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Melanchthon in its present form is a result from the merger of Christian College Hainaut and Melanchthon College. Melanchthon secondary school serves 3,000 students on nine sites in four cities (Rotterdam, Bergschenhoek, Berkel Rodenrijs, and Bleiswijk) in The Netherlands. The duties of the school’s Director of IT, Martin Wiersma, include ensuring the school’s applications remain up and running, and that student and staff data is backed up and recoverable, at all times at each site.
Over the years, the school’s IT infrastructure developed independently at each of its nine campuses. For example, servers resided in multiple locations and ran different operating systems.
In early 2009, Wiersma and his team began exploring ways to update the Melanchthon’s tape-based data backup and recovery solution, which was inadequate in several ways. It could not properly back up the school’s Novell GroupWise email system, it required four or more hours of staff time for daily backups at each site, and the entire system, storing more than 4TB of critical data, was vulnerable to disaster.
“Each of the nine sites had to sequentially run a daily tape-based backup,” notes Wiersma. “Tapes became faulty. Data was missed. Staff forgot to run the backup. I never felt confident of a full system backup. And when we did a restore, it often took a whole day to find the data we needed, and another day to restore it.”
Wiersma knew the school needed a flexible, reliable solution that could grow alongside Melanchthon and adapt to its evolving needs.
Integrating a new backup and recovery system into the school’s existing IT environment would not be easy. Melanchthon relied on a mixed, 13-server Novell NetWare and Microsoft Windows infrastructure—the Windows system ran SQL Server and Exchange Server—to support a number of unique educational applications across its network. All nine sites were connected via a wide area network and used the Novell GroupWise email system.
A new backup and recovery solution also had to meet the human, as well as technical, needs of the school. “The existing system was administered largely by the teaching or maintenance staff,” says Wiersma. “Teachers were denied valuable teaching and class preparation time. And maintenance staff often lacked the skills to successfully administer the backup.”
Wiersma wanted a system that would free up staff time, one that could be managed centrally and quickly—rather than by nine individuals in nine locations. Finally, the new system had to meet quality-of-service and budgetary goals. “I needed a system I could set and forget, one that could perform a full system backup each night without me worrying it would miss important information,” states Wiersma. “And the school IT budget is limited, so I needed pre-configured hardware and storage to deliver significantly lower costs than I could get by purchasing separate components.”
With all this in mind, Wiersma approached Avantage in The Netherlands, a reseller partner of i365, A Seagate Company. Avantage recommended i365’s EVault® Plug-n-Protect, an all-in-one backup and recovery appliance comprising pre-configured hardware and storage plus a comprehensive suite of EVault backup and recovery software.
Wiersma quickly grasped the cost and deployment benefits afforded by a single vendor’s all-in-one appliance. The cost was lower than purchasing components separately, and Wiersma would get a single point of contact for hardware and storage support. And he was impressed by the solution’s disk-to-disk technology, wide platform and application support, ease of use, and deduplication, compression, and encryption capabilities. Wiersma felt confident the system could easily and economically grow beyond 6TB of storage— data storage is increasing as the school’s infrastructure becomes more complex—as well as protect its Windows (including SQL Server and Exchange Server) and NetWare systems.
Mid-year in 2009, i365 and Advantage teamed up to install, in less than 48 hours, EVault Plug-n- Protect offsite in Avantage’s data center to protect the entire Melanchthon infrastructure. “It was pain-free,” notes Wiersma, who, along with his team, can now remotely manage the system on a day-to-day basis.
Six months later, Wiersma and Melanchthon are very happy with the results. Teaching staff managing backups, maintenance staff loading tapes, hours wasted working on an unreliable system — all are things of the past. “The system continues to go from strength to strength, protecting over 4TB of data each night within two to three hours,” says Wiersma. “The teaching and maintenance staff can now concentrate on their full-time jobs and leave the data backup to me.”
Wiersma and his team enjoy a centralized and reliable backup solution. “We were the first school in Europe to implement EVault Plug-n-Protect, and we are delighted with the results,” comments Wiersma. “I have complete peace of mind knowing that if we need the data, it will be there. I estimate our EVault solution has reduced staff backup time by 95 percent.”
Wiersma says his experience with i365 could not have been better. “We have 13 agents, several unique applications backing up to one device, and numerous file servers,” he says. “This is one of the most complicated IT infrastructures imaginable and we have not had a single problem with EVault.”
Melanchthon is on strong footing for the future as well. “We protect 4TB each night and have capacity to do more,” says Wiersma. “As our infrastructure changes and develops, so will Plug-n- Protect, adapting and working with us. It gives me huge confidence that our needs are being met today and tomorrow.”
CTO Bart Spel, CTO of Avantage, answers some questions about the Melanchthon solution
Can you provide some more detail as to the IT functions/work load required by the school?
Melanchthon is a school with 4000+ users and 14 locations. We are using a mix of Novell Netware 6.5 and Microsoft Windows server 2003 and 2008. We are now using a decentralized infrastructure. Beside this we use Novell groupwise for mail functionality and Microsoft SQL server for database purposes. We also use virtualization in the complete Melanchthon environment. All locations are attached with 100 Mbit/s connection.
The central backup solutions works great. The schools are not creating much data every day. So bandwidth was not a real problem in this scenario. In the past every location had it’s own tape backup device. We had a lot of tapes and backups often fail because there was no tape in the streamer or failures caused by other reasons. With I365 we now have also an off site backup for all our data. If a complete location burns to the ground we have all the data ready to be ship to a new environment.
Any examples of backup failure/restore issues?
We haven’t endured backup issues after we installed I365. Only when the line fails we haven’t got a backup. The restores are quickly performed and data is compressed during transfer. We are very happy about that.
What solutions were looked at before going with the i365 one?
We have looked at several solutions. Like Disk to Tape solutions and other internet based backup solution.
How does the centralised back-up work - please provide as much detail as possible - ie any dedupe/WAN optimisation etc?
With the introduction of the I365 solution we have a platform where we can easily check and manage the backup jobs for the complete environment. Also backups are run every day including the weekend/ holiday. This means that when the school/ firm has a holiday backups continue to run without the need for a tape change.
Any idea of the financial benefits of the i365 solution - in terms of teaching hours regained - and IT staff able to do other things?
We see definitely benefits. Tapes where managed by each location locally. Now they do not have to do any back-up management at the school itself. Also we now have a high-quality backup. There is no risk of loosing any important data.
Any other IT projects planned - ie virtualisation/cloud etc.?
Next year the intentions are to completely migrate to Microsoft Window and to centralize most of the server environment.
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