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Cancer hospital cures VM backup woes

Roswell Park Cancer Institute struggled with VM backups and restores until it combined Veeam software and Hewlett-Packard StoreOnce disk targets.

After becoming heavily virtualized, Roswell Park Cancer Institute changed its backup software twice before finding the right fit. The third time proved a charm as the combination of Veeam software and Hewlett-Packard's StoreOnce deduplication disk target gave Roswell the backup and restore performance required to protect hundreds of virtual machines (VMs).

The Buffalo, N.Y., cancer center has about 500 VMware VMs and around 3,400 users, according to its systems analyst, Nick Vega.

Vega said the hospital used Symantec NetBackup when it started virtualizing servers, but found it only worked for up to around 10 virtual machines. "When we went past that, all VMware backups and snapshots took forever," he said.

So he switched to HP Data Protector, but that proved inadequate when Roswell's virtual project brought it to about 400 VMs within a year. Vegas said that when he ran a test to back up five VMs, it took 24 hours. Data Protector also required extra licenses for file-level restores, he said.

In early 2012, he brought software from VM backup specialist Veeam in for testing. He found he could do a full backup in less than 10 hours, and its granular restores allow him to restore a VM in five minutes. He finds Veeam especially useful for protecting the hospital's 10 Microsoft Exchange servers.

"We can do file-level restores," he said. "We run fully virtualized Exchange. Whatever you need out of Exchange -- mailbox, calendar appointments -- you can pull out of the Exchange Explorer."

Roswell uses Veeam Backup Management Suite, which includes its Backup & Replication application and Veeam One monitoring and reporting. Vega said the suite costs less than licensing Data Protector for VMs.

Roswell is an HP shop, and although Data Protector didn't work out for VMs, Vega said he stores VMs on HP 3PAR storage and has three pairs of StoreOnce B6200 appliances for disk backup. He said both help protect VMs. "We take snaps on 3PAR storage instead of doing it in VMware," he said. "Doing snaps in storage is a lot quicker than in VMware. That reduces our backup window more."

He said the deduplication from Veeam and StoreOnce gives him substantial data reduction. One Exchange data store holds 75 TB of user-stored data, and takes up only 25 TB when backed up.

Vega still uses Data Protector to protect physical servers and moves those backups to tape. He said he was pleased to see Veeam add tape support last year. Now, "the only thing I wish they did was back up physical servers along with virtual machines."

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