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Harris consolidates backup process

With volume of data doubling yearly, administrators at Harris Corp. needed a fast fix for a troublesome tape backup routine.

Harris consolidates backup process
Storage management saves time on backups

by Michael Alexander

With the volume of data doubling every year, NT administrators at Harris Corp. needed a fast fix for their troublesome tape backup routine.

The only thing NT administrators at Harris Corp. really could count on each night when they scheduled tape backups were tape or network snafus or operators forgetting to change backup tapes.

"On at least one of the machines something would happen every night," recalls Robert Reynolds, NT systems administrator at Harris. The company, based in Melbourne, Fla., markets equipment for microwave, broadcast and other communications systems. Some nights, backups on a machine or two were skipped entirely, leaving data unprotected, Reynolds says.

Even when backups went off without a hitch, the NT admins weren't completely sure if they could reliably restore from them. One of the tricks was to actually find the right tape in an ever-growing stack of tapes.

"The whole process of backing up and managing tapes was labor intensive and prone to errors," Reynolds says. Meanwhile, Harris was experiencing big company growth, and the NT guardians knew that managing tape backup was only going to become even more dicey as the number of NT and Unix servers swelled.

Two years ago, after a six-month evaluation, Harris selected Legato System Inc.'s NetWorker and GEMS Console backup and storage management software.

Legato NetWorker software enables enterprises to protect distributed data on client/server architectures with automated media handling and remote tape management, among other features.

GEMS Console allows IT and storage administrators to centrally monitor, administer and create reports on Legato NetWorker servers from any client running Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

While the number of machines the NT admins in Melbourne oversee has spiraled from 10 to about 300 servers in the past two years or so, the backup strain has tapered sharply, thanks to consolidated backup management.

Most of the sites have tape libraries, spanning an 8-slot HP SurStore to an 80-slot StorageTek 9714. The tape libraries run incremental backups each night and full backups with cloning on the weekends. The entire process triggers automatically, according to a preset schedule. "Just about anything I need to do on the backups, other than physically removing a tape, I can do from here," Reynolds says. "There might be one or two problems a night, but when you consider that we're backing up 300 machines or more, that's nothing. Legato has made a big job a small job."

With more reliable backups comes higher quality data protection. Consolidating backups and restores also enabled the company to cut the amount of time in a typical week it takes to do restores by 10 to 12 hours.

Reynolds says he's confident the administrators can handle their escalating backup volume, which has doubled on both NT and Unix servers in just the past year. Each week, Harris backs up 1.8 TB to 2 TB on NT and a similar amount on Unix at its Melbourne location alone.

Reynolds says he's been talking to Legato about features he hopes to see in subsequent versions of Legato Networker and GEMS Console. He wants to be able to change schedules simultaneously at all 35 sites. Right now, he has to make those changes one at a time. He also wants to "push down more policies into Legato" that will prevent users at remote sites from making unauthorized changes to backup policies and procedures he sets.

A spokesperson for Legato says while the company listens to its customers, its policy is to never comment on features that might be available in upcoming releases.

For more information on Legato, visit its Web site.

To find out more about Harris, visit its Web site.

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