What is our primary use case?
We have two primary use cases. One would be to use it in reaction to a cyber-terror event, particularly ransomware, because Zerto has point-in-time backup. If we find an area that needs to be restored, as long as we figure it out within 24 hours, which is approximately the amount of time we have replicated, we can go back to a point in time. Let's say the files got encrypted at 9:30 AM. We can say restore our 9:29 AM copy of what the data looked like at that point. We have not needed to use that, thankfully, because we've been educating our users very well.
The other case that we would use it for is because we're in a hurricane area. Our particular office is actually in an evacuation area, typically, meaning that we're close enough to the coast that should a hurricane event come through, they generally force us out of the area. What we would do if we needed it, and thankfully we haven't yet, would be to shut down our primary on-prem services to make them a little bit more resistant to water damage. Obviously, if they're not running, they're a little bit less likely to get zapped if there is some water damage. Then we can bring up the copies that we have at our data center and run remotely from that if. It doesn't have a full copy of our entire environment, but it does have a copy of our ERP system, as far as sales are concerned. We wouldn't be able to ship anything, but we could look at orders and help our customers. We could even take orders if we needed to, although we wouldn't be able to process them.
Zerto is a replication solution. It copies our setup which is on-prem to our data center, which is also somewhat local, about 15 miles away. It doesn't really do anything in the cloud other than move data across it. We're not replicating to any cloud-based services like Amazon or Azure. Essentially, we're using it at two on-premises locations: Our primary location, which is what is being replicated, and the replicated copy is being stored at another on-premises location, nearby.
How has it helped my organization?
Zerto is purely a business continuity and disaster recovery tool. We don't want to have either one of our primary use case events happen, but if they should happen, it gives us an extra layer of protection. I've got Amazon backups with stuff in completely different regions, but Zerto is more for those two specific scenarios I mentioned. In addition, if somebody deletes a file and it's really important that they have the latest copy of it, Zerto gives us that option. But it really comes down to the ransomware reactions and the hurricane support, because hurricanes are fairly common in this area. The last hurricane event here was before I had Zerto and we had to shut everything down. We really couldn't do much while the hurricane came through. The business wanted something that would give us some protection in that scenario. That's the business continuity aspect. At least we can provide some business capabilities this way. With Zerto, they'll also be able to access a limited functionality version of our system. It definitely provides upper management with a little bit of comfort that we won't be completely down in either a ransomware or a hurricane event.
We're a smaller company. We're owned by a portfolio company, and they're the ones who made a lot of these extra layers of protection happen. Zerto provides me with the comfort of one of those layers. It enables me to make a strong case to my board of directors that, "Yeah, we're good." There's a guy in our board of directors who's something of a tech guy. I can look him in the eye and say, "Hey, we're not bulletproof. We can never be bulletproof, but we're about as close to bulletproof as we can be, especially for a company our size." That's important to the board because they have other companies that aren't as well-protected as we are. I've had conversations with a couple of the guys at those other companies, because they're interested in looking at something like Zerto, and I have been highly recommending it to them. It's a reasonable cost, it provides several layers of protection from ransomware, and if necessary, against natural disasters. I'm very happy to say that Zerto is one of those layers and provides us with very good protection for what it specifically does.
We had two ransomware events prior to being owned by the company that owns us now. Both were events where somebody clicked on a link that they shouldn't have and something ran and encrypted some of our stuff. Now we're much more solidly protected from that, and Zerto is definitely one of the big things protecting us.
If we had to deal with a ransomware event, Zerto would be one of the first things I would use, because it is going to be the fastest to restore data to a certain point. If there were a fire in our building, Zerto would be a big thing too, because we would shut down everything that's in our building. In most cases, Zerto is definitely one of the front lines. It's definitely going to be one of our prevalent DRBC layers of protection.
When you need to fail back or move workloads, Zerto significantly decreases the time it takes. As long as it's one of those scenarios in which we foresee using it, it's great. When we did our two failover tests, it was easy to failover to the other location where we have the replicated copies. The last time we had an actual ransomware event, which was before we had Zerto, it took me 30 hours to restore all the data that I needed to restore. I would imagine Zerto would take 10 to 20 percent of that time.
