Isah opts for security and modernises its backup and recovery process.

Isah provides business software that is used all over the world by companies from different sectors to gain realtime insight into scheduling, progress and profitability. The software vendor has branches in several countries and its head office is located in Tilburg. One of Isah’s most important possessions is the source code for the software it produces. Like any other organisation, it also has important business data that are vital to protect. For these reasons, Isah considers it crucial to regularly perform a backup of the data. Backups revolve around security and that’s why Isah engaged the expertise of Data Management Professionals to evaluate and improve the backup and disaster recovery strategies.

Safety without any guarantee

As an organisation, Isah has been making backups of all its important data for many years. This includes from simple file servers with a number of Word documents and emails up to the source code of the software solutions. Jos van Baal, Product Development Manager at Isah, explains how the backups were initially made: ‘In the beginning we had a fairly traditional backup strategy. The systems were backed up every day and this data was then copied to tape and stored at an external location. This was intended to ensure that business data remained stored if a disaster might occur, such as a fire.’

‘For a long time the tapes served as a kind of insurance policy for us’, continues van Baal. ‘At the end of the day, a tape was stored, at the end of the month the monthly tapes were stored at an external location, and at the end of the year a yearly tape was made. Over time, this led to a large number of tapes being stored and spread around various locations outside the Isah offices. It gave us a feeling of safety but we didn’t know whether we were in a position to restore everything. This was the reason why we decided to review our backup strategy.’

From tapes to cloud

Isah decided to modernise the backup process using the backup and recovery software from Commvault. In the first instance, Isah chose to replace the backup to tape with a backup to disk. Although this was still similar to the original backup approach, it was an important first step in the change process. Isah was satisfied with the new approach, but realised that further steps had still to be taken to professionalise the backup and recovery policy and be assured that data could be rapidly and fully restored in the event of a disaster. ‘We were looking for someone who could assist us with this and we came across Data Management Professionals very quickly. First of all, DMP’s consultants examined the hardware infrastructure, the software and how our backup and recovery process were organised.’ Based on this assessment, DMP implemented a range of improvements. Various upgrades were carried out and a financial benefit was immediately achieved by transitioning to an advantageous licence model. The new approach also ensures that more comprehensive backups are taken, that they run faster and that the data is stored more efficiently.

Two important reasons

‘There are two important reasons why we wanted to move away from tape backups’, says van Baal. ‘Firstly, there always had to be someone to change the tapes and put them in storage. Secondly, we usually had two or three recent backups stored remotely but we could not test whether the right data had been stored or whether we were in a position to restore the data quickly enough. This meant there was uncertainty about whether we were sufficiently prepared in the event of a disaster. This motivated us to examine whether we couldn’t simply store our backups in the cloud. When you save data in the cloud, you also have the possibility to keep many more backups. At the moment we have a schedule that allows us to retrieve 28 days. Consequently, we have built in a much bigger margin and have also eliminated the time-consuming tape handling.’

Gaining confidence in the new backup strategy

It took some time to the organisation to get used to the new backup and recovery approach. When you’ve worked with tapes for years, you get used to seeing the tapes stored away at the end of the day. It’s a visible process and therefore it feels safe as well. As the person ultimately accountable for the backups, you have to be able to demonstrate that the new approach is safe and more efficient. ‘The advantage of the DMP approach is that they can also show that – with the data being stored in the cloud – it is possible to restore the data and systems quickly after a disaster’, says Baal. ‘Now we carry out a disaster recovery audit annually. This is the ultimate proof that we are able to restore the data that is somewhere on disk back into the production environment. You don’t just test whether the backups are correct, but also whether the right data is being stored and whether your procedures can reconstruct everything again completely from scratch. The audit which we performed with DMP taught us a number of things: we needed to further refine our backup but we were able to get the most important back-office systems fully operational again within approximately one-and-a-half days. That gave us a good feeling because it was the first time that we could actually see that our approach was successful.’ Since the last upgrade to Commvault, Isah has been using the deduplication options for writing backups to disk. Thanks to this smart technology, it is possible to combine identical data. This reduces the amount of storage space required and ultimately this translates into lower costs and shorter throughput time for the backups. When a backup is being run every day, it’s important to keep the throughput time as short as possible. The execution of backups impacts various systems and this affects availability and performance.

What happens in the future?

Isah wants to continue innovating in order to benefit as much as possible from all the available functionality. After that, Jos van Baal would like to extend the reporting facilities to maintain continuous insight into the effectiveness of the backups and so that measures can be taken quickly if something goes wrong. In addition, Isah may also want to make use of DMP’s Remote Management Services in the future, whereby part of the management tasks will be outsourced. ‘We have great confidence in the consultants from DMP and the cooperation is always very good. We were also positively surprised about the highly accessible service desk and the support offered by DMP if we need it.’


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