Lawyers get Unitrends backup appliance for virtual server backup

Notts law firm Rothera Dowson moves from Symantec plus tape to Unitrends disk-based backup appliance for virtual server backup and cuts recovery time from days to minutes

Nottinghamshire legal practice Rothera Dowson has implemented a Unitrends disk-based backup appliance to support virtual server backup as it transitions from a physical server environment with tape backup to a virtual environment.

The firm chose the backup appliance route over its existing Symantec BackupExec backup software because of the ease of use of the backup appliance and of disk over tape backup.

A backup appliance takes backup software and embeds it into hardware with its own disk storage built in.

Backup appliances are a simple way to deliver backup services without the need for specialist backup staff to administer them. That makes backup appliances well-suited to use SMEs and branch offices of large enterprises, while the larger backup appliances are also appropriate for smaller datacentre operations.

Rothera Dowson was running 15 physical servers at its main Nottingham office, plus four more at its branch offices elsewhere in the county. Data protection comprised Symantec BackupExec backup software with a Sony AIT tape library at the main office and drives from the same manufacturer at its remote offices.

Stefano Pratesi, principal IT consultant at Rothera Dowson, said: “Maintenance and support of physical servers was quite high and the RTO on data was up to two days with the existing tape infrastructure.”

But, over the past year, it has moved to a virtualised server environment based on VMware ESX and Dell hardware, with around 15 virtual machines at its main office to run core apps for its 90 staff. Physical servers have been retained at the branch offices for now but these will be replaced over time.

Data protection now comprises a Unitrends 712 backup appliance with 4TB of disk capacity.

The device bundles Unitrends’ Enterprise Backup software on to a 1U hardware appliance, with RAID 10 protection. It also replicates backup data to a secondary site via 1Gbps WAN connection for disaster recovery protection. 

In the event of a disaster at head office, the firm can decamp to the branch and remain fully operational.

The firm now carries out a weekly backup of its virtual machines with incremental backups performed every evening. This replaces the previous situation in which Symantec made a full backup every night. Such a backup regime would be considered over-cautious usually, but Pratesi said it is done, “because we don’t want to risk loss of data.”

The appliance can operate as a server that boots up a virtual machine, should a problem arise with a server.

The key benefits of the appliance, said Pratesi, are that: “it’s easy to restore. Everything’s on disk so you don’t need to find the tape, load it etc. The data is all just there on the appliance or on the RAIDed server in the archive at the branch office.”

Could Unitrends improve on future versions of the 712? Pratesi said: “Any troubleshooting on the appliance is via Linux command line, which is no good if you don’t have those skills, but Unitrends has been very good at supporting us.”

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