Oct 27 2008

Moving Forward With Backup

Guest Column

Moving Forward With Backup


Shandor Simon

Sometimes one event can change the way you look at an entire section of your school’s IT infrastructure. That’s exactly what happened at the Latin School of Chicago a year ago.

Sometimes one event can change the way you look at an entire section of your school’s IT infrastructure. That’s exactly what happened at the Latin School of Chicago a year ago.

A diverse community of 1,100 students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade, the school has a robust technology component: 250 teachers and three buildings are connected by fiber-optic links, and each student has a home directory on a server where they can access their work from any computer in the system.

We had a backup routine in place, but when our backup administrator left last year, we realized that managing the network and its data effectively was a bigger job than our already-busy IT staff could handle. To address the issue, we had to delineate what our problems were, decide what solution would fit our needs, and then implement the new system in the middle of a school year with as little disruption as possible. Here are the steps we took to create a robust data management system.

Data, Data and More Data

Our student and teacher storage needs have doubled annually. The school currently has approximately 10 terabytes of data, including basic file servers, library catalogs, video and database servers. Our backup software required three to four hours of staff time daily to manage. In addition, catalogs occasionally became corrupted and required lengthy rebuilds. The software also struggled to perform backups on our largest file servers, which each had more than 1TB of data.

The Latin School set out to find a backup solution that would be reliable and easy to use and would back up all the school’s data in eight hours. The first step was to evaluate the school’s environment and consider every data management need. The school needed a solution that could handle its 82 servers running Linux, Mac and Windows operating systems without adding to administration time. Much of the school’s mission-critical data is on VMware ESX servers, so support for VMware backup capabilities was essential.

For increased performance, the school wanted to back up to disk, using virtual tape libraries, before backing up to tape. As we were going through these requirements, officials realized the school had more stringent criteria to meet than originally thought and would need to carefully consider several different solutions.

BakBone’s NetVault: Backup was able to meet the school’s diverse needs, offering server virtualization, heterogeneous computing environment support and reporting capabilities. The switch to NetVault: Backup for our data management and protection produced immediate and dramatic benefits. Not only are we more confident that our data will be accessible when needed, but we have also been able to save a substantial amount of staff time, which helps us stay within our budget. By switching to a new backup solution, we were able to carefully manage our growing data, secure in the knowledge that our backups worked.

Who’s to Blame?

There are six main reasons that computers suffer data loss. Here are the main contributors:

  • 40% – Hardware failure
  • 29% – Human error
  • 13% – Software corruption
  • 9% – Theft
  • 6% – Computer viruses
  • 3% – Hardware destruction

Source: “The Cost of Lost Data,” David M. Smith. Graziadio Business Report, Vol. 6, No. 3 (2003)

Tracking Lost Data

Although nearly every computer user has lost data at some point, statistics about data loss are hard to find. According to David M. Smith, author of “The Cost of Lost Data,” 6 percent of all PCs will lose some data in any given year. Notebook users beware: More than one in 10 notebooks will lose data within the year, while the same is true for only 2 percent of desktop PCs. Thirty-four percent of institutions fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77 percent have found tape-backup failures, says Smith.