The Business Challenge
YouGov® queries millions of people worldwide through online surveys. The massive amount of data collected, which resides in data centres in the United Kingdom and United States, is compiled and analysed for YouGov’s clients so they make effective decisions about their businesses. YouGov gives them access to real-time, up-to-the-minute data.
“YouGov is an always-on company,” said Nicholas Carter, Head of Infrastructure and System Operations for YouGov Plc. “We have nearly 700 employees, and they work in offices across the globe. There is no downtime for us. Protecting our data is a huge priority.”
Today YouGov’s IT infrastructure is 100% virtualised on 13 VMware vSphere hosts and 400 virtual machines (VMs). In 2012, when the virtual environment was growing rapidly, agentbased backup tools (one for Windows Server VMs and a second for Linux VMs) couldn’t scale. YouGov tried to back up most VMs daily, but a full backup of the Microsoft Exchange Server took several days to complete.
Agents were an issue too. Both tools required YouGov to purchase licenses, install agents and configure backups for every VM. Even worse, agents affected VM performance, which could impact users.
In addition to finding a better backup solution, YouGov needed an easy and efficient way to move VMs from its Berlin data centre, which was closing, to its London data centre. The goal was to migrate VMs over the wide area network (WAN) without disrupting business operations. To complicate matters, the data centres used different storage systems.
“We did our research and found that Veeam was the only vendor to offer a solution that could solve our backup issue and replicate VMs between data centres, even with different storage systems,” Carter said.
The Veeam Solution
YouGov deployed Veeam® Backup & Replication™ for local backup and recovery. Veeam performs fast, agentless and image-based backup, enabling YouGov to back up every VM each day with no impact on VMs and users. Since Veeam is storage-agnostic, replicating VMs from Berlin to London was easy and stress-free.
“Veeam even replicated VMs with legacy systems that