Mountain America Revs Up Backup With Virtualization, Electronic Vaults
Rice is IT systems manager at the $2.9 billion Mountain America Credit Union, which now backs up crucial data day and night using VMware virtual technology and the EVault data protection system from i365, a Seagate company.
"It's completely eased our workload," Rice said. "My other senior administrator and I manage the system and really it only takes one of us to do it because of the way it rates tasks and checks jobs."
"We've gone from an environment that was taking two to three hours a day to manage our previous backup system to only 20 minutes a day."
Mountain America was an early adopter of Symantec NetBackup, Rice said, and stuck with it until the credit union decided that its infrastructure needs-it now has more than 60 branches and 150 servers-had outgrown that solution.
Adding to the complexity was the growing diversity of applications, including Citrix, Exchange and SQL Server, along with file shares and the core processing application itself.
The credit union also needed to scale backup and recovery operations to suit its Symitar Episys core system and growing virtual server footprint, and it turned to Simpler Webb, a credit union service provider and integrator. Its recommendation was EVault.
Now, Mountain America uses two EVault disk-based vaults. One is at its headquarters in West Jordan, Utah, the other at a remote location. Data managed by Symitar and VMware alike are included in the backup and transmitted over private, secured connections.
"Effectively, we manage that second copy of a credit union's entire data set," said Valerie Fawzi, senior director of product marketing at i365. About 22,000 organizations globally use the electronic vault solution, she said, including more than 400 credit unions.
Fawzi said her company offers clients a choice of approaches, ranging from online management for smaller credit unions to an SaaS (software as a service) approach to having a company professional services staffer assigned specifically to a customer to manage a large organization's dedicated vault.
One way i365 handles such large amounts of data is moving only bits and pieces of it through the secure channel at a time. "The whole set is typically sent over only once," Fawzi said. "With every subsequent backup, we'll identify the data blocks that have changed and move only 2% to 3% each time."
Rice said he also appreciates no longer having to backup each virtual machine's operating system along with its data, especially since "We now are about 99% virtualized."
"In our virtual world, servers themselves kind of float around based on utilization," he said. "You've got maybe five or six virtual machines on a specific server, and if that server gets overloaded, you can move them around to other servers."
It's still a work in progress, he said. "We're working with i365 to improve how that's done," Rice said.
But striking advances already have been made, Rice said. For instance, as its production data grew past four terabytes, nightly backups had become a real issue. "I'd get 30 to 40 e-mails a day for failures from our old system," he said. "Issues ranged from the backup job not running to having run out of disk space during the disk-to-disk backup."
He said those e-mails are now a thing of the past, and that in addition to daily time savings, some of the larger backup jobs also have shrunk from 10 to 12 hours to just an hour or two.
He added, "One of our larger database servers running SQL used to take six hours to back up all the data. We can now do it in 30 minutes."
Cost savings also have been realized by having fewer Microsoft licenses for the virtualized servers, Rice said, and compliance with NCUA regulations for data protection has been improved.
Mountain America's chief technologist agreed.
"When the NCUA auditors come in this year, we can say 'yes' to a lot more things than we could last year," said Ray Carsey, vice president of technology. "We'll have a pretty comprehensive backup and DR solution, whereas last year we didn't."
Rice said he also feels more confident about his credit union's ability to recover from even the most challenging of system failures.
"In a disaster situation, whether this building's gone or one VM [virtual machine] is corrupted from a virus, I can now restore the entire virtual machine with EVault and be back up and running about 20-30 minutes later," he said.