Spanning Cloud Apps aids cloud-to-cloud backup for AMAG

AMAG Pharmaceuticals moved its entire IT infrastructure to the cloud, but that didn't change its need for rock solid data protection.

AMAG Pharmaceuticals has been without an on-site data center since 2008 and it moved all of its unstructured data from networked storage to Google Apps in 2011. But before he would commit to having all of his company's file data on the cloud, IT director and cloud architect Steve Simmons wanted to be sure it was protected.

“We were not going to go forward with Google Apps until we had a data protection strategy,” Simmons said. “I had concerns about using Google Apps without backup.”

His concerns went away after he found Spanning Cloud Apps, a fledgling company at the time that is now part of EMC following a 2014 acquisition. Spanning concentrates on cloud-to-cloud backup. Backup for Google Apps was its first product, and it has since added Backup for Salesforce and Backup for Office 365. Simmons said he tested Spanning's Backup for Google Apps for about six months before giving the go-ahead to ditch AMAG's remaining on-site storage.

Simmons said Waltham, Mass.-based AMAG now has about 300 users on Google Apps, using it for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. He said AMAG has about 2 TB of unstructured data on Google Apps. Moving to Google Apps completed AMAG's storage migration off EMC Clariion SAN arrays and Data Domain backup appliances. It runs databases in various clouds for block storage.

“After we found Spanning, within six months we realized it could work and we gave the green light to migrate the whole company over,” he said. “We got off [Microsoft] Exchange and traditional file shares, and moved everything to the cloud.”

Spanning uses the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to store copies of data created in Google Apps. Customers who need to restore deleted files can retrieve them from AWS. 

Cloud-to-cloud backup is necessary because the cloud services such as Google Apps and Salesforce will often not restore data deleted by users without charging a fee.

“The responsibility to protect data doesn't go away when it's in the cloud,” Simmons said. “Google has high availability and redundancy to protect themselves. But if we experienced data loss or if something went wrong on our side, they don't cover you for that. They have a 30-day grace period, but if somebody accidentally deletes something and it goes in the trash beyond 30 days, guess what? It's gone.

“Or what if you have a malicious employee or hostile termination and somebody goes and deletes everything? We needed protection against a scenario like that. It's like regular traditional brick-and-mortar IT. You still have to do those nightly backups. That concept never changed, even if the data's in the cloud.”

AMAG received a scare when a Google Drive client sync crash wiped out a folder with Human Resources files. Google Docs weren't available from the web trash or users' recycle bins.

“Google Drive client software malfunctioned. The synch propagated back into Google Drive and it deleted everything,” Simmons said. “Nobody knew who owned specific files. I just went into Spanning and it took me about 30 seconds to restore. I went into file restore and boom, done. Otherwise, those docs probably would've been gone.”

Simmons said his one complaint about Spanning -- lack of good search feature -- was addressed early on after he complained to Spanning's lead engineer and CEO.

He said having Google Apps and Spanning helped make his job easier after AMAG acquired Lumara Health late last year. Instead of a painstaking process to integrate Lumara's backup data, it took minutes to add Google and Spanning licenses.

‘We had 150 people and absorbed another 150,” Simmons said. “We didn't have to buy more hardware to integrate their systems into ours. It took about 10 minutes. I would never go back to the old way.”

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