WA Newspapers upgrades to virtual tape

West Australian Newspapers needs to backup two terabytes of data each week, a task it finds much easier thanks to a new virtual tape library.

West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd is a media group in Western Australia. Its daily newspaper, The West Australian, sells approximately 200,000 copies Monday through Friday and 375,000 copies on Saturdays. The group's other publishing interests include 22 regional newspapers and magazines across the state, three commercial printing plants, a regional radio network and a major shareholding in the Hoyts Cinemas group.

The headquarters have more than 900 employees across two sites 500 m apart: one for administration and the other for printing. For data storage, the second site also functions as its disaster recovery location with fibre channel running between the two and data mirrored from one site to the other.

The majority of The West Australian's data undergoes full nightly backup with a small amount of data backed up incrementally and full backups weekly. With daily backup requirements at 725 GB and weekly backup requirements reaching 2 TB of data, the existing tape-based backup solution was time-consuming and labour-intensive.

The ability to back up and restore this burgeoning repository of data was crucial and made increasingly complex by the growing number of servers; the IT department has 95 Windows servers, 10 Linux servers and 8 Netware servers in use. It was critical that the IT department had a robust storage and backup strategy to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery.

"Storage is one of the largest challenges we face," said Jamie Cowell, systems support officer for WA Newspapers. "Our business runs 24/7, which means we have a very small window to perform our backups. Every year, our production time starts a little earlier in the day, so our tape-based backup window was beginning to encroach on production time."

"Another challenge we were confronted with was the labour and time-consuming process of manually changing and labelling the large number of cartridges we were using, as well as physically transporting weekly backup tapes from the primary site to the DR site," he said.

Eventually the backup load grew to such an extent that the IT department found it was nearing the limits of its backup storage capacity. Adding to the problem was the fact that managing these backups frequently took longer than the time allotted.

Reseller ComputerCORP recommended Quantum's DX5000 virtual tape library (VTL) to solve this problem. "During the selection process, it became quite clear that the Quantum solution was the obvious choice to solve our storage issues," said Cowell. "Key factors in our decision were the ability to increase the capacity and operational efficiency of our system, completing backups in the allotted hours whilst also reducing management overhead and simplifying our backup processes."

"Naturally, cost is always a factor, but in this case, it wasn't the most important issue for us to consider. So the reasonable pricing of the DX5000 was an added bonus."

WA Newspapers uses Quantum's DX5000 VTL for its full nightly backups and Symantec Backup Exec software to duplicate the job and move the data to the Quantum PX502 tape library, 500 m away, in the administration building. The tape capacity has increased from 160 to 800 GB using DLT-S4 tape technology, providing a significantly higher storage capacity and eliminating the need to physically change 30 to 40 tapes, saving time and labour.

"We are now achieving backup speeds of up to 20-60 MBps which gives us three to four hours breathing space each night," Cowell said. "We have almost tripled the speed of database backups, which means we can focus staff resources in other areas."

The implementation of the Quantum DX5000 and PX502 was implemented over a three-month period, within the scheduled timeline and budget. Effectively, West Australian Newspapers replaced four servers with the Quantum solution by running Symantec Backup Exec to the DX5000. Replication of backup data to the PX502 tape library is done via fibre channel between sites.

Early arrivals into the office conduct a morning server check and a backup check which includes changing tapes. This process is now quicker as there is now only one server to check and no cartridge replacements required. This saves approximately five to seven hours per week in labour.

"The cost savings have been good. Because we keep our month-end data offsite, the previous system meant we chalked up a rather hefty bill per month on backup tapes alone," said Cowell. "With the new Quantum solution, this is no longer necessary and has led to a 60% savings on tape purchases.

"Our restore time has been reduced significantly, because we no longer have to load tapes, which means it's basically instantaneous," he said. Plus we have a full month of data easily accessible on disk which we can restore immediately if necessary. If we do need to restore older data, we have the PX502 tape library to restore from."

Read more on Data protection, backup and archiving