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Cloud backups shine for lighting company

Westinghouse Lighting found tape 'archaic' and realized the value of cloud backups in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Jesse Reyna, IT support supervisor for Westinghouse Lighting, said his move off "archaic" tape to cloud backup came after Hurricane Sandy proved the value of good off-site data protection.

Philadelphia-based Westinghouse uses Zetta's DataProtect to back up more than 5 TB of data stored on more than 30 servers, including critical data on its ERP system. Westinghouse manufactures lighting products such as bulbs, fixtures and ceiling fans.

"Our core business is shipping our products," Reyna said. "If we're not pulling an order, packing it and shipping it, we're in big trouble."

Zetta's DataProtect cloud backups require no extra hardware at the customer site. Customers install Zetta Mirror agents on each computer they want to protect. The agent keeps a local cache and replicates files to one of two Zetta data centers. DataProtect also includes plug-ins for applications such as Microsoft SQL and Exchange. The plug-ins let customers use on-premises storage for the most recent copy of large backup files.

Reyna said most of Westinghouse's servers run Zetta mirror agents, which replicate to Zetta's East Coast data center. For its Microsoft SQL transactional database, Westinghouse uses a server "that [acts] like a media server and has an agent for Zetta and pushes the backup to the cloud," Reyna said.

He said Westinghouse tested Zetta's restore capability during Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged much of the East Coast of the U.S last October. Reyna and his team prepared for the worst. They placed a mirror copy of a backup to a volume on Zetta's West Coast data center as a disaster recovery option.

"We moved our transactional database," Reyna said. "We wanted to make sure all our critical data was protected off-site. We were able to do a quick backup and made a mirror copy just in case because we weren't sure of what the implications of Sandy would be."

Westinghouse was spared much of Sandy's wrath. It never lost power in its Philadelphia building, and when the IT team returned after the storm it restored the backed up files without a hitch.

Westinghouse's move to cloud backups was prompted by a frustration with tape. Reyna said restores took too long with its old method of using Symantec Backup Exec 2010 and storing tapes with Iron Mountain.

"With the archaic process of backing up to tape, the backup window was getting longer as our data grew, and a simple request to restore a user's file on one of our file servers took hours because we didn't want to interrupt a backup," he said. "We would have to postpone the restore and impact the efficiency of that user while waiting for the backup to finish."

Westinghouse considered upgrading to Backup Exec 2012, but Reyna said he noticed a lot of unhappy customers on user forums. "It changed completely; Symantec rewrote the application. We saw a lot of customers were not pleased with what Symantec had done. We didn't want to go with that option because it wouldn't be a straight upgrade path."

He considered disk backup solutions and other cloud providers, but all of them came with a capital expense, either for a backup target appliance or a gateway to move data to the cloud. Reyna said he came across Zetta on Spiceworks and gave it a shot. "We were impressed with the speed of backups and restores, and with how simple it was."

He said he had security concerns about using the cloud, but Westinghouse is not in a heavily regulated industry and does not store sensitive information such as customer credit card data.

His other initial concern was bandwidth, but Westinghouse upgraded from a 3 Mbps Internet connection to a 50 Mbps connection before switching over. "The first week it took us a little extra time for backups, but nothing significant," he said. "Our transaction database is about 36 GB and we were able to get that up in a couple of days. We didn't see any performance degradation."

Reyna said his one complaint about Zetta is its backup doesn't go far enough. "We wanted to expand to laptops and mobile devices for our remote sales force. Zetta wasn't built for that; it does staged scheduled jobs for servers and maybe desktops. We told the customer support team and they said it wasn't suited for remote backup, but they would consider it for the future."

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