Healthcare Group Heals Exchange

CDP helps tame Virtua's email, at a price

February 2, 2006

3 Min Read
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With all the growing storage needs created by medical imaging, you wouldnt expect email to be the major storage concern for a healthcare center.

But that’s what was bugging Virtua Health's Tom Pacek the most, prompting him to turn to continuous data protection (CDP) to solve the problem. Virtua Health is a network of hospitals, outpatient centers, and nursing homes with headquarters in Marlton, N.J. Pacek, vice president of technology, manages 13 Tbytes of storage on an EMC Clariion CX700 SAN, which he backs up to a Clariion disk library virtual tape system as well as a Sun StorageTek tape library.

Two of the system’s hospitals are using storage-intensive Picture Archival and Communications Systems (PACS) for radiology, with two more planning to add them over the next few months. After that, the hospitals will begin using PACS for cardiology.

Despite all the high-end medical technologies at Virtua Health, Pacek’s users were most concerned with Microsoft Exchange. (See Email Growth Spells Etrouble.) And with 1,800 physicians and 7,200 employees in the system, Pacek was most concerned with keeping Exchange data from choking the SAN.

“People can’t live without email applications, just as much as they can’t live without clinical apps anymore,” he says. “Even with all the storage we have, space is an issue. People want to grow and grow their folders. We would constantly tell people they have to clean up their email space, but we needed a more efficient way.”Pacek went looking for an email archiving package late last year. He considered EMC EmailXtender and archiving software from other backup vendors, but none of them improved the speed of backup or recovery as much as he wanted. Then he tried Mimosa Systems’ NearPoint, which uses CDP to backup and restore. (See Mimosa Expands Data Management .)

NearPoint is designed specifically for Exchange. It keeps a copy of the Exchange database on its own server, and continuously updates the copies whenever there are changes. If the Exchange server goes down, Pacek can restore from any point in time. He can even allow his users to restore individual files.

Mimosa also built in text search and classification features tied specifically to Exchange to make it easier to retrieve specific messages.

“We can recover in a split second without losing any email,” he explains. “We can roll back to any point in time from the day we started the archive.”

For disaster recovery, Pacek plans to implement NearPoint in an empty data center at one of Virtua’s other hospitals to keep a second copy of his Exchange store offsite. Virtua had been using managed service provider SunGard Data Management Solutions for DR but Pacek feels more secure taking it inhouse: “As disasters are happening around the country you’re fighting for space at SunGard. Your ability to recover depends on your priority and when you call in. We didn’t want to have to compete for space.”NearPoint isn’t for everybody. For one thing, Exchange is the only application it supports; and starting at $10,000 for 100 mailboxes -- it isn’t cheap. “I wouldn’t say they were the lowest on the market, but we got added functionality,” Pacek says.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Mimosa Systems Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • SunGard

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