Pinewood Studios slashes backup and recovery times

Pinewood Studios Group has slashed its backup and recovery times and achieved robust data protection through server virtualisation

International film production company Pinewood Studios Group has slashed its backup and recovery times by two-thirds and implemented a robust data protection strategy by using server virtualisation.

In the past 10 years, IT has become critical for the organisation, and the IT team’s goal was to create a virtualised environment that provided high availability and disaster recovery (DR).

IT plays a vital supporting role for the company’s core business of providing production facilities for the film and TV industry to create blockbusters such as Skyfall and Dark Shadows.

Through virtualisation, 14 of the group’s physical servers spread across three sites were moved on to three VMware vSphere hosts running 30 Windows virtual machines (VMs).

Around 90% of the IT infrastructure is now virtualised and applications include software that organises studio bookings and email that connects 250 employees worldwide.

“We were running out of space, and wanted to cut our power consumption,” said John Chase, group IT manager, who turned to IT solutions firm Codestone for its expertise in virtualisation.

“We also wanted to tap into the vitualisation benefits of consolidating sites and servers, and having the ability to spin up VMs for test and development purposes whenever needed,” he told Computer Weekly.

The added benefit was being able to replace the group’s multi-site tape-based backup and recovery system with a single, automated disk-based system designed for use in a virtual environment.

For backup and recovery, Codeston recommended Veeam Essentials, which includes monitoring and reporting tools.

“We had three requirements: ease of use, low maintenance and replication. Veeam turned out to be the perfect fit and came well within budget,” said Chase.

The company deployed Veeam Essentials, which bundles Veeam Backup & Replication for fast and reliable backup and recovery of VMs, and Veeam ONE for real-time monitoring and alerting, capacity planning, documentation and management reporting.

Initially the company has focused on using Veeam Backup & Replication, resulting in backup taking one third of the time it previously took with physical servers.

“Backup using tape-based systems was time-consuming, it was also a manual process and relied on non-IT staff at two of the three sites remembering to do it each day,” said Chase.

Prior to Veeam, restoring a Microsoft Exchange mailbox could take the whole day, but now takes minutes, he said.

Backing up physical servers to tape and retrieving and reviewing takes used to take three people about five hours each week, so we are saving at least 15 hours each week,” said Chase.

The backup window also kept growing, with overnight backup processes often taking until 11am to complete, affecting network performance at the start of each working day, he said.

With the Veeam system, backup is done and recoverability tested automatically, and the whole process is completed long before the start of the working day.

Chase said the biggest benefit to using Veeam Backup & Replication is peace of mind. “With Veeam, I know our backups are working, and I know they can provide the applications and data we need in case of emergency,” he said. “We have stage facilities all over the world, and it is important our users have what they need, when they need it.”

In addition, the company now has full DR capabilities with data replicated between its main datacentre at its Iver Heath site and its Shepperton studio, which would have been too costly with physical servers.

Now that the IT team has mastered Veeam Backup & Replication, it will begin to use the second component of Veeam Essentials, said Chase.

Veeam ONE integrates with Veeam Backup & Replication to enable advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning for backup. It also includes resource monitoring and more than 200 pre-built alarms with thresholds based on best practice.



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