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Disaster Recovery Download: High Availability for SharePoint Farms

With the SharePoint Conference 2014 starting in a couple days I thought I would take a few minutes and talk about increasing SharePoint availability. While building applications may (or may not) be an easy thing to do, maintaining a highly available SharePoint environment isn’t so simple. There are a lot of different parts that make up a SharePoint application, from the web server front-ends through the SharePoint components themselves and all the way down to the back-end SQL Server database. Each of these pieces is a different application, and that might mean using a different method of protection each layer of the SharePoint farm. Cost, complexity, and skillset requirements quickly escalate.

SharePoint out-of-box failover

Following the recommended configuration for a SharePoint failover farm involves maintaining two separate but identical farm installations as well as managing the failover of the database back-end. There is no single point of monitoring or control, little application awareness to identify possible failures, and both sides of the farm need to be fully licensed since services are all up and running.

Maintaining two farms is in itself a bit of work. Since the machines don’t replicate packages or configurations, any changes to one copy need to made exactly the same way on the other copy. Failing to do this correctly could mean troubles when the secondary site is brought online in a disaster. I call this “configuration drift”, and it’s not something you want to discover while in the middle of a disaster recovery failover.

On the SQL Server end of things, database-level replication needs to be configured for each database in use by the SharePoint farm. Depending on the level of automation you want in the failover process, synchronous replication and a witness server may be required. All-in-one SharePoint environments would not support this type of configuration, and the cost of separating the server to it’s own machine and setting up a secondary is not insignificant.


So what we end up with is kind of like this illustration on the left. Three different technologies protected by three different solutions and little communication between them. Exposure to risk is greater, and the time required to switch from one site to the other could be longer than necessary as the different pieces need to be coordinated and the responsibility may even belong to different personnel. There are things that the out-of-the-box solutions just can’t do.

SharePointFarmNeverfailBy using a solution like Neverfail IT Continuity Engine, the same configuration now looks like a very different model. Here on the right we have the same servers as before, but using the same protection technology across different platforms and all coming down to one coordinated failover controlled by one console.

We’re still supporting two similar but unique SharePoint farms here, but everything has become fully monitored and fully automated. The Engine is replicating changes to IIS web server configurations, SharePoint package installation, SQL Server configuration changes, and of course SQL database transactions as well.  Should anything happen to affect the availability of the primary SharePoint farm, the secondary far can be brought online in one coordinated action until the primary instance can be repaired. Once recovery is done, changes can be synced back and the primary made active again.

With support for physical and virtual servers, intelligent application monitoring, real-time replication of configurations, packages, and databases over a WAN-optimized connection, IT Continuity Engine can save you money and give you piece of mind that you’re just not going to get anywhere else. Download this ITCE for SharePoint solution brief for more information, or better yet, visit the IT Continuity Engine product page on our web site. You can read about how Engine protects virtually any application regardless of the platform, and even sign up for a free trial to see how well it works in your environment.

I hope you found this information helpful, and I hope that we’ll talk to you in our booth at #SPC14.  See you there!


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More Stories By Josh Mazgelis

Josh Mazgelis is senior product marketing manager at Neverfail. He has been working in the storage and disaster recovery industries for close to two decades and brings a wide array of knowledge and insight to any technology conversation.

Prior to joining Neverfail, Josh worked as a product manager and senior support engineer at Computer Associates. Before working at CA, he was a senior systems engineer at technology companies such as XOsoft, Netflix, and Quantum Corporation. Josh graduated from Plymouth State University with a bachelor’s degree in applied computer science and enjoys working with virtualization and disaster recovery.