Cardinal Newman College in Preston decided to revamp its backup arrangements when its existing setup became too risky to protect the data of its 2,200 students and 210 staff.
The backup system had used a traditional backup server topology with Symantec's Backup Exec running on a Dell PowerVault box. In that setup, approximately 30 servers with financial, student tracking, Microsoft Office, as well as music, graphics and video files fed into the single backup server and onto a single LTO-2 tape drive.
"When I joined in January 2008, we sat down and looked at the entire system and decided things couldn't go on as they were," he said. "We had no real disaster recovery [DR] provision, a half-dead email server and inefficient backup."
According to Boyce, "the previous solution just wasn't spec'd for the job. It was from a time when you could expect to get 2,000 students' work onto 100 GB. We used to start it on Friday and it finished midweek, although it would frequently fail before completing."
This situation was resolved when the college implemented BakBone Software's NetVault:Backup alongside a server refresh and a new HP MSA1000 FC SAN, which now has 6 TB of capacity in a LAN-free backup configuration.
BakBone was chosen on the recommendation of Lancashire-based reseller Willow Starcom, although Boyce's team did think about investing to upgrade its existing Symantec backup software and looked at CA's ARCserve Backup.
"BakBone had the same functions, including being able to deal with our mixed PC, Mac and Linux environment, as the other vendors' products but at a lower cost," Boyce said. "What we wanted was simplicity of use. Cost was also a big factor for us, being an educational institution."
The chief benefit of BakBone to the Cardinal Newman team has been a massive saving in staff time administering the backup process, while LAN-free backup on the SAN has also cut backup times. Full backups now start on Friday evening and complete by late Saturday, with differential backups running for two hours each night on weekdays.
The main staff time savings have come in administering backups and carrying out restores, Boyce said.
"In terms of staff time, we've made cuts of about 90%," he said. "Backups have gone from making up the bulk of the week for one technician to 10 minutes checking the tapes. Restores are down from half a day to about 15 minutes. It has given us a solid basis for implementing BC/DR, and backups are a lot quicker and easier."
Is there anything BakBone could do better? "The only issue we have had has been with licensing," Boyce said. "We use a Fibre Channel SAN with clusters of servers and there are a multitude of licensing options with some confusion over what exactly we should pay for. But the reseller has sorted those out for us and it would have been the same with Symantec or ARCserve [Backup]."