CommVault/Yosemite combo brings order to chaotic backup environment

To deal with a diverse backup environment, IT services group Tribal Consulting implements a combination of CommVault's Simpana software suite to carry out its main backup duties, and FileKeeper from Yosemite Software for the laptops of its remote workers.

To deal with a diverse IT infrastructure, which included an even more diverse backup environment, IT services group Tribal Consulting implemented a combination of backup applications from CommVault Systems and Yosemite Software.

The London-based provider of consulting and professional support services uses CommVault's Simpana software suite to carry out its main backup duties, but selected Yosemite to provide data protection for the laptops of its remote workers laptops when Simpana proved too cumbersome for the task.

Tribal's client base consists of more than 2,500 organisations, including central government departments, local authorities, housing associations, schools, colleges and universities, the NHS and primary care trusts.

Commvault delivered on datacentre and distributed backups didn't work too well on laptops.
Karl Mulvany
IT services delivery directorTribal Consulting
The consulting arm of Tribal Group plc has grown through acquisition to 15 sites across the UK with 550 remote workers. Last year the company completed a full 15-month £500,000 refresh in which it ripped out the 13 discrete infrastructures it inherited from the businesses it had bought and replaced them with a centralised Windows Server 2003 and IBM storage architecture.

The situation it faced in backup resulted from the diversity of its IT infrastructure. Local offices were running a variety of operating systems, from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003, while the backup tools in use included Veritas (now Symantec) Backup Exec, CommVault Galaxy, ViceVersa and Microsoft SyncToy. Karl Mulvany, IT services delivery director, said the situation was chaotic and led to unreliable backup results.

"We had 13 locations with people using very different backup software writing to different forms of tape media." he said. "And the times we discovered that 'the secretary didn't put the tape in' were too many by far. We needed to have backup and recovery in a timely manner that wasn't dependent on manual management of tapes at remote locations."

The ways in which remote workers backed up their laptops were equally diverse, and included the use of third-party software solutions as well as backing up to USB sticks. But in practice, many consultants weren't backing up at all, and even when they did, recovery was often difficult, according to Mulvany.

"We had nearly 600 consultants working remotely and the existing policy had been for them to back up their own data," he said. "Of course, they didn't. In fact we found that less than 10% were doing so and different parts of the company were doing it in different ways."

Infrastructure overhaul
By mid-2007, Tribal was engaged in a full infrastructure refresh, moving to an IBM blade server platform plus an IBM Fibre Channel SAN and LTO tape drives at its new London data centre. Local offices were provided with Buffalo Technology Terastation Live 1 TB NAS devices, which can be expanded to 3 TB.

The company selected Simpana from CommVault as its backup software, winning out on grounds of cost and features against a field which also included Microsoft Data Protection Manager, InfoXafe, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, HP Data Protector and Veritas NetBackup. Simpana was implemented with its CDR continuous data replication feature, which mirrors data to an IBM TS3310 tape drive the London data centre and creates snapshots locally for rapid recovery in case of data loss.

The CommVault implementation has allowed Tribal to standardise onto one backup software for most of its backup needs. This has eliminated potential failures in manual backup procedures and allowed it to do away with separate tape devices at each location as well as to automate tape use, said Mulvany.

"Prior to using CommVault, the backup schedules had to be maintained manually, so we were constantly having to request 'Monday' tape or 'Week 3' tape," he said. "A byproduct of this was that some tapes weren't fully utilised before the next tape was started. CommVault allows us to reduce the number of tapes used for our backups and using the Vault Tracker feature means we no longer have to request tapes from Iron Mountain. The software does it for us."

Yosemite FileKeep chosen for remote users' laptops
But Mulvany wasn't satisfied with Simpana when it came to backing up from remote users' laptops, said Mulvany. "CommVault delivered on the data centre and distributed backups but didn't work too well on laptop backup. It was cumbersome, wasn't policy-driven, needed too much interaction and wasn't easily deployable," he said.

Instead of rolling out CommVault throughout for all Tribal's backups, the company instead opted for Yosemite FileKeeper to back up the remote laptops. Tribal's IT team was looking for a product that would deploy easily and remotely with little user or IT deptartment interaction and the minimum of helpdesk calls, with users able to do restores themselves. Yosemite ticked all those boxes, said Mulvany.

"It is also bandwidth-aware," he added. "The consultants use 3G cards or broadband connections to reach the VPN and the product senses what bandwidth is on offer at that time."

Yosemite could do better with future versions of FileKeeper by improving the software's policy capabilities, said Mulvany. "We'd like more control over them, as consultants working with different councils are subject to differing regimes."

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