Data deduplication software solves remote backup problems for Loomis

Loomis turns to EMC Avamar data deduplication software to protect data from its cash management systems at dozens of remote sites.

Cash management firm Loomis uses a two-pronged data deduplication/data protection strategy with EMC Corp. Avamar deduplication software installed at dozens of sites for remote backup, and EMC Data Domain appliances at its Houston data center.

Loomis has approximately 8,000 employees and around 3,000 armored vehicles in the United States to transport its customers’ cash. But much of its business comes from electronic cash management systems placed onsite for customers such as banks and retail stores. Data from those systems gets backed up at Loomis' satellite offices.

Loomis switched to Avamar to replace tape drives at 67 remote offices in 2008, and followed with Data Domain and EMC NetWorker software for centralized backups of Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle and file data in 2009. It replicates from Avamar Data Store and Data Domain DD660 systems in the data center to similar systems at a disaster recovery site about 20 miles away.

Loomis VP of IT infrastructure Bill Homes said he made the switch to speed backups and make them easier to manage at remote sites. But he’s also found it makes restores much faster and facilitates disaster recovery.

The Loomis field offices back up data every night from the company’s cash management devices. Before switching, Loomis had to send trucks to its satellite sites to pick up tapes every night.

“We were not making our backup windows -- plus, there was a mitigated risk [to data],” Homes said.

He said Microsoft Exchange alone took 16 hours to back up. “It was getting to where we couldn’t back up in a 24-hour period using agents over the LAN [with CA BrightStor ARCserve],” he said.

Deduplication software and disk cuts backup windows

After switching to disk and deduplication software, Homes said Loomis cut its backup process to about four or five hours. Homes said deduplication lets Loomis move 800 GB across its WAN from remote offices instead of storing 50 TB on tape each night.

“The branches have servers in the field that we use to handle our cash management pieces,” Homes said. “So every night around midnight, we back them up and they come back to our centralized location here in Houston. We also replicate that to our DR site.

“We have backups at the branch, we back up here, and we back up at the DR site.”

Homes said Loomis backs up about 24 TB a week with EMC NetWorker and Data Domain and about 200 GB a week with Avamar. He said Loomis gets an average of 12x compression with dedupe.

File restores get faster

Homes said the new setup also allows for much quicker recoveries, both for Loomis employees and customers.

“Sometimes we have customers who come in and want to do some research,” he said. “We used to have to set up tapes, we’d have to re-index the tape, get the information, then bring it back. Now we can restore the information to a virtual server here and we’re able to do all the research. We used to have an SLA [service-level agreement] of two weeks when a customer wanted to do that; now we can do it in a number of hours.”

A restore used to take several days to get their data back, and now we have the file back before they get off the phone.

Bill Homes, VP of IT infrastructure, Loomis

He said when Loomis employees call from the field to restore files, IT can have the files back in minutes. “A restore used to take several days to get their data back, and now we have the file back before they get off the phone,” he said. “Another issue was, we didn’t know if the tape was good or not. Now I get a report every morning in my email inbox [from EMC Data Protection Advisor] that shows me everything that’s been backed up.”

Homes said he had an eight-month ROI on Avamar installations in the field because of money saved on tape drive and server upgrades, as well as the company Loomis paid to provide IT services to its branches.

Loomis still moves data off to tape every 60 days for archiving, but Homes said he is considering switching to disk for archives as well.

Business continuity benefits

Loomis used its data protection setup for disaster recovery in 2008 when hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast. It used Avamar to snapshot a remote server in an office near New Orleans and restored to a virtual server in Houston. “In about two hours, we were able to reconfigure our other branches to process that [Louisiana] data,” Homes said. “It was slower moving data across a LAN, but we kept our business going.”

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