Magazine Article | February 1, 2003

Backup Speed 28 Times Faster

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Since a tape backup system was installed, e-mail backup times have plummeted from 24 hours to 51 minutes for the Washington State Department of Personnel.

Integrated Solutions, February 2003

E-mail has become a means of communication that most of the world relies on, for business and for personal use. On the business end e-mail is often used to send high priority messages and documents. Losing that information could be detrimental to a business, so backing up e-mail is imperative.

The Washington State Department of Personnel (WSDP) may be government run, but it operates much like a business. The WSDP recruits and screens applicants, provides training and development services, implements the State's Civil Service System, and maintains the State's central payroll and personnel information systems. With over 250 employees, the WSDP relies on e-mail for transferring important data. That's why when the e-mail backup system was discovered to be sub-standard the system had to be revamped.

Backup Blunders
Two years ago, the WSDP was backing up its e-mail Exchange server with an outdated DLT (digital linear tape) drive. This created a very slow backup process - so slow it would take almost 24 hours to back up the e-mail system. To make matters worse, if an item in a worker's e-mail folder was deleted and needed to be recovered, backup had to come to a screeching halt, in order to restore the information. Also, because it took 23+ hours to complete a backup, there was only a 20-minute window in which tapes could be changed. Becaue the WSDP wanted to begin the backup process at the same time every day, if that 20-minute window was missed the backup would not be performed over the next 24-hour period.

Seemingly endless backup cycles led to corruption of the hardware. "Tape was running constantly because of the lengthy backup time. Not only did this make it hard to restore data, but it also degraded the performance of the Exchange server," explained Wayne Holland, information technology system specialist for the WSDP. "People were using the system while it was backing up. That's why we installed an entirely new system."

Improved Server Response Cuts Costs
The former Exchange server was replaced with Compaq's ProLiant DL380, and Exabyte's EZ17 autoloader with a Mammoth-2 (M2) tape drive replaced the DLT tape system. The EZ17 was installed directly on the new server with VERITAS Backup Exec 8.6. According to Holland, the EZ17 best fit the needs of the WSDP because it had one of the highest transfer rates at the time. "The EZ17 is attached directly to the server; therefore it is no longer going over the network. Logs show an increased transfer rate from 62.8 to 3488.9 MB/minute, resulting in a much faster backup time. Previous logs show it took 23+ hours to complete a backup, and now it takes only 51 minutes," Holland said. With the backup being time efficient, it can now be done after hours, instead of during the workday. This has resulted in better server response, and it has eliminated the need for excessive amounts of tape. The Exabyte EZ17 can store up to 1 TB and has the ability to hold seven cartridges in a removable magazine. For WSDP purposes, Holland uses only four tapes total. Two tapes are used per 15 days of backups; Holland alternates the tapes every two weeks, bringing the other two tapes into play. "We have no need to buy any more than four tapes because we reuse them over and over." If the WSDP needs more extensive backup, it has the capability to store up to two months' worth of information with the EZ17.

The WSDP plans to install another EZ17 autoloader within the next year in order to back up its Web site content.