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Volume 30, Issue 2

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Monday, 21 October 2013 15:07

STORServer Backup Appliance replaces Symantec Backup Exec 2010 version 13, cuts backup window time by 75 percent


In 2011, Chris Kloosterman joined the IT team at Saint Michaels University School (SMUS) in Victoria, BC, Canada after leaving his position at nearby Brentwood College School. St. Michaels University School is a private co-educational, independent day and boarding school of 930 students from kindergarten through grade 12.

The timing of Kloosterman’s hiring as the new systems administrator could not have been better as SMUS was facing major challenges with its data backup and recovery system. Fortunately, he had just spent months in his previous role evaluating backup solutions and had great insight to share with SMUS manager of computer services, Rob Przybylski.

With the previous system, Symantec Backup Exec 2010 version 13, the school was backing up full plus incrementals over seven days, but wanted the ability to back up all data every day. SMUS also needed an easier and more robust solution for performing file level restores and looking at data retention policies to ensure they had copies of data where they needed copies. With Backup Exec 2010 version 13, doing multiple copies was cumbersome. During testing, they generally did not work. SMUS went to disk and archive to tape, but because tape was so unreliable, they had to back up to two different disk boxes in two different locations. That was problematic.

As it came time to evaluate and implement a new backup solution, Przybylski relied heavily on Kloosterman who had been part of Brentwood College School’s extensive research into backup systems. With his thorough knowledge of the available systems, SMUS didn’t need to replicate his research efforts.

Based on Kloosterman’s endorsement of the STORServer Backup Appliance, SMUS implemented the system in June 2011. The competitive solutions were either significantly more expensive or lacked the robust features that the Appliance offered.

Driven by IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager (TSM) and other proven technologies, the STORServer Backup Appliance is a comprehensive, fully integrated, backup, archive and disaster recovery solution in a single, easy-to-use configuration of hardware and software technologies.

STORServer has enabled much faster backups for SMUS. Previously, with Backup Exec 2010 version 13, the school was doing incremental backups daily and full backups during the weekend, which proved to be incredibly challenging for performing restores. In order to restore a file, Przybylski had to go to the latest full backup and look up all backups since then. If a file changed daily, that meant they backed it up daily. So, if a file changed every day for 30 days, SMUS had 30 copies of it due to a 30-day retention requirement. STORServer enabled the school to get proper file retention policies back to a year and eliminated the worry about all the different data sets they were backing up every day.

SMUS is currently backing up 17.5 terabytes (TBs) of raw data across two locations—one at its main facility and the other at a nearby junior school. The school is fully virtualized with 60 virtual servers and runs Windows and Linux and a 10 gigabyte network in its server room.

Using Backup Exec 2010 version 13, backups started running at 10 p.m. every evening and usually finished by 7 a.m. the next day. However, if there was ever an issue, backups would go into the next work day and make the system very slow. The backup window was growing and growing and Przybylski feared SMUS would eventually run out of physical time to perform backups. Now, STORServer’s backup window is a quarter of that—mere hours.

The Appliance has saved the school immense amounts of time. Restores previously took half an hour to 40 minutes depending on when the file was deleted. Now, restores happen instantly with STORServer.

In October 2013, SMUS had a major storage crash. The process of restoring all of the data using the STORServer Backup Appliance included more than 7.1 million files restored to the main file server, 900 student email boxes and a couple of bare metal server restores. With no hiccups, problems or errors, STORServer had all of the data restored in a matter of a few days.

Although quantifying a cost savings of implementing the Appliance is difficult, Przybylski says the peace of mind the solution offers is invaluable.

The daily time period we would need to spend on managing the STORServer Backup Appliance is probably a quarter of the time we were spending on the old system,” says Przybylski. “We now spend at most 10 minutes a day maintaining the system. Time wise, it is a huge savings. And, my level of comfort is priceless.”

Since implementing the Appliance, the system has been able to meet SMUS’s growing needs. The school has bought extra tapes—as its backup data set has grown—and changed out the hard drives in the unit with help of STORServer. According to Przybylski, there wouldn’t be any issue expanding the system even if their file data volume doubled, which it likely will. STORServer could handle that growth.

STORServer is quite a hands-off system,” says Przybylski. “You set it up at the beginning with the retention policies, and then it really does run itself. Restores are instant and can be done by any of our technical staff. It doesn’t require expertise of the TSM platform. But, the biggest benefit is the peace of mind that my data is backed up and I can get it back in case of disaster. That was not the case with our old system.”

One of the biggest topics in IT today, specifically for anyone in the backup field, is deduplication. Using STORServer, SMUS is able to store 17 TBs of data on 9 TBs with compression and data deduplication.

Our WAN backups used to take seven nights to get a full backup, but with deduplication, we now get a full backup every night in just minutes over the same WAN connection,” says Przybylski “This has helped us out more than any of the other features of the Appliance. Compression and deduplication mean we have a quarter of the disk space our old system had. Now, we can store more data and archive sets than was previously possible. We don’t have to store data for specified periods of time. Some files are archived forever and most have retention policies.”