Ready For Downtime

Film-services company picks LeftHand Networks' appliance to get up and running after problems
For many businesses, backup and recovery systems become more important once a failure has occurred. Whether caused by system crashes, network problems, or power outages, the inability to access crucial data moves backup and recovery higher on the priority list.

Production Resource Group LLC learned that lesson last year. "The blackout last summer really put recovery into focus for us," says Ian Smith, director of IT. "I personally had to sit on a generator for 36 hours."

Smith already had backup problems when the blackout prompted him to make changes. The company, which provides lighting and audio services to film and other companies, has facilities in 13 locations, including Birmingham, England; New Windsor, N.Y.; Los Angeles; and Toronto. Production Re- source Group downsized its business-technology staff in 2001 from 32 to nine. As a result, business managers at many sites had to take over the tape-drive backup process. "Soon we didn't have reliable backup, some people didn't even change the drives, and we got far too many failures," Smith says.

So he began looking for alternatives. Last year, Smith got $160,000 to improve backup and recovery, provide more-efficient remote administration, and increase storage capacity. "We want to take data from all of our sites, ensure daily backup, and restore the data in case of a failure anywhere," he says.

Smith looked at a variety of products, including those from market-leading vendors, but they were too expensive. Instead, he turned to LeftHand Networks Inc., which offers the Remote IP Copy replication appliance. It's now in place at Production Resource Group's 13 locations, and the new process for backup and recovery will be activated as soon as some Windows Terminal Server nodes are deployed in the next month.

The appliances will let Smith steer users from any downed area to a backup copy of their information on one of a number of safe LeftHand appliance locations. Smith says LeftHand won the account because of low price, easy remote management, and combined hardware and software. The Remote IP Copy appliance arrives at customer sites with replication and snapshot capabilities already installed. It has a management interface that lets a central administrator maintain data stored at multiple locations and distribute data between sites. The appliances are priced at $18,200 for two hardware modules with the software.

"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," says Tony Asaro, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. However, he says LeftHand can improve its offering by supporting the Fibre Channel interconnect standard like it supports Ethernet for storage networking.