WorkITsafe provides a range of IT services to small and midsize businesses on the eastern seaboard of the United States. After Hurricane Sandy hit the area and shut down numerous businesses in October 2012, many WorkITsafe customers were eager
to better protect their IT infrastructures. To deliver better business continuity, in addition to higher productivity and lower costs, WorkITsafe upgraded its internal data center to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and deployed Microsoft System
Center 2012 R2 to better manage its environment. It also recommends Windows Server 2012 R2 to customers. By using the latest Microsoft software, WorkITsafe can better keep its own and customer systems running in the face of planned and unplanned downtime.
It has also reduced its infrastructure maintenance work and costs and can help customers reduce their IT costs and work more productively.
WorkITsafe is the trusted IT provider, and often the outsourced IT department, for many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the New York City area. WorkITsafe provides its customers with a wide array of technical products and services, including high-speed
Internet access, website design and hosting, Internet security, network management, and application development. Customers include hospitals, law firms, manufacturing companies, and other types of businesses with 7 to 200 desktop computers. WorkITsafe is based
in Brooklyn, New York, and has 10 employees.
Uninterrupted business continuity is critical for WorkITsafe customers but has traditionally been difficult to achieve. “Enterprise businesses have a large cushion beneath their businesses in the form of expensive disaster recovery solutions,” says Steve
Rubin, President of WorkITsafe. “My customers have no such cushion. They are either up and running or they are out of business.”
||By using Windows Server 2012 R2, we can perform maintenance work without bringing down customer systems. Every minute of downtime we can eliminate is critical to our customers.
| Steve Rubin
In 2012, WorkITsafe upgraded its small data center to the Windows Server 2012 operating system, chiefly to gain the Hyper-V Replica feature, which provides virtual machine replication between sites over a standard broadband connection. WorkITsafe put this feature
to good use during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, when the service provider was able to redirect customers from connecting to their normal customer-premises servers to replica servers running in the WorkITsafe data center. This enabled those businesses to
continue to operate by letting employees access business applications from home.
However, there were times when Rubin’s customers needed more frequent data replications than the five-minute interval that Hyper-V Replica provided. And after the widespread destruction of Hurricane Sandy, Rubin wished that he had a third level of protection,
beyond the secondary replica site.
In addition to business continuity challenges, customers want WorkITsafe to help them make their employees as productive as possible. “SMBs are generally not expanding their head count, so every employee has more to do,” Rubin says. “Their employees need
to be able to access applications from anywhere, enjoy great performance, use the device of their choice, and make sure that their data is absolutely secure.”
WorkITsafe uses Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2012 to allow customers to access their applications and data from a remote computer over the network. However, setting up RDS could be time-consuming and cumbersome. “The need to do more with
less extends to SMB budgets,” Rubin says. “Our customers have cost constraints and expect technology to help them save money, not spend more.”
As a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, WorkITsafe stays current with the latest Microsoft technologies for small business. It is upgrading its own data center to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system to take advantage of improvements in
replication, live virtual machine migration, Remote Desktop Services, and more. It is also recommending Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials to its customers, depending on their needs.
Features that Enhance Availability for WorkITsafe and Its Customers
Microsoft enhanced Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012 R2 to allow for replication intervals of 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or 15 minutes, and also added support for a third tier of replication. “The 30-second replication frequency is wonderful for our
customers, as is the ability to replicate to a tertiary site,” Rubin says. “In the event of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy that affected a broad geographical area, a customer’s primary and secondary replication sites could both go down at once. In such cases,
two replicas are not enough. With Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012 R2, we can set up a third site on the west coast of the United States.”
||Our customers have cost constraints and expect technology to help them save money, not spend more.
| Steve Rubin
WorkITsafe is testing Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager, a new feature that the service provider can use to automate and monitor the replication process from the Windows Azure cloud. “If the replication process involves shutting down and starting up multiple
servers in a certain order, we have to write scripts to automate the process,” Rubin says. “We can use Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager to create these scripts and run them automatically from Windows Azure.” Windows Azure is the cloud operating system
that provides compute, storage, hosting, and management services for hosting customer-developed applications and services. WorkITsafe also sees potential for migrating customer workloads into Windows Azure for a fourth layer of disaster protection.
Live Migration, a feature that enables virtual machines to be moved between host servers while they stay up and running, has been improved in Windows Server 2012 R2 with a compression capability that roughly doubles the migration transfer speed. WorkITsafe
uses this enhancement to better manage the IT infrastructure by moving customer workloads when needed without any interruption to end users.
