If I were deploying a Windows Server environment, what are the differences between virtual failover, disaster recovery and high availability as well as when would you utilize them?

  • More appropriate for SF.
    – John T
    Sep 21, 2011 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


These are broad terms, but in the context of Windows Server they can be explained somewhat easier.

Virtual Failover - This term is generally used when describing virtual machines coupled across a server farm, such as XenServer or ESXi nodes. When a physical node fails, all of the virtual machines running in memory can be migrated to another physical node if resources permit.

Disaster Recovery - This is a very general term which outlines the procedures that are taken when an unexpected disaster occurs resulting in downtime. A disaster recovery plan, or in other words a "set of policies" is used to dictate the immediate steps to action once the disaster has been discovered. These steps may involve replacement hardware, backup solutions, backup sites, data integrity checks and so on.

High Availability - This is more of a design practice which involves configuring devices and their software in such a way that there is minimal downtime in the event of a disruption and minimal-to-no human intervention is required to fully restore operation. Such implementations include redundant links in a network, RAID configurations, and software with HA Cluster support. SQL Clusters are a good example of this, where two servers maintain identical databases and one can take over in the event another dies. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with failover because failover solutions are what typically provide high availability in the first place, but there is an appropriate time to use each one separately.

  • Thanks. When you say there is an appropriate time to use each one separately, what do you mean? Also I take it that disaster recovery and high availability is not restricted to physical infrastructure. Is that correct? You mention that it is easier when explaining in the Windows context, does this mean it is different for Linux? Sep 21, 2011 at 22:45
  • @PeanutsMonkey Failover and HA can be more appropriate in different contexts is what I meant. If you are talking about practices and procedures to achieve HA, you would likely be referring to failover. Disaster recovery and HA isn't even restricted to computing, hence why these broad terms can be harder to explain. Providing a context in general makes this easier.
    – John T
    Sep 21, 2011 at 22:54

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