Feb 15 2016
Data Center

School Finds 'Snapshot' Backup Solution for Virtual Machines

District IT departments look for tools that integrate with virtualization software.

Like many other organizations, school districts have virtualized their servers over the past several years. At Camas School District 117 in Camas, Wash., the IT staff needed a backup and recovery system that worked more efficiently in the district’s virtual environment.

Backup is increasingly important because, as organizations virtualize, they need backup tools that support their new environments and offer recovery capabilities that can anchor a disaster recovery plan. Organizations also look for deduplication features in backup tools that allow more efficient use of disk space.

“We’re at the point where our servers are about 98 percent virtualized, so we need backup that runs well over VMware,” says Adam Green, systems engineer and server administrator for Camas.

Green says the district, which supports about 6,800 students across nine facilities, deployed a backup system from Veeam a few years ago.

The Veeam backup takes a virtual snapshot of the virtual machines (VMs), automating a process that used to require that scripts be developed by hand. The results have been impressive: Backup windows — the total amount of time backups run overnight — have been cut by 50 percent. And through deduplication, the district has reduced overall space utilization by two-thirds.

“We have saved so much storage that we have enough space to make two copies of our backup,” Green says.

Jason Buffington, a principal analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, says backup tools have mostly caught up with efforts by IT departments to virtualize their computing environments.

“We’re at a point where, for about 99 percent of the applications, there’s no longer any reason to write scripts,” Buffington says. “Without question, your backup solution today should be able to back up virtual machines, and come with embedded technology to back up VMs.”

Maryland School District Upgrades its Backup Solution

Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland also upgraded its backup and recovery with Veeam.

Manish Patel, senior systems administrator, says the district rolled out Veeam in the spring of 2015 to 128 buildings. He says every school has a Microsoft Hyper-V server that runs the building’s domain controllers, System Center Configuration Manager and holds data storage. Each server stores about 2 terabytes of data.

“With our old system, we were having problems with backing up the data server,” he explains.

Now, recovery times have been slashed from three days to under an hour — plus, Patel says Veeam’s deduplication feature delivers about a 30 percent disk savings.

“The recovery time becomes really important when we are doing testing,” he says. “We can’t have a school down for three days during a testing period.”

Patel says the district was so impressed with Veeam in the field that it plans to roll it out to the main data center — which holds a 400TB Hyper-V cluster — later this year. According to Patel, the district hopes to reduce recovery time in the data center from a day to under an hour.

“We’re also looking to save space in our disk enclosures through better dedupe ratios,” he adds.


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