Accountants Tally CDP Benefits

Accretive Solutions tames remote backup with Availl's continuous data protection

March 17, 2006

3 Min Read
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Few people will argue that rapid expansion of their company is a bad thing, except perhaps the IT guy charged with keeping everybody networked.

Accounting firm Accretive Solutions bought three companies last year and opened a few new locations separately. The company now has 13 offices around the country, including its Hauppauge, N.Y., headquarters, with about 1,000 full-time employees and consultants.

"The company grew in leaps and bounds," says Accretive's network manager Jeff Prevet. "We didn't really have a chance to prepare for it."

Accretive has a low-end 2.5-Tbyte Hewlett-Packard MSA 1000 SAN in the primary office and another one in its disaster recovery site in Santa Clara, Calif., with plans to upgrade to a midrange EMC Clariion next year. But Prevet says his immediate problem after the acquisition binge was backing up data in all the remote offices.

"We grew faster than we thought," he says. "In one office we added 30 people on a project overnight." Accretive's largest office contains 55 users, all of whom need access to the network. "When consultants are out on project sites, they come into the office once a week and back up laptops to the network to make sure we don't lose anything."Accretive's situation is hardly rare anymore. Remote offices have a tendency to mushroom in many organizations. (See Remote Access Advances.) Prevet took a fairly new approach to the problem, by installing continuous data protection (CDP) software from Availl in 10 offices late last year. (See Availl Debuts CDP .) His goal was to centralize backup, make restores faster, and cut costs.

"Before, every office had tape drives connected to servers," he says, and since not every office had IT support, they had to rely on either an outside consultant or an onsite user to change the tape, which began to prove unworkable. Local offices had no disaster recovery, and tapes weren't being stored offsite. It was clear a more centralized solution was in order, according to Prevet.

With Availl, remote offices replicate back to the main office, where Accretive still has a tape library. The tapes are taken offsite once a week, and the data is copied to the DR site.

Prevet estimates CDP saved Accretive hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing IT staffing requirements, bandwidth upgrades to WAN lines, and Symantec Backup Exec licenses.

"Starting a new office was costing $14,000 to $15,000 just for servers and licenses," he says. "Adding licenses for Backup Exec gets pricey. Now we're buying a new server for $4,000 and an Availl license."Another benefit is improved backups and quicker restore times. "Now backups are online and ready to go," he says. "Relying on somebody else to change tapes and make sure things were done right was a major problem. It took hours to go through every log to make sure everything was backed up.

"And now we can restore files from five or 10 minutes ago. Users have made changes and said, 'I didn't mean to do that,' and we restored them. Once you hit save, it's copied to New York and we can restore it quickly."

Before trying CDP, Accretive gave the Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) beta a try. (See Microsoft and Symantec Cut SMB Tape.) "That was just a resource hog," Prevet says. "It was a nightmare how many resources that took. I usually put 40 gigabytes in an office, and most offices use around 10 gigs. With DPM, we needed 80 gigs to run it."

Although Accretive runs Bakup Exec for tape backups, Prevet says he didn't consider upgrading to version 10d that includes near-CDP. That's because he was concerned about Symantec's support for Veritas products. Prevet is still sore that Symantec stopped supporting a Powerquest application he was using after Symantec acquired PowerQuest I 2003. "We had just spent all that money on the software," he says. "So after they bought Veritas, we didn't even look at [Backup Exec 10d]."

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

  • Availl Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Symantec Corp.

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