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HVAC/R distributor meets SLAs with Cohesity backup

Master Group replaced its legacy infrastructure with Cisco HyperFlex protected by Cohesity backup. This led to faster backups and restores, and an excuse to throw out tape.

Master Group's backup system needed a major overhaul, with incremental snapshots taking three or more hours to complete.

The Canadian HVAC/R distributor switched to Cohesity backup in December 2019 and found it to be a massive improvement over its previous Quest Rapid Recovery backup. Snapshots for 30 TB servers went from three or four hours to just 20 minutes.

A full backup would take three or four days with Quest, but with Cohesity backing up the same servers, the same virtual machines and on the same underlying storage got backed up at a pace of 1 TB per hour. Restoring a Microsoft Exchange server could be done in hours instead of days.

Lastly, Master Group's IT staff saved an estimated 125 production days per year because it didn't have to devote as many hours to babysitting the backup process, which included an unreliable tape component.

"It asked a lot of our technical team," Master Group's cybersecurity and infrastructure manager Francois Lepage said. "A lot of managing, a lot of checking up."

Master Group's switch to Cohesity backup was part of a larger modernization and consolidation effort centered around Cisco HyperFlex. Convergence meant efficiency, Lepage said. Using only two data centers and being able to control everything on Cisco's hyper-converged platform meant simpler management, fewer vendors and lower costs.

The IT overhaul gave Lepage a chance to replace Quest Rapid Recovery, which he said was simply too slow. He couldn't wait two days to back up or restore an Exchange server, as employees could lose valuable data in that window.

"The business was at risk. We weren't meeting SLAs," Lepage said.

With Cohesity backup, Lepage said he is now able to hit a four-hour recovery time objective (RTO), and recovery point objectives (RPOs) are as low as two hours for some workloads.

Master Group, headquartered in Boucherville, Quebec, sells heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment to various commercial entities and resellers. It is the largest independent HVAC/R distributor in Canada and has about 1,000 employees, four distribution centers and 44 branch offices stretching from Newfoundland to Vancouver.

Photo of Master Group's HQ
Master Group is headquartered in Boucherville, Quebec, and has more than 40 branches.

Lepage looked at other data protection vendors when shopping for new backup, from established names such as Commvault and Veritas to newer players, including Rubrik and Cohesity. He did proofs of concept with Cohesity, Commvault and Rubrik.

Ultimately, he found Cohesity to be easier to manage and faster than the other two, and he liked its native snapshot integration with Cisco HyperFlex. He also said the Google-like search function in Cohesity let his level-one technicians find and perform restores without needing to know where the file lives, freeing up IT resources elsewhere.

Lepage said he has a "hybrid vision" for Master Group's IT, and he is slowly incorporating more and more cloud components to the company's infrastructure. Currently, CRM, ERP and Exchange workloads are all being handled on premises, and Lepage has been investigating what makes sense to migrate to the cloud. Microsoft Exchange is a prime candidate, and Lepage said he expects to move to Microsoft Exchange Online later this year.

Lepage has already moved long-term archiving to the cloud with the Cohesity rollout. Previously, financial and other data that had to be kept for at least seven years for compliance reasons was kept on tape. Lepage found this system time-consuming and unreliable, adding that he had never once successfully restored anything from tape.

"I've never had a working tape in my life, so I was trying to get rid of it at the time," Lepage said.

Master Group has since replaced tape with Cohesity CloudArchive, which stores data in AWS Glacier. Removing tape from the equation cut down much of the time Lepage's team spent on backup tasks, and he trusts the recoverability from the cloud more than from physical tape cartridges. Unlike Quest Rapid Recovery, which he keeps around in case he needs to restore anything from its backups, Lepage has thrown out all of Master Group's tapes, claiming he doesn't find them useful.

Johnny Yu covers enterprise data protection news for TechTarget's Storage sites SearchDataBackup and SearchDisasterRecovery. Before joining TechTarget in June 2018, he wrote for USA Today's consumer product review site, Reviewed.com.

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