I find it valuable to hear from folks who are actually using a technology rather than just speaking with the suppliers. This time, I had the opportunity to communicate with Daniel Robinson, systems administrator, Victoria College, about why they selected FalconStor's Network Storage Server.
Please introduce yourself and your organization?
Based in the small city of Victoria, TX (between Corpus Christi and Houston) on the Texas Gulf Coast, Victoria College is a public community college with an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students and 250 faculty and staff across its main campus and five satellite locations. Our 11 member IT staff is charged with overseeing technology endeavors, some of which include courses that are offered through an interactive TV, video capture, e-mail and more. We are based in a potential hurricane-disaster zone, so we must ensure that all data is protected and available for quick recovery.
What are you doing that needed this type of technology?
For years, we had struggled to protect our data using a backup solution that consisted of disk-to-disk and tape backup products. However, the backup to tape took two and half days to complete and they were not always complete or consistent due to server hand-ups or tapes going bad. In the event of a hurricane, we had advance warning, but not enough to do a complete backup, and even then the data wasn’t the most current. We wanted to accelerate the backup and recovery process without affecting the server performance, but also faced the challenge of finding a data protection solution that was within the college’s unique infrastructure environment and budge restrictions. The solution had to work with the Banner ERP system that runs on an Oracle RAC cluster using automatic storage management (ASM).
What products did you consider before making a selection?
With the assistance of our local channel partner, KA Data Systems, we looked at several data protection solutions from EMC, Oracle and FalconStor and ultimately chose FalconStor Network Storage Server (NSS) for storage virtualization and FalconStor Continuous Data Protector (CDP) for data replication to an off-site location. Located at the main data center and the remote disaster recovery site, the data protection solution takes snapshots of the Oracle servers every four hours and of all other servers once a day. It then replicates the data off-site between midnight and 2:00 a.m., protecting four terabytes of data.
Why did you select this product?
We decided to implement the storage virtualization and data protection solutions as they fit best into the college’s business continuity plan and it easily handled the custom IT infrastructure environment we had in place. Although, the use of storage virtualization was primarily selected for the backup of the Oracle environment, the solution allows for an easier migration of data and storage expansion. The college effectively tested this disaster recovery solution in mounting the replicated logical unit numbers (LUNS) to a VMware box and bringing up all the servers, including those hosting Oracle, quickly and without issue.
What tangible benefit have you gotten through the use of this product?
Since implementing this solution, the college has saved on storage space through effective management of the snapshot frequency. In addition, as the staff does not need to switch out tapes and transport them to a fire-proof safe across campus or to a local bank vault, there is no need for the staff to work on weekends or holidays. Rather, staff time is now spent on more strategic issues. The most tangible benefit is the $800-$1,000 saved each year by not purchasing tapes. Rather than waiting days, the college’s IT infrastructure is up and running within hours of a major incident.
What advice would you offer others facing similar circumstances?
If an educational institution or company is examining how to create and implement an effective disaster recovery plan, the use of disk-based data replication to an off-site location should be considered. An institution cannot afford downtime, as information must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. In our case, students and faculty must be able to access their data and information on the various courses regardless if the main data center is under a hurricane threat. By deploying this solution, we increased storage efficiency, reduced staff workloads and eliminated costly tape expenditures. The college’s infrastructure and its data are fully protected in the event of any disaster, human or natural.