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University's bookstores streamline backup management

Each of Virginia Tech's three bookstore locations has a separate data backup appliance from Arkeia, but all can be managed centrally via the Web.

Before turning to Arkeia Software's EdgeFort 100 appliances, IT administrators at Virginia Tech's three bookstores often spent hours changing backup tapes at three locations on campus.

"It was a real pain," said Lynn Donahue-Wilmer, Virginia Tech Services network and software engineer. "It was just a couple miles, but it took significant time out of our day."

One option was to replicate data from the three bookstores to one repository. Instead, the bookstores' two IT admins installed the EdgeFort appliances at each location. With an EdgeFort currently running at each location, the bookstores have cut out the runaround while maintaining individual management at each site. The EdgeFort appliances include backup software, disk and tape, all in one unit.

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"I can manage all the appliances through one interface or log in individually to each of them through a Web browser across our existing network," Donahue-Wilmersaid. "I can set up backup jobs, do restores and read reports from all the appliances without having to leave my desk."

Each location previously ran individual instances of Symantec's Backup Exec software for Windows and Linux scripts for Tape ARchive (tar) backups on non-Windows hosts. Donahue-Wilmer wanted to add disk into the equation to stop the daily trips to collect tapes, but when she looked into what it would cost to get such a system from Symantec and other vendors, such as Cybernetix and NovaNet, she quickly got sticker shock.

"For Symantec, we would need new software for all the servers, which we were quoted at an educational discount at $20,000," she said. "That was for just software." Cybernetix could supply hardware for a similar price. NovaNet's offer was for software only.

Eventually, Donahue-Wilmer's local VAR recommended looking at Arkeia's EdgeFort appliance, which bundles software and hardware. With its educational discount, the price the school was getting from Arkeia came to less than Symantec's software-only quote.

EdgeFort allows the bookstores to add disk-based backup to the equation while maintaining tape backups for off-site disaster recovery. The bookstores now retain two weeks of data on the EdgeFort's disk, and the appliance cuts full backups to tape once every two weeks.

EdgeFort does lack features offered by its competitors, such as integrated data deduplication. Instead, the device overwrites its full copy on disk with each change and offers industry-standard compression to save space. Donahue-Wilmer said she's also experienced minor glitches in the software, such as "false negatives," on reports that show open files haven't been backed up properly. "But when I go back and look at those files, they've been backed up just fine," she said.

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