September 13, 2021

Article
3 min

A Disaster Recovery Initiative Pays Off During the Pandemic

For one K–12 district, a hybrid cloud environment provided more options for both resilience and flexibility.

Dan VanDerBosch

What started as a disaster recovery initiative for a customer of mine, the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey, ultimately became a lesson in the versatility of the cloud, particularly when it comes to major disruptions like the pandemic. 

In late 2019, we worked with the district and completed a migration to VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services. That was just in time to leverage the new hybrid cloud environment in early 2020, when the district made a pivot to remote work and learning. 

Getting there, however, took the district about two years. The migration relied on a strong partnership that Harry Doctor Jr., West Windsor-Plainsboro’s technology manager, and his team had established with our CDW team. As the district navigated both the disaster recovery initiative and the pandemic, its IT department had access to CDW’s expert consultants at critical junctures in the decision-making process. It also took test drives of potential cloud solutions and received guidance from engineers to support the implementation.

A Hybrid Environment Expands Disaster Recovery Capabilities

When Doctor first reached out to us about how to improve the district’s disaster recovery strategy, he wanted to address two potential liabilities in its existing system. 

First, the failover location lacked a geographic buffer, being less than two miles from the primary data center. Second, the backup data center had significantly lower computing and storage capabilities. If the IT department had to use the secondary location in a disaster, it would have been unable to support all the necessary applications.

With resilience and flexibility in mind, the district chose to move disaster recovery to the cloud. Doctor researched options on his own, then asked CDW for help in analyzing various features and suitability for the district’s needs. Ultimately, the district landed on a hybrid architecture that combines on-premises hardware and cloud services through VMware Cloud on AWS.

Unified Console Eases Management of IT Resources

Doctor’s team was already comfortable with VMware’s vSphere virtualization software, so expanding to VMware Cloud in AWS enabled a seamless transition. VMware Cloud delivered the robust performance the district needs, as well as automation to optimize the environment. 

In addition, VMware’s unified management console, vCenter, brought all the district’s workloads — on-premises and in the cloud — into a single dashboard. That made it easy for staff to manage and migrate virtual machines to the cloud as needed. During the pandemic, that flexibility became critical: The IT department had more options as it crafted a strategy to support remote staff and students. 

With cloud resources in play, the district was able to move production workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS and upload 40 to 50 virtual servers. That freed up resources in the primary data center to support approximately 400 VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure instances for staff, administrators and students who needed specialized applications. The remainder of the district’s 10,000 students had access to Chromebooks and were already using cloud-based educational applications.

Today, without the additional patching and maintenance work that an on-premises expansion would have required, IT staffers have more time to focus on applications and performance. For organizations such as the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, a hybrid environment can check all the right boxes: resilience, agility and a better experience for IT staff and users alike.

Dan VanDerBosch is a business development specialist for CDW with a focus on VMware cloud solutions, including VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services and Horizon Cloud Desktop as a Service. He has been with CDW for more than nine years.