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Easing Backup Pains: VistaCare Prescribes Linux-Based Data Protection

  Best Practices published in DM Review Magazine
February 2005 Issue
  By Dave Sirof

As one of the country's leading providers of hospice care for more than 5,300 patients each day throughout 44 programs in 14 states, VistaCare has built its reputation on excellence, compassion and easing emotional and physical pain. Therefore, when VistaCare implemented a network-wide backup and recovery system, IT management wanted the process to be as technologically painless as possible.

Even with significant database growth, we realized that we needed more flexibility in our backup process and had to control rising storage costs. Initially, we developed a complex data protection infrastructure, separately backing up data using a basic backup software package, which included patient records, treatment and billing information on each of our 50 servers. Now it was time to streamline operations.

The point was driven home one morning when a 12GB set of files was corrupted. My team went into action and began the restore operation. After three hours, the existing backup and restore software had not yet begun the restoration. We initiated the restore three separate times, not realizing that the delay was in the software itself and not user error. While this was happening, employees continued to make modifications and enter data into the system further corrupting the reliability of the data we were trying to restore. The result? We produced the backup in triplicate. Our team couldn't sort the old data from the new. In all, the IT department lost a combined week's worth of productivity trying to solve the restore issues.

With our data needs growing every week, our existing software just couldn't keep up. Because of the way that employees access data and the different information that we need to provide to patients and their families, we need to be able to achieve the fastest restores possible, together with the highest degree of data availability.

We developed specific requirements for a new solution. We could no longer cost effectively administer each server as a standalone backup server. We needed to deploy a single backup solution that would not make us wait hours for data restoration. With the mounting storage needs, the solution had to be scalable, which is key to controlling future storage costs. With VistaCare's servers running Linux, we also wanted a system that would enable us to backup both a Linux and NT computing infrastructure. Finally, I did not want to spend weeks consulting with a vendor and paying high professional services fees. I wanted a solution that was easy to use and install and worked immediately.

We looked at a number of data protection and disaster recovery vendors, but after an extensive review we selected the company with the strongest Linux backup solution - BakBone and its NetVault data protection software. We were easily able to install NetVault on our existing hardware in just a couple of hours.

Today, VistaCare runs a full spectrum of backups - once a day, once a week, once a month and annually. We also perform in-house backups as well as offsite backups for disaster recovery.

Since deploying the new solution, we are backing up increasing amounts of data (more than 4 terabytes at a time) and have found that backup and restore times have significantly improved. By properly scheduling each backup operation, we're spending less time per gigabyte of data, which allows us to redistribute our IT resources accordingly. Additionally, using NetVault on Linux offers us higher performance and reliability with a proven lower total cost of ownership (TCO), which also helps keep IT costs down.

Approximately 50 servers, each running RHEL 2.1, 3.0 and Gentoo, connected to an NDMP based NetApp FAS940 filer, allow us to deploy NAS (network attached storage) versus DAS (direct attached storage). This lets us more easily manage and expand storage capabilities with less disruption to the user community. It also provides expandable storage (versus using multiple storage servers), hot backups and more storage flexibility.

Over the past year, we have consolidated our backup infrastructure for greater management ease and flexibility, providing a more robust data protection solution. Reliability, performance, low cost - all were important considerations for VistaCare. The end result: a state-of-the-art data protection and restore system that is easier to operate and maintain. 

BakBone NetVault

BakBone Software's NetVault 7 delivers enhanced data protection and enterprise-class functionality that scales to meet the demands of any sized environment. This comprehensive backup and recovery solution is fast, reliable and simple to install, while lowering total cost of ownership.P>


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
High Availability/Disaster Recovery and Security.

Dave Siroff is a network engineer for VistaCare.

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