The service's IT department runs a number of critical applications – ranging from software for front line fire fighting staff to Microsoft Office, health and safety, training, payroll and marketing systems. It decided to move to a new backup product when it migrated from Windows NT to Windows Server 2003 and its servers increased from six to 20 Dell boxes in the space of two years.
He says, "When we began investing in new servers we could no longer continue to use the old Windows NT Backup mainly because they came with Windows 2003 Server but also because Windows NT Backup was very limited in what it could do."
What Alton needed was a backup tool that could deal with Microsoft Exchange, SQL and Oracle databases and flat files, plus it had to work on NT Server and Windows 2003 Server during the migration.
The brigade initially tested Yosemite software version 7 and followed it up a year later by installing the next version of the product – version 8.5. The 20 Dell servers now use Yosemite to backup to Dell LTO Ultrium 3 and Super DLT tape drives and the organisation deploys a three week Monday to Friday rotation.
Yosemite is one of the smaller backup players and is focussed on SMB-sized organisations, offering them simple to use software. It is regarded as a good option for those without specialist storage expertise in house.
The Yosemite tools have provided a reliable replacement for Windows software which was just too slow and basic for the expanded server environment and new operating systems and has made backup a lot easier to administer, says Alton.
He says, "We were able to setup an 'advanced zone' where we installed one Yosemite Master Server and then Yosemite Client Server on all our other Windows Servers. This meant we could manage the backup routine from one server, making it a lot easier to administer. It also enabled us to split the backup jobs across multiple tape drives within the 'advanced zone' reducing the overall backup time."
The fire service chose Yosemite Tapeware over Veritas Backup Exec, but the former had a head start as it had already being trialled, says Alton.
He says, "It appeared Veritas was almost identical to Tapeware in terms of the way it worked and seeing as we had already trialled Tapeware we didn't pursue the Veritas option."
South Yorkshire fire service has only had to carry out one restore so far due to a server hardware fault, and this was carried out successfully.
Does Alton think the product could be improved? His chief issue is with the lack of Oracle support in the latest version.
He says, "The latest version of Yosemite no longer supports Oracle so our server with the Oracle databases is running an earlier version. It would be good if later versions of Yosemite supported Oracle again." There were also some problems setting up the Oracle agent but these were eventually overcome by talking to the Yosemite helpdesk in the USA. "We contacted the helpdesk in the UK but on this occasion there was no one qualified enough to help us," says Alton.
The key criterion for selecting backup tools is whether or not it will work in your environment, says Tony Lock, programme director with analysts Freeform Dynamics.
He says, "The obvious requirement is whether the software supports the hardware and applications you use. That can become an issue as you move across different sizes of companies who are perhaps not big names and are perhaps using white box commodity hardware. Other considerations will include whether you are working in a distributed environment in which case you'll need to know if it'll work through your firewalls."
He adds, "Another key question is how are you going to use it – is it a traditional environment where everything stops at night or does the nature of the business mean you can't shut down, in which case you'll require snapshotting and point-in-time recovery. The key thing with any backup product is how easy it is to restore and you have to test this."