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Health care provider takes control of data backups

Community Health Centers Alliance manages backups better in house with virtual tape library, tape and data deduplication rather than using a managed service provider.

After using a managed service for backups, one Florida health care provider brought its backups in house last year to cut backup times in half at a lower cost while taking more control over its data.

Community Health Centers Alliance (CHCA) in St. Petersburg switched from a managed service to in-house backup with disk and tape because it cost more than $50,000 a year to back up around 4 TB per month, according to IT systems administrator Dave Henson. He says the managed service backups were slow because the backup environment was shared with other customers and averaged 12 hours per day.

CHCA switched to a Spectra Logic Corp. nTier300 VTL running FalconStor's data deduplication software and a Spectra T50e LTO-4 tape library late last year. Henson says that cut backups to six hours, and decreased the restore times. He estimates the ROI at 13 months.

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"With the managed backup, we didn't handle any disk or tape," Henson said. "The problem we had with that was, so many people in that data center were competing for the same resources and there was contention with the devices doing backup. We could not get guaranteed backup windows. We were bringing data up while still doing backups. We brought it in house because we needed a guarantee that 'This is when the database is going to be backed up, and that's it.'"

CHCA has about 13 TB of Fibre Channel and SATA drives on an IBM System Storage DS4700 SAN. It services about 70 clinics in Florida and has around 600 users.

Henson says one Oracle database was a particular concern to CHCA while using the managed service. The database includes 1.5 million externally linked PDF files, and he often had to turn it off during the managed backups because of the contention issue. Now he says his backup window for the database is three hours, and he can restore it in under two hours.

"Restores are extremely fast now," he said. "We do backups at night, and tape creation from the VTL (through Symantec BackupExec) during the day."

Henson says he keeps two weeks of data on disk and his dedupe ratio is 4.5 to 1, although he hopes to see that improve over time. He also plans to replicate data offsite for disaster recovery.

"The biggest advantage in going to a VTL was the fact it could replicate data offsite," he said. "We wanted to be able to use replication so when we get to a hot site or cold site for DR, we don't have to ship tape out there."

But even then, CHCA will find a use for tape. "We're grant-driven, so maybe if we get another grant we'll add an nTier," Henson said. "But until the tape drive gets old and unreliable, it will stay around."

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