It was classic Murphy's Law: Shifting to document imaging provided new capabilities, but it also created new headaches for Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Co. (HEMIC). As imaged data volumes skyrocketed in 2006, nightly and weekend backup processes began crashing into production. "We did everything, from upgrading network components to designing the most efficient backup routines," recalls Bob Long, director of network services for the Honolulu-based workers' comp insurer. "But it wasn't enough."
Long budgeted for higher-capacity tape drives and tapes in late 2006. To improve flexibility, his plan called for abandoning HEMIC's ($241.6 million in total assets) familiar backup software, Symantec's (Cupertino, Calif.) Veritas, in exchange for HP's (Palo Alto, Calif.) Data Protector Express. But while researching tape infrastructure in early 2007, Long attended a vendor luncheon showcasing a new disk-to-disk backup appliance from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Data Domain.
"The technology was smarter because it performed a bit-level examination and only backed up the changes," explains Long. "In addition to reducing backup size, it permitted restoring files from any given day to their exact configuration on that day."
Further, Data Domain's "de-duplication" and compression technologies claimed to crush data so effectively that traditional cost barriers to off-site replication were removed. "The main unit can replicate the backup to a sister unit," says Long. "With tapes, we'd manually remove them every morning, insert another tape and physically take the completed tape to our bank vault. Not only was this time-consuming and error-prone, but the backed-up data was relatively inaccessible."
Yet Long was skeptical of relying on disk-to-disk backups until Data Domain explained that the appliances could copy weekly backups to HEMIC's existing tape infrastructure for off-site vaulting. HEMIC also could continue to use its existing Veritas software.
Although the initial cost of the disk-based solution significantly exceeded a tape system upgrade, Long says, HEMIC's CFO quickly saw the benefits. "Disk-based backups offered enterprise-class productivity, data security and business continuity capabilities that were previously unaffordable," Long explains.
HEMIC purchased two 1.5-terabyte appliances in mid-April 2007, and installation occurred during the third week of May. According to Long, set up, configuration and hands-on training were completed in less than a day. "This included testing Veritas compatibility and replicating, which was accomplished by simply typing in the IP address for the sister box," he notes.
The subsequent week of testing was uneventful, as was the go-live the following week. The only glitch has been failed replications, which were traced to HEMIC's colocation provider, explains Long, who says the devices have delivered more than expected.
"We're saving at least an hour a week just in tape handling," says Long of his six-person IT department. "Plus, the disk-to-disk backup jobs rarely fail, unlike with tape. And when they do, only the failed portion needs repeating. In addition, the appliances store three to four months of backups, so retrieving a deleted 10-megabyte file takes seconds instead of hours. And ... where a single folder took a day to restore with tape, now an entire database restores in less than an hour."
Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Co. (Honolulu; $241.6 million in total assets).
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Data Domain's (Santa Clara, Calif.) Enterprise Series disk- based storage appliances.
Streamline data backup process and improve enterprise data protection.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio