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Schools trust dumps 22 backup systems for Arcserve UDP

Wakefield-based academy school trust went from 22 different backup systems and no adequate disaster recovery provision to unified Arcserve virtual and physical backup

Outwood Grange Academies Trust has rationalised numerous disparate disk and tape legacy systems onto a single Arcserve UDP backup and data protection infrastructure across more than 20 sites.

The north England-based schools operator has now achieved compliant disaster recovery provision and reduced backup windows by up to 98%, reduced stored data by 65% and saved 70% in licence costs.

The trust is headquartered in Wakefield and has its main datacentre in Leeds. From here, it runs IT for 22 academies across north England, with 10,000 students and 2,500 members of staff.

These schools became part of the trust through a process of acquisition and each of them varied in its backup infrastruture, said IT director Stuart Jones, with a mixture of disk and tape in use and no uniform disaster recovery provision.

He said: “We had no confidence that any site could be disaster recovery-compliant if something happened one weekend or if there wasn’t anyone to take tapes off-site, for example.”

By early 2015, Jones said the time had come to make a change. “We’d had a close call with an Exchange server and our board of trustees would have asked a lot of questions if we’d not got an email server back.”

What data protection products did Jones’s team look at at that time?

“Initially, in terms of what systems were out there, we were very sheltered. In education, only two names regularly come up – [Symantec] Backup Exec and Veeam – but both of these were difficult in terms of price point,” said Jones.

“We had a wish list and looked around, but got turned off by price and by a lot of suppliers who force you to pay for storage at both sites – the primary copy and the replica – except Arcserve.”

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Unitrends was rejected because it didn’t scale to the required volume of data.

Outwood Grange’s requirement was to ensure it could get a copy of backup data off its sites to its central datacentre. That means about 120TB of data overall.

Specialist virtual server backup product Veeam was rejected because virtualisation was deemed impractical or undesirable at some academy schools.

At each school, Arcserve UDP – bought as a software product – runs on a Dell Poweredge R730 server and backs up 234 servers – 52 physical and 182 virtual. On site, each school keeps 90 to 180 days of data, while the central site keeps a year’s worth. Backups are on an incremental forever basis.

The central datacentre uses a DellMD3420 storage array with an MD1400 expansion shelf. PCIe flash is used on all backup servers to help with processing.

Accessible data

Backups had been either full at weekends (at tape locations) or incremental Monday to Friday with weekend fulls. This had meant restore times of up to 48 hours for some data at some schools. Now, all data is on disk and accessible in minutes.

Data deduplication on Arcserve is carried out locally and then globally across data that is held centrally. Jones said this has allowed data reduction rates of 83%, with 89TB of data held as 15TB.

Key benefits for Jones are peace of mind and the ability to store a lot more data.

“I’m far more confident. I can sleep at night and not worry that something hasn’t backed up or that a tape hasn’t been taken home. We can also maintain and store a lot more data than before. It was only a month’s worth in some cases, but now we can keep a year on disk,” said Jones.

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