In terms of saving staff time, I only have three people on my staff, so I'm not going to save human resources by using Zerto. That being said, what it does save me is the trouble of having to use another solution that would take a lot of time. I only engage my guys who work on Zerto for six to 10 hours a year, versus having somebody on staff. That's a significant savings for us, because we don't need somebody on staff who knows how to do things with it. It is pretty easy to use for somebody who's familiar with it and uses it on a regular basis. For example, when I do the upgrade, I'll pay guys to do it because that's what they do.
We have secondary, older equipment where our Zerto backup copy resides. We moved that old hardware to our secondary location and got new stuff in our primary location. Our primary location now copies, via Zerto, to the other location that has our old equipment. It's not quite cloud, but it is in a different location. And it's definitely saving us money in the long-term by not having to pay for cloud storage because we have put it on our older stuff, and it works fine for that scenario.
We did a test turning it back on and rethinking it, and that took a reasonable amount of time. A lot of that is not actually limited by Zerto. It's more limited by your pipeline between your backup location and your primary location. Zerto was very helpful, and it's very easy to use from that standpoint. Once you reconnect the two sites, it does a snapshot check of where it left off and then it copies back over the changes that happened while it was running on your secondary site. That's not automatic. You have to touch it. But it's certainly not super-technical.
What is most valuable?
Our two primary use cases are Zerto's biggest features for us. That's what we use it for. There may be other situations where it can come in handy, but those are our two primary scenarios.
In terms of providing continuous data protection, Zerto has been great so far. Thankfully, we haven't had an event where we have really needed to rely on it, but we have done a couple of tests prior to hurricane season where we disconnect our primary facility. We then go over to our secondary facility where the replicated data is and we bring everything up and then we do remote access to that location to make sure that it's all working properly. It's very capable. I've also done a couple of test scenarios on ransomware reaction where I'll go in and restore a folder, after hours when nobody is in the system, to emulate a situation where we might need to go back and restore kit encrypted files. So far, it's been great.
Regarding the ease of use, there's a web portal that I use to verify that everything is working well. It has a lot of notifications and it emails me if there's anything going on that's out of the ordinary. For example, if the connection to one of my other sites goes down, it will let me know that it's not able to reach that site. I'm very happy with the way the interface works for my needs, and my tech has been pretty happy with it. Our installation is rather small. We only have 14 servers on it. I'm sure there are other companies that have hundreds, but I imagine that they would see the same capabilities. The web portal is pretty well organized and easy to navigate.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using Zerto for just about three years. We just re-upped the maintenance on it and, until that point, we had a three-year plan for it.
We're on version 7.5, but I've had some discussions with my partner where we have the replication stored. We're doing an upgrade, but we ran out of time before hurricane season so we decided to hold off until after that. We're going to move up to 8.5 as soon as hurricane season is over, but I didn't want to risk getting into a situation where we didn't have Zerto working at all. And version 7.5 has been working fine. There was no real need to do the upgrade, other than to stay current.
We're about a version behind. I generally stay at least a half-a-version behind to let everybody else do all the sorting out of anything that they might find with the new versions, and then I jump on the second-oldest version, once that's a little more mature.
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What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability of Zerto itself has been fine. We have some network instability that affects it, but I see the alerts come through and it's not Zerto that is having trouble. Zerto itself is very stable.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Scalability is not really applicable to our situation, but I would imagine that it would be easy to scale if needed. We would just buy additional licenses and strategize a little bit about how we were going to add them.
We only have 15 server licenses, but I expect we'll have some growth as we have a couple of projects upcoming. We're probably going to need another server, so even though we're retiring a few servers, I'll leave the licenses. I won't probably be in any position to make it bigger any time soon, but you never know. Our company always has its eye out for acquisitions. Last year we picked up two companies, although they didn't really result in any major increase in our infrastructure. Maybe we'll pick up somebody similar in size to us and all of a sudden we'll need to protect 10 more servers. I don't have any plans for downsizing Zerto.
How are customer service and support?
If I were to nitpick, I would say that I wish I had a better account manager. Our sales guy has changed a couple of times. I would like a little more responsiveness from our account manager. I've had a couple of issues where getting in touch with him has been a little difficult, and I end up just going around him and dealing with support and support has handled it right away.
I've only had to deal with their tech support a few times, and I would give them a nine out of 10. They've been pretty responsive. They've answered my questions. They've gotten things taken care of.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Before Zerto, I just restored backups. We have Veeam as our primary backup system. Veeam is a traditional backup system. In those ransomware events I mentioned, I literally had to go through and restore a bunch of stuff from different servers from our backup repository, which is onsite. I had to go back and restore this folder and that folder and this folder and that folder. I would sort of have to do that with Zerto, but it would be a lot easier. I could just pick the folder and pick the time, and say, "Go." With Veeam it was definitely a much more complicated process.
