Drug research firm mulls tape, picks integrated data backup appliance

U.S. office of drug research firm Evotec considered returning to tape after a series of disk failures, but went with integrated appliance/cloud combo.

Stung by disk failures, the U.S. office of pharmaceutical research firm Evotec nearly reverted to tape backups. In the end, IT support engineer Sam Jost found solace in a more convenient, integrated data backup appliance in combination with the cloud.

Jost said he was frustrated by simultaneous disk failures during his first year in Evotec's San Francisco office. The company contracted with backup services provider EVault for its backup software and hardware, which consisted of a Dell R610 server connected to a Nexsan SATAboy storage array. Jost said several simultaneous disk failures on the SATAboy prompted him to consider changing his backup model after Evotec had to either rebuild drives or have EVault ship a drive loaded with its cloud backups to restore from.

"Needless to say, I wasn't happy," Jost said of the hardware failures.

He was so unhappy that he considered going back to tape when his EVault contract ran out in June. Instead, he upgraded to a newer EVault Plug-n-Protect 600 (PnP600) appliance with backup software and server integrated.

A week of training outside of the office convinced Jost he made the right call.

"We almost went back to tape," he said. "We went back and forth on whether to renew the contract. I was off on training outside the office for a week, and coming from a tape and courier world, it was awesome not having to worry about going to the office after training to swap out tapes. I only had to check my email and see how the jobs were running. That week, I realized this EVault system is convenient and worth keeping around."

Evotec's PnP600 includes 7 TB of licensed disk and the ability to upgrade to 12 TB. The appliance includes a media server and EVault System Restore and Replication software. Evotec keeps seven days of backups on the server and then uses EVault Replication to move data to the cloud.

"We were going to go back to a two-step solution with disk-to-disk backup, then backing up to tape and using a tape courier," Jost said. "The initial cost for hardware would be substantial, and there would be ongoing costs with tapes and storage, but we were willing to take that hit for a potentially more reliable situation."

Jost said the new integrated appliance has been reliable. It also allows him to segregate data from Evotec projects with multiple clients.

"We run separate jobs for different clients and use encryption that EVault provides with the software," he said. "Everything gets encrypted as it gets backed up, and stays encrypted as it is sent off to the cloud."

Evotec does nightly backups to the cloud via a 50 mbps ISP connection. Jost said EVault's deduplication means that only around 5 GBs to 10 GBs go to the cloud on nightly backups, and about 150 GBs on weekends. Evotec uses the appliance mostly to back up files.

Evotec still uses the Veeam Software Backup & Replication application to back up server images, although Jost said he wants to test EVault's virtual machine client. He is also considering eventually adding the EVault disaster recovery system.

He said the frequent drive failures with his old system showed him the value of using the cloud as part of his backups. "That's one bonus of this system; if you have problems with the hardware, you can go back to the cloud for your data."

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