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USAF looks beyond backup to data recovery.

The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, with headquarters at Brooks City-Base, Texas, is a field operating agency of the Air Force Civil Engineer. The center provides Air Force leaders with the comprehensive expertise they need to protect, preserve, restore, develop and sustain our nation's environmental and installation resources. The agency employs 315 authorized civilians and 46 military members. In addition to its in-house staff, AFCEE has many of the nation's most respected and capable contractors as its partners. The center's multibillion dollar contracting capacity covers the entire spectrum of environmental and construction management services. AFCEE provides a complete range of professional and technical services, including IT, in environmental and installation planning and engineering and military housing construction and privatization.

AFCEE also operates remote facilities in Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco. With the responsibility for protecting data at the central facility and remote sites it would be logical that AFCEE's search for a better backup option than traditional tape-based backup would conclude with a disk-to-disk configuration that would allow administrators at the main data center in Texas to also manage backup of the three remote facilities.

But when AFCEE made the jump to a D2D backup solution that included remote backup capabilities, it was before the agency was charged with protecting the remote sites. Instead, AFCEE selected the Asigra Televaulting for Enterprises software for the main site backup simply based on its ability to more efficiently and reliably meet AFCEE's backup window and recovery time objectives. In this case, protection of the remote sites came later. AFCEE opted for Televaulting software at its main data center simply based on the value proposition and feature set, according to Ralph Miles, network administrator.


AFCEE had been operating with a conventional tape backup system to protect the data on its 32 servers at the main facility with a daily backup load of 2.5 terabytes. For more than two years Miles had searched for a tape replacement, but had been unsuccessful in finding a backup solution that could meet his very precise requirements: a backup solution that would be able to restore all server data and applications, as well as required security patches faster than the 36 hours required by the tape backup system. AFCEE's new D2D backup solution now completes the task in two-and-a-half hours.

The ability to restore servers quickly to operational status caused Miles to adopt a different view of the Televaulting software. He sees it not as a backup solution, but as a disaster recovery solution.

"The common view of backup is simply as a means of recovering data, but more important is the ability to recover operating systems, applications and the necessary patches to bring back online all the system information. This is a disaster recovery solution," said Miles.

According to Miles, the bare metal recovery ability and speed of recovery operations have made the new D2D backup an invaluable resource. The bare metal restore capability allows Miles to quickly recover lost, damaged or corrupted data in a highly streamlined fashion to any bare metal system (at any location throughout the enterprise) without having to manually reinstall operating systems or configure hardware prior to use. AFCEE now has the ability to restore the complete system on new hardware--regardless of manufacturer--including local data, user profiles, registry/system state, service pack files and encrypted files.

The speed of the bare metal recovery--in fact any recovery--is based on the unique design of the backup engine that minimizes the amount of data that an organization needs to protect through a combination of common file elimination and data compression. This architecture eliminates the need to backup multiple copies of the same file that are duplicated in other locations throughout the enterprise. The software includes a delta blocking feature that evaluates files at the block level to ensure that all unique files are backed up, even though other attributes may make the file appear to be a duplicate. By eliminating any files that are already protected from the backup data set, compressing the data and leveraging the speed of D2D backup, Miles and AFCEE were able to significantly reduce their backup window and recovery time.

The smaller backup loads have another direct benefit for Miles: lower software costs. The Televaulting pricing model does away with traditional server-based or seat-based licensing model. Instead it employs a "pay-as-you-grow" compressed-capacity-based licensing model, allowing users to pay only for the actual amount of storage under management. The initial implementation capacity is based on the amount of compressed data to protect. After that, customers are charged per compressed terabyte of additional storage.

Since AFCEE now has responsibility for protecting data at its regional environmental offices in Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco, Miles is now using the Televaulting software to protect those remote assets as well. The remote sites are backed up the main data center via a dedicated IP connection. Bandwidth utilization is optimized though the data reduction techniques and data security is enforced through AES encryption for data, both while in transit and at-rest.

Miles estimates that the Televaulting product has already paid for itself, based on the successful recovery of two AFCEE servers. The combination of bare metal recovery, fast D2D performance and the ability to centrally manage the protection of remote sites enabled with Asigra Televaulting finally gave Miles the data protection solution he had been searching for.
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Title Annotation:Case Studies; United States. Air Force
Author:Murphy, Dan
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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