We didn't "switch" to Zerto, we added it. We still have our other solution. While there is disaster recovery where you're recovering from a disaster, business continuity is how fast you recover from disaster; how quickly you get the business going again. Zerto reduces our RPOs. It was more a case of added protection and it reduces our recovery times—even though thankfully we've never had to use it—compared to the last time we had to recover.
Zerto came highly recommended from our primary VAR, which is Presidio, the place we bought it from. They said it would do exactly what we needed it to do, and the price was reasonable. I took the recommendation, did some research on them. It's possible I looked at reviews on IT Central Station and someone there said, "Oh yeah, Zerto is great." That's good enough for me. I didn't need to spend a ton of time on it. As long as they've got good reviews from multiple sources, which I did find when I researched Zerto, and it came highly recommended from our VAR, those were two pros and I didn't need to go looking for a con.
What about the implementation team?
I didn't actually set up the software. I had to pay somebody else to do that because it was a little beyond my team's capabilities. Our deployment took about six hours from start to finish. The guy that I worked with said that he was pretty happy with it. He had to send in a couple of help tickets, and they were very responsive and were able to help him get through the issues that he had.
He's from an IT support firm called Creative Network Innovations, and they also have an onsite data center, so they offer data center support services in addition to regular IT support services. In this case, Zerto is data-center related. We use Creative Network Innovations because it's related to what they do for us, and they have people on staff who are comfortable working with it. Even though they don't necessarily do Zerto all the time, they were able to step in, take a look at it, and sort it out for us, so that was good.
I wouldn't necessarily say that they're experts in the software, because they learned it for us. They're not typical Zerto implementers, but that speaks to how easy Zerto is to use. They had never really used it, but they were able to pick it up, plug it in, and get it working for us.
In terms of deployment time, the Zerto piece didn't take long. It was about six hours. What we had to do in terms of setting up networking, that was a little different. The whole project, including Zerto, took about 12 to 16 hours. And when we did our first failover test, that probably took another six hours, because we had to figure out all the nuances of how to make it handle the various servers that we have.
It depends on the size of your installation. Because we're fairly small, it didn't require a lot of involvement. Most of it is Windows-based, so it's not that hard to install and set up. Things like getting access through the VPN, which weren't necessarily Zerto-specific, are what took a little time, but the Zerto piece was pretty fast.
It's a backup piece for us. We didn't really get that fancy. We basically identified the servers we needed to replicate offsite. Then we installed Zerto on our primary location and we installed Zerto on our secondary location. And we created the communication.
What was our ROI?
I would estimate that if I had to recover from a scenario like the last one that affected us, it would take me 10 to 20 percent of the time it took me at that time. That reduces the amount of time that our system is down and, therefore, the amount of money we're losing because our system is down. It does provide some cost-benefit, but it's hard to quantify, because nobody has said, "In our company, we lose $X an hour when we're down." But when things are down, people are not happy. If nothing else, it means I hear less griping, and that makes me happier.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
They have an enterprise-type of licensing scenario, which we didn't qualify for because we don't have enough. Ours is pretty straightforward. It is site-based, but the payment concepts are based on the number of servers. In our case, we have a quantity of 15. When we bought it, there was an initial purchase amount plus maintenance. When it came up for renewal, we did three more years, and it was under $10,000 for my 15 servers.
It's very reasonably priced. It's a little more than $3,000 annually. That works out to about $20 per server per month.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
Our backup recovery software, Veeam, is working on a product that will compete with Zerto. But it's still very new. It has not been out for very long, so I don't anticipate us going away from Zerto any time soon. That being said, when our renewal comes up with Zerto, I might reevaluate and look at Veeam and see if their solution is going to cover what Zerto does, because then I have one vendor to deal with, not that I dislike dealing with Zerto. It's just sometimes it's nicer to put all of your stuff into one package because the interfaces are uniform.
At this point in time, Zerto is safe with us. We've got them for three more years, and it does exactly what we need it to. Is it going to be our daily backup and our long-term retention? At this point in time, no. I'm pretty happy with what Veeam does and how it integrates with VMware, not that Zerto does a poor job. Zerto covers a different area.
