What Is Failover? Definition, FAQs, and Guide

Failover automation ensures disaster recovery is possible if your primary system fails

What Is Failover?

Best described as the ability to seamlessly transition to a backup in the event of an outage or disaster, failover is a key component of any mission-critical system. With failover capability up and running, you can minimize downtime and keep your business-critical applications operating even in the face of unexpected disasters.

For failover to work properly, it is important to have a well-defined plan and ensure all systems are integrated correctly. In this blog post, we will discuss failover and how it works. We will also discuss some of the benefits of failover and how you can implement it in your business.

Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) have made advancements in terms of embracing business continuity planning throughout the years. The modern organization has much more robust and secure technologies and procedures to prevent disruptions from unanticipated calamities, cyber-attacks, and accidental data loss.

Even with these fail-safes in place, businesses still need to take their continuity planning one step further by implementing a failover solution. A failover solution provides an extra layer of protection for organizations when all else fails and is often implemented for mission-critical systems where downtime is simply not an option.

The Critical Importance of Failover Practices

The loss of continuity of business-critical applications for even a few hours can prove disastrous for small to medium-sized firms. If large disruptions, such as fires, natural disasters, and significant cybersecurity events occur, business survival can become extremely difficult.

Unexpected problems are all too frequent for companies of all sizes. A DataCore poll revealed that 54% of firms experienced an outage that lasted at least eight hours in the previous five years. Now, you might think, “Eight hours isn’t that long.” But, when you factor in the cost of lost productivity, revenue and data, and the damage to reputation, potential revenue loss can be significant.

What if we were to tell you that, according to research, an hour of downtime can cost upwards of $10,000 for SMEs and more than $5 million for large corporations?

You would most likely understand why failover is such an important part of business continuity planning.

How Failover Works

Having a failover process in place means little or no disruption in the event of abnormal termination of a business application, server, system, hardware component, or network

Failover works to provide businesses with a backup operational mode by automatically switching application services to a standby server in the same or different data center or network if the primary system fails (or is offline for maintenance). A critical system must be accessible at all times. For such systems, availability is essential, and downtime poses a serious problem. The ability to quickly failover is invaluable for critical applications that require immediate access. Requests from the failed or downed machine are automatically redirected to the backup machine, which duplicates the application environment.

Let’s say you have a server that is running your mission-critical applications. In the event of an outage or disaster, failover allows you to transition to a backup machine, usually located in a different geographic region. Failover ensures that your business-critical applications are always up and running, even in the face of unexpected disasters.

A failover cluster is designed to provide high availability for services and applications. A failover cluster is a group of independent physical servers that work together to increase the availability of services and applications. If one failover server in the cluster fails, the other server(s) in the cluster take over the operations of the failed server. This helps to ensure that services and applications are always available. A failover cluster can provide high availability for critical services and applications, including email servers, databases, and web servers.

The Benefits of Implementing Failover in Your Business

First and foremost, failover is a must-have in your disaster recovery plan. It minimizes downtime and keeps your business-critical applications running. During such events as maintenance or system failure, failover ensures that there is no loss in productivity. Additionally, failover can be completely customized to suit your hardware and network configurations.

Another great benefit of failover is that it allows maintenance jobs to run automatically without supervision. This reduces the time and resources required to manage your system, freeing up your staff to focus on other tasks.

Finally, failover is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to ensure business continuity – not that you can put a price on peace of mind.

Implementing Failover in Your Business

Now that we’ve discussed failover and some benefits, let’s discuss how you can implement it in your business. First, you will need to identify which systems are mission-critical and cannot afford to go down. Once you have identified these systems, you must determine what type of failover configuration is best for your business.

There are two types of failover configurations: active-active and active-standby. Active-active failover is typically used in mission-critical systems where downtime is not an option. In this configuration, both the primary and failover servers (known as cluster “nodes”) are running at all times. In an outage, backup servers take over, and there is no loss in productivity. Geo-dispersed clusters, called metro-clusters, are clusters with nodes in different data centers that access the same storage. Metro-clusters require high network bandwidth and low latency, and are therefore relatively expensive.

Active-standby failover is typically used in less critical systems where downtime can be tolerated. In this configuration, the primary server is running while the backup server remains idle.

Once you have determined which failover configuration is best for your business, you will need to select the hardware and software needed to implement it. Several vendors offer failover solutions, so be sure to do your research and select the one that best meets your needs.

With failover solutions for your critical applications in place, you can rest assured knowing that your business-critical applications will always be up and running, even in the face of unexpected disasters.

What is Failback?

Secondary server ensures you have a backup system in place

Failback is the process of switching from backup servers to the original server. This typically occurs after the primary server has been repaired or upgraded and is once again operational. Failback can also occur in the event of a false positive, where the primary server is mistakenly identified as being down. In this case, failback allows you to quickly switch back to the primary server and avoid any downtime.

Failback can be manual or automatic. Manual failback requires administrator intervention to return to the original state. Automatic failback uses scripts or software to automatically switch the servers during an outage.

Failover Testing

In order to assure successful failover when it’s needed, regular periodic testing is critical. Testing typically involves simulating an outage and verifying that the failover system correctly switches to the failover node. Failover testing can be performed manually or automatically.

A simple failover test can be done by disconnecting the primary server from the network or by powering it down. For an automatic failover configuration, once the primary server is offline, the failover system should automatically switch to the failover node. The user can then verify that the failover node is operational and all data is accessible.

Failover testing itself can be automated using scripts or software to automatically simulate an outage. The software can then verify that the failover node is operational and all data is accessible.

Failover testing is an important part of any failover implementation. By performing regular failover tests, you can ensure that your failover system will work as expected in the event of an actual outage.

Final Thoughts

Disaster recovery is a vital part of any business. Having the ability to switch to a backup operational mode in the event of an outage can mean the difference between a minor setback and a major disaster. Implementing a failover solution in your business can save you time, money, and headaches in the event of an unexpected outage. When your physical hardware fails, failover can keep your business running while you repair or replace the failed hardware.

A failover cluster is designed to provide high availability for services and applications. A failover cluster is a group of independent physical servers that work together to increase the availability of services and applications.

As an adjunct to failover clusters, replicating data and infrastructure to a remote data center or the cloud is a proven technique for organizations that need short Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs). Because of its expense and complexity, this choice is out of reach for many businesses.

At Parsec Labs, we understand the importance of disaster recovery for all types of businesses. We offer several disaster recovery solutions that ensure business continuity, even in the face of unexpected disasters.

For more information about our innovative cloud-based solutions, contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions and help you find the right solution for your business.

Key Takeaways:

  • A failover cluster is a collection of physically separate servers that collaborate to improve the availability of services.
  • A failover cluster is intended to provide services and applications with high availability.
  • Failover testing is an important part of any failover implementation.
    Your company’s network infrastructure should be designed to support failover clusters.

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