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On-premises, Office 365 backup key for FDA-regulated firm

Medical device manufacturer Millar has two-pronged data protection -- Barracuda Networks appliances and cloud for on-premises backups and EMC Spanning for Office 365 backups.

With long data retention requirements, medical device maker Millar uses the cloud to back up its on-premises data as well as data created in the cloud. Because those are different processes, Millar uses different tools for those jobs.

Millar deploys Barracuda Networks appliances and the Barracuda cloud for on-premises data. The Houston-based manufacturer uses EMC's Spanning Microsoft Office 365 backup for data residing in the 365 cloud.

"We're probably overly paranoid about backups, given that we back up everything every two hours," said Todd Miller, Millar's IT director.

"Overly paranoid" is probably a good way to approach backups, especially when data is created and lives in the cloud with no copies on-premises. Because software as a service (SaaS) companies such as Salesforce, Google and Microsoft don't provide native backup, customers are exposed if they don't do it themselves. Deleted files and emails can be lost for good without a Cloud-to-cloud backup application in place to copy SaaS data to a second cloud location.

Millar provides neurological and cardiac catheters and keeps data for decades because of FDA regulations. For instance, with one product, it will have to maintain all information for 20 years after the life of the product.

Most people don't realize when they switch to 365, Microsoft doesn't actually back up [their] data.
Todd MillerIT director, Millar

"The long retention times are big challenges for us," Miller said.

Millar switched to Office 365 from an on-premises email application in October 2013. But that left the company without email backup.

"Most people don't realize when they switch to 365, Microsoft doesn't actually back up [their] data," Miller said. "They simply replicate it. If I delete an email, if they have three copies of it, all three copies are gone when it's deleted."

EMC Spanning for Office 365 backup

Miller was a beta tester for Spanning's Office 365 backup in late 2014, little more than a month after EMC acquired Spanning. "Over the course of six months in beta, we found it met all our needs and fit what we wanted to do," Miller said.

Barracuda added Office 365 backup around that time and Miller said he also tried that, but found it more difficult to use than Spanning. Other options for Office 365 backup include Datto's Backupify, Druva, Asigra, CloudAlly and CodeTwo.

Spanning Backup for Office 365 provides point-in-time backup and restores, and allows users to search for copies of emails that may have been deleted. Spanning's Office 365 backup starts at $48 per user, per year.

Millar became a paying customer when Spanning's Office 365 backup became generally available in July 2015.

Miller said he has only had to do a handful of restores through Spanning, but those enabled him to save files that would have been lost for good.

"One was an employee who left," he said. "We had to do a cross-mailbox restore. We just had to go into the Spanning console, identify the emails we needed and restore to a different user's mailbox in a matter of seconds. Another time, a user couldn't find an email, and we restored that quickly. It took more than two weeks before the user realized the email was lost. In a situation like that, if you didn't realize you deleted it, it's pretty much gone [without cloud-to-cloud backup]."

Spanning backs up data to Amazon's cloud, but the customer does not have to deal directly with Amazon.

"It's not important for us to know where the [backed up] data physically resides, just that we can restore in a moment's notice," Miller said.

Millar has around 3 TB of data on Office 365, shared by about 100 users. Miller said one benefit of using 365 is he can give users unlimited space to archive mail so they don't have to worry about deleting. That's something he takes full advantage of personally.

"We used to be strict about telling them to archive, but now we've told them we have so much storage [in the cloud] that they don't have to archive," he said. "I'm in the top five mailbox sizes in the company. I don't delete anything."

He expects Millar to add Microsoft OneDrive for file sharing in 2016, and will also use Spanning to protect that data. "If you read the fine print, Microsoft will tell you they don't back up [OneDrive files]," he said.

Barracuda backup for on-premises storage

Millar uses Barracuda appliances and cloud to back up on-premises storage at its main data center in Houston and its research and development office in Auckland, New Zealand.

Millar backs up its on-site file server data to a Barracuda appliance and then replicates that to Barracuda's cloud. Miller said the company has about 6 TB backed up in the Barracuda cloud.

Millar keeps daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups, with the monthly and annual backups going to the cloud, Miller said. Annual backups are retained for 20 years, and then purged.

"We have an aggressive backup schedule," Miller said. "We back up all file servers every two hours. We back up disk-to-disk locally and then disk to cloud."

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