It's kind of like if you were wearing armor, as a knight of old, but you were missing a piece on your back. If somebody stabbed you in the back, if you had armor there, you wouldn't worry about it. Zerto covers our "back." It covers stuff that Veeam doesn't. It handles point-in-time backups and it gives us a faster recovery in certain scenarios. It's not going to necessarily protect us from a full on-premises failure, because I don't have it doing that. I bought it specifically to defend us from certain types of attacks. We have Zerto handling 14 servers but we have a total of 20 servers. It's not backing up the other six, Veeam is, but that's because I don't need those to be protected from ransomware. I need them to be protected from system failure or catastrophic disaster where our primary location is under 20 feet of water from a hurricane, or the whole thing burns down. Zerto is not going to protect us from that, although it possibly could. We just don't use it for that.
It provides us some niche protection and we're happy with the niche that it protects.
What other advice do I have?
Because we're a smaller company, I would never need a full-time person to do disaster recovery, whereas a company with several thousand employees and multiple billions of dollars of revenue would probably have a team for that. I would imagine those guys would save people if they had Zerto, but that's just me imagining that, rather than it being fact.
If I had 1,000 servers, it might require more of my time, but we have 14. We have a board of directors that wants things to be bulletproof, and they're willing to pay for it. Do we need Zerto? Probably not. Is it nice to have? For sure. But we certainly don't use it in the typical use environment, which I'm sure is a lot more servers than we have. That being said, we still use it, and I highly recommend it, even for companies of our size, although it's probably not the sweet spot for a lot of companies like ours. It's kind of pricey for smaller companies, but for what it does, I think the value is exceptional.
For companies of our size, if you don't have somebody on staff who can use Zerto, you want to find the right help. Your VMware person should be able to help you with it. Make sure that you're comfortable with what you're trying to accomplish. I thought it was a pretty smooth implementation, as you can tell from the time that it took. That might be in part due to the people we enlisted to help us. I can't say that everybody's installation will go that smoothly, but I would imagine that if you have a pretty solid VMware-type person, you should be pretty good with the Zerto piece. It's really a matter of working on the VMware side of it. There is also a little bit of networking, depending on where you're backing up to.
If you're backing up to the cloud, you obviously need somebody who is cloud-savvy who can get the proper connections to your AWS and secure them.
Overall, make sure you have somebody who is VMware-savvy. You don't necessarily need somebody who is specifically Zerto-savvy. The guys that I worked with said that it was pretty easy to work with, even though they hadn't worked with it before. But again, ours was a smaller installation. A Fortune 500 company is going to need a little bit more capability. They're going to want to look for a Zerto-certified implementer, which I presume there are. We didn't bother with that because we're smaller and we didn't really have anything particularly difficult in our implementation.
In terms of preventing downtime, in our situation Zerto hasn't helped reduce that, but it's not because Zerto is not capable of doing so. It's just that we haven't had a situation like that in which it has needed to be used. We haven't had any incidents that required the use of the Zerto fallback.
The biggest lesson I've learned from using Zerto is that I wish I had known about it six years ago. I wish that I had known about its capabilities. Given that it's on version 8.5, it's been around for a while. I really wish we would have had it when we actually had a need for it.
If we ever need it, we're confident in it, given the test scenarios we've gone through where it's been great. It's a nice "warm blanket," and it's good to "cuddle" underneath it, because I don't have to worry about it. If I have an event, I'm pretty confident that I can get us back up and running quickly. Is it going to be instantaneous? Of course not. But it's going to take significantly less time than it would take if I had to react via a manual backup.
Zerto is "the bomb." I'm definitely happy we got it. Overall, it's reasonably priced. It's one of the less expensive business continuity and disaster recovery layers that we have. That being said, it doesn't do everything. We're a smaller shop. There are only three people on my IT team, including me. It's definitely been a very helpful tool and comforting to know that we have it in place. It makes it easier to sleep at night. For what we need it for, it does everything we need.
Zerto is a nine out of 10 and maybe even close to a 10. It's solid. It's a good product. It does what we need it to do. Since we haven't actually had a live event, I can't say that it's perfect, but in the tests we have run it through it has been great. The only blemish has been dealing with the account manager, which could be situational. I've only had to deal with him a few times. The last time he didn't even respond to me. That being said, it's been three years, and maybe he's moved on and nobody is monitoring his email box. And when I reached out to support, they took care of me right away. So the account management is a minor blemish. Everything else, as far as the product and support go, has been fantabulous.
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