we did not intend to do so. Another important factor in the decision process was the strength of the software vendor's support team. Any prospective solution without support staff in the U.S. was eliminated from consideration.
DELIVERABLES: Although we have not yet had the need to failover, it definitely provided peace of mind both to the university's senior administration and to the IT department. The administration has comfort in knowing that the university community can continue to communicate in the event of a campus shutdown. The IT department has comfort in knowing that we can leave in an emergency without worrying about the loss of the email system.
VENDOR SUPPORT: After implementation, we also used SteelEye's technical support to address bandwidth issues pertaining to the replication of a massive amount of email over a relatively small Internet pipe. Once SteelEye's tech support assisted in applying an update to the product, the problem was immediately resolved.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for this product is very well done. We were able to follow the documentation step by step to install the product and begin testing. As questions arose and we wanted a better understanding of our options, mostly for controlling failover, SteelEye's tech support staff gave us excellent ideas that also included shortcuts and installation options.
SteelEye LifeKeeper for Exchange
2275 East Bayshore Road
Palo Alto, California 94303
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