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Engineering firm opts for Nasuni for backup to the cloud

ESD's engineering data was growing so fast, its backups could not keep up. The firm turned to the cloud for a backup system that could scale and meet its budget.

Environmental Systems Design (ESD), a consulting and engineering firm, experienced the common problem of having so much production data growth that it could not protect it all with disk-based backups and tapes. ESD looked at about 10 options before it decided on the Nasuni cloud service to handle 20 TB of its engineering design data to back up to the cloud.

EDS has offices in Chicago, Dallas and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and it can have 250 simultaneous projects underway. Most recently, the firm completed design plans for the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which is expected to reach 3,307 feet and surpass the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai as the tallest building the world.

With such critical projects at stake, ESD found itself in an uncomfortable position of not having full backups.

"When we ran the backup, it had a negative effect on our network," said Marc Andersen, ESD's vice president of Information Technology. "We could only run them at night and on weekends. If the engineers were in over the weekend, I'd be forced to cancel the backup so we could get the project out. Like when the Kingdom Tower [project] was going out, we cut all the backups completely."

ESD's clients often ask the company to revisit old projects, so data has to be stored indefinitely and it has to be recoverable on demand. Tape is slow to restore and the disk-based backup is expensive to scale.

"Things got critical maybe a year ago," Andersen said. "There were times people wanted data from a particular week. We just didn't have it. Then we had to go to old tapes and get the best we could find."

Andersen said he looked at traditional storage vendors but the pricing was too high. He was quoted a $100,000 price tag just for one backup option.

"Then we looked at the cloud," he said. "The main reason was for capacity and scalability for network performance. But the main driver is to do regular backups, more frequently than once a week."

ESD hired one cloud storage provider that Andersen declined to identify, which specialized in virtual desktop infrastructure but assured Anderson it could deliver on a backup to the cloud option.

"After six months, it still was not working. It was not their core business. I told them the project was over, so we went back to the drawing board after six months which was disappointing," Andersen said.

Finally, they settled on Nasuni for several reasons. The cloud storage vendor offers unlimited restore time, charges a flat fee rate, does hourly snapshots and doesn't have a time limit for data recovery.

"A lot of solutions offer a restore of up to 90 days, so I would still have to do a tape backup. That is how most solutions were," Anderson said. "They would also charge you extra for moving data."

ESD now has two Nasuni filers on-premises, and each can cache 8 TB to 9 TB of usable capacity. Each system can fail over to the other. After a proof-of-concept period, ESD used Nasuni's migration tool to test some of its less important data first. The firm initially moved one non-critical project share onto the new system and when that proved to be successful, the IT team migrated 7 TB of critical production data from its storage arrays onto the Nasuni services. ESD uses relative pathing in its newer AutoCAD files and direct pathing in some of the firm's older data.

"By two months, everything was on that system," Andersen said. "We have a few shares pointing to (different) server but all the production is on Nasuni. We had one [filer] crash on us and we were able to switch over in minutes. The performance did not deteriorate badly. It's basically set-and-forget. They assigned me an engineer and we have a weekly conference call."

The next step is to install a Nasuni virtual filer in India, to share files globally for the company's next project.

"Then we also plan to set a virtual filer in the Amazon Cloud," he said. "Nasuni and I will work together on that and it will give us disaster recovery."

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