Monday, September 27, 2021

Counting Your Storage Blessings

Blessing Hospital out of Quincy, Illinois, is using CommVault Simpana 7.0 software to maintain high availability of patient data. As part of this, the hospital is using Single Instance Store (SIS) as one element of Simpana. While CommVault Systems Inc. of Oceanport, NJ, partners with Data Domain of Santa Clara, CA, for block level dedupe, SIS operates at the file level and has helped Blessing boast 62 percent faster data recoverability.

The hospital has also reduced the volume of daily backups by 65 percent.

“Now we can transfer 16TB of data every week with only one backup server, and the system is both more robust and faster.” – Doug Barry, technical support analyst, Blessing Hospital

With two main hospitals and multiple clinics in rural communities, Blessing treats patients with critical injuries at its trauma center. As it caters to both long-term and overnight patients, there is a constant flow of new and updated information required.

Previously, the organization used an HP MSA1500 disk array with 250GB/500GB SATA drives (storing up to 25 TB) and Symantec Backup Exec 10D for backup. It was and continues to be a Windows shop in terms of its server/desktop environment.

“We spent significant resources focused on backups, but still couldn’t meet our backup window which jeopardized the availability of our data,” said Doug Barry, a technical support analyst at Blessing Hospital. “I had to dedicate a large amount of my time researching errors in error logs and then installing patches and purging massive amounts of stale data.”

As a result, he staged all his full backups so groups of servers each had their full backup day one day a week. Some of those full backups, he said, took more than 24 hours. That meant that the system would have to miss the incremental backups for the following night. To make matters worse, he reports regular cache errors that sometimes hung the backup job.

“Many key servers had to have the backup job aborted in order for first work shift which began at 7 AM,” said Barry. “We just couldn’t allow users to be waiting for the server to retrieve data, which could sometimes take several minutes for each patient record.”

The organization had been running Backup Exec (BE) for about a decade, but Barry wanted a more robust approach that would be able to keep pace with his 100 percent disk-to-disk system that he said was crashing with BE.

Blessing evaluated Symantec Veritas Netbackup, EMC Networker and CommVault Simpana. It tested each product using two identical Dell ProLiant 2850 machines. These were connected directly to a Cisco 6513 unit in the same blade and were running at 1 GB connectivity. Barry placed a copy of real data off his file share server as the target data. All backups during the test used this same identical data. He then installed the demos of each software and ran them doing full backups of that data.

Rather than relying on one run, he carefully calculated the backup times, averaging out over three runs. He then repeated this for restores.

“Netbackup was noticeably slower than Networker or CommVault Simpana Data Protection and was eliminated at this point,” said Barry. “I then began to search which of the two fit our environment better.”

While he admits that Networker has its strengths, he felt CommVault did the best job in his Windows environment. This clearly stood out, he said, when he conducted his first complete server restore.

“Not only was it faster but it was much more reassuring process,” said Barry. “CommVault put many options at my finger tips and a solid, ‘would you like to reboot this server’ at the end, letting you know it was successful.”

He believes that CommVault Simpana Data Protection offers good backup capabilities from one central point of control and its integrated SIS feature helps to remove redundant files from each backup to save space and increase backup speeds.

“Now we can transfer 16TB of data every week with only one backup server, and the system is both more robust and faster,” said Barry. “We have reduced the volume of daily backups by as much as 65 percent. Instead of worrying that our backups won’t complete on time or at all, we know that CommVault SIS has sped up the entire process because we’re transferring less data.”

Other benefits reported include the ability to retain more data for longer periods of time using the space saved. This helps Blessing meet data retention requirements without having to add storage capacity constantly. Reduced administrative overhead is another gain.

“CommVault Simpana protects vital patient data and helps us comply with regulations,” said Barry. “Using CommVault Simpana, we reduced our backup time by almost 80 percent. We can now protect 1.1TB worth of data across 150 Windows servers in less than 30 minutes, and are confident that the data is recoverable.”

This article was first published on

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