Features that Boost Productivity for WorkITsafe and Its Customers
Windows Server 2012 R2 also contains many features that enhance productivity for both WorkITsafe and its customers. Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and Standard editions introduce the Windows Server Essentials Experience role. This server role lets
WorkITsafe customers take advantage of features that are popular with many SMBs and which were previously only available in Windows Server Essentials—such as centralized and automated client computer backup, simplified remote access to files and data, an IT
management dashboard, and simplified integration with cloud-based applications and services. And unlike Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, which is limited to 25 users and 50 devices, the Windows Server Essentials Experience role can scale up to 100 users
and 200 devices when used with either the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2.
“The Windows Server Essentials Experience is a way to turbo-charge Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard,” Rubin says. “What it’s done for providers like us is given us the ability to deliver really cool features at minimal additional cost. It enables our customers
to cost-effectively connect remote users to internal workstations or RDS, and it gives us a very easy way to control those connections. We can replicate and protect the whole server using Hyper-V Replica.”
RDS has been enhanced in Windows Server 2012 R2 to enable more flexible virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments (a key WorkITsafe offering), easier VDI management, and use of lower-cost storage options—all of which lets WorkITsafe deliver better
remote-work solutions to SMB customers.
WorkITsafe technicians can use session shadowing, another RDS enhancement, to remotely monitor and control an active session of an RDS user. With session shadowing, WorkITsafe can more quickly and effectively help customers when they have computer problems.
Other time- and money-saving features include the ability to resize virtual hard disks (VHD) without shutting down the server; online storage deduplication, which lets WorkITsafe perform data deduplication on running VHD/VHDX files and increases storage
density; and Storage Spaces. VHDX is a new version of the VHD format introduced in Windows Server 2012 that is designed to handle larger virtual storage requirements with a higher degree of resiliency. Storage Spaces lets WorkITsafe and its customers pool
multiple physical hard disks and provide highly resilient, virtualized storage for a fraction of the cost of storage area networks. WorkITsafe can use Storage Spaces and industry-standard hard drives from any vendor to build cost-effective storage systems.
At the same time that it upgraded to Windows Server 2012 R2, WorkITsafe upgraded its data center to Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 data center solutions, which contain many infrastructure provisioning and monitoring enhancements. “We can provision new virtual
machines and storage more easily, use industry-standard storage technologies, and manage and monitor them centrally,” Rubin says. “At a glance, we can look at all our customer environments and see how they’re doing from a performance and availability perspective.
System Center 2012 R2 gives us the tools to become even more efficient.”
With its upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2, WorkITsafe has been able to deliver higher business continuity to its SMB customers, reduce infrastructure maintenance work, help customers work more productively, and lower costs for itself and its customers.
Increased Availability of Business Systems
WorkITsafe can use Hyper-V Replica, Live Migration with compression, and other features to keep its own and customer IT systems running around the clock with fewer interruptions due to planned maintenance or unplanned events. “By using Windows Server
2012 R2, we can perform maintenance work without bringing down customer systems,” Rubin says. “Every minute of downtime we can eliminate is critical to our customers.”
||The Windows Server Essentials Experience is a way to turbo-charge Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard. What it’s done for providers like us is given us the ability to deliver really cool features at minimal additional cost.
| Steve Rubin
Thanks to Live Migration and virtual hard drive resizing, WorkITsafe can more easily handle unexpected technical issues, such as expanding or replacing a hard drive. As the service provider, this lets WorkITsafe perform maintenance during business hours without
affecting customer end users.
The new 30-second replication interval of Hyper-V Replica helps ensure that frequently changing customer data is better protected. “With Windows Server 2012, if there was a failure during the five-minute replication window, there was a possibility of losing
several file changes,” Rubin says. “With the new version of Hyper-V Replica, the shorter interval means changes are sent to the replica site sooner, which provides better data protection.”
Many of the features that deliver higher availability also improve productivity for both WorkITsafe and its customers. Thanks to Hyper-V Replica, for example, customers can connect to business systems from any location in the event of a disaster and
continue to work. The ability for remote users to connect to VDI desktops more easily is another great time saver for customers. By using session shadowing, WorkITsafe can resolve problems faster and return customers to work sooner.
Lower Costs for Service Provider and Customers
Most of these operating system enhancements reduce costs for WorkITsafe and its customers. By using Session Shadowing, WorkITsafe can help customers without the expense of licensing third-party technologies. SMBs can use features such as online storage
deduplication to grow their storage volumes without investing in extra hardware.
“Windows Server 2012 R2 helps our SMB customers stretch their hardware investments further and budget IT expenses more efficiently,” Rubin says. “Live Migration compression and other efficiency features enable a faster and richer user experience with less
expensive hardware. SMBs can hold on to their hardware longer, and when they do purchase new hardware, they have more flexibility in how they use it.”
Transform the data center
The hybrid cloud from Microsoft transforms the data center by extending existing investments in skills and technology with public cloud services and a common set of management tools. With an on-premises infrastructure connected to the Windows Azure platform,
you can deliver services faster and scale up or down quickly to meet changing needs.
For more information about transforming the data center, go to:
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