Powdr Corp. Carves Smooth Track for Data Backup

By Curt Harler | May 01, 2008

Good skiers know that it's all about speed, control, and recovery if a mistake is made. The same holds true for data backup. IT managers want speedy backup, control over the data saved on the system, and speedy recovery of that data if a file is lost.

"Our big concerns with data backups were speed and reliability," says Kenny Lentz, director of information technology for Powdr Corp., the parent company for Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), Utah and other ski meccas like Soda Springs in Lake Tahoe, California; Killington in Vermont; and Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon.

"With this system, our backup speed has increased 10-fold," Lentz continues. They purchased a disk-to-disk-to-disk system from Idealstor that cuts tape out of the equation.

Idealstor is a marriage of key features found both in disk and in tape backups. The system uses SATA disks as portable backup media. Disk-to-disk backup was developed to speed up the process of backing up data and instead of sending data from disk to tape, this system lets Park City's IT people simply eject disks. As an extra precaution, many places back up data disk-to-disk and then go to tape for archiving.

PCMR's Approach

At PCMR, there are various POS and PC workstations around the mountain. Everything is connected to the base area data center. Primary POS, general ledger, HR/payroll, time-and-attendance application databases as well as file server data all must be protected and are backed up on the terabyte array nightly. "We back-up all information for centrally deployed applications at PCMR from this device," Lentz says.

Luckily, Lentz has had little call for data restoration. However, when it was required, recovery was easier than a black diamond - more like a bunny hill. "Restoration takes about three seconds. Since the iBac software backs up files in the native windows explorer directory structure and format, you simply browse to the file location on the backup server, grab it, and put it back on the main server."

The FrankeNAS product he uses is a modified version of the Idealstor Backup Appliance. FrankeNAS combines the redundancy of RAID5 storage with the offsite capabilities of ejectable disk backup. The system is configured with one to four ejectable bays and maxes out at 6.5 terabytes of RAID5 storage. It is a one-box NAS solution, a step up from the company's Teralyte, which is designed for smaller applications. FrankeNAS is available as a half-RAID, half-removable storage product. It works under Windows 2003 Server. Under ideal conditions, the system can backup data at 50MB/s.

"You can't beat this for reliability in terms of hard drives versus tape. And the speed is great," Lentz adds. The only slowdown in the backup comes when data is transferred from a few places wirelessly.

Units ship with a default recovery program called iBac Data Protection Software which is what PCMR uses to run backup. "If you prefer to use another manufacturer's software like Veritas/Symantec Backup Exec, you can," Lentz says. "I like iBac because it is more streamlined and easier to use the other products out there." In conjunction with iBac, he uses a third-party product called OnTrack Power Controls to recover Microsoft Exchange information stores and is very pleased with it. "We can browse to the backup of the EDB file on the backup server and OnTrack will parse out the file for item level recovery on private and public information stores for restoration. So, we can copy even a single email message and put it back in the person's mailbox," he explains.

Advice to Data Backup System Seekers

One word of advice Lentz has for those reviewing their backups is to be sure the system allows for growth. "Size the device right - look at your strategic goals and the amount of material you will backup and restore."

Three years ago, they did a decent job of sizing the device. They used to keep seven day's worth of material on the local backup. "But we found with our databases you rarely go back more than two or three days - usually, it's something from the night before," Lentz discovered. Making that change gave them more growing space.

His parting words of advice are to locate the backup system as far from the servers as possible. His backups are in a different building on the mountain. Of course, long-term storage is off-site.

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