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Improved Backup And Recovery On A Tight Budget

Production Resource Group plans to flip the switch on new processes from LeftHand Networks that it hopes will achieve unprecedented levels of information availability without much complexity.
The cost of doing business has little to do with money. The smart use of business technology can mean the difference between information availability and lost data. Thanks to the maturation of storage networking, some companies are achieving backup and recovery improvements without spending too much money.

In about a month, Production Resource Group LLC hopes to flip the switch on its new backup and recovery processes. The provider of lighting and audio services, including rigging, to corporations and film companies alike hopes to achieve unprecedented levels of information availability without much complexity. "We want to take data from all of our sites, ensure daily backup, and restore the data in case of a failure anywhere," says Ian Smith, director of IT at PRG.

And for Smith, all sites include 13 locations ranging from Birmingham, England, to New Windsor, N.Y., to Los Angeles, to Toronto. PRG has downsized its business-technology staff since 2001 from 32 people to nine. With the void, line-of-business people at many sites had to take over the backup process, which involved tape drives at the time. "Soon we didn't have reliable backup, some people didn't even change the drives, and we got far too many failures," Smith says.

Last year he got a total budget of $160,000 to improve backup and recovery, provide more efficient remote administration, and increase storage capacity. According to Smith, EMC Corp. pushed hard for the account. "But EMC couldn't do half as much as our eventual choice, and it would've cost three times as much," he says.

Smith did his research and chose a combined hardware and software appliance for his 13 sites. LeftHand Networks Inc.'s Remote IP Copy replication appliances are in place at PRG's 13 locations, and the new backup-and-recovery process is just waiting for some Windows Terminal Server nodes to be deployed.

"The blackout last summer really put recovery into focus for us," Smith says. "I personally had to sit on a generator for 36 hours." With the new process, he'll be able to steer users from any downed area to their information on one of a number of safe LeftHand appliance locations. Smith says LeftHand won the account because of low costs, easy remote management, and the combined hardware and software. "We looked at an eQuaLogic system, loaded Windows on it, and the system crashed," he says. "EQuaLogic said that was Windows, but software doesn't crash the LeftHand appliance."

The Remote IP Copy appliance keeps replication and snapshot copying complexity inside the hardware. It has a management interface that lets a centrally based administrator maintain data stored at multiple locations and distribute data between sites.

One analyst says LeftHand should support the Fibre-Channel interconnect the way it supports Ethernet for storage networking. Says Tony Asaro at Enterprise Storage Group, "But LeftHand's distributed architecture lets customers scale without limits, demonstrates the biggest IP-based storage networks on record, and lets customers allocate storage for multiple apps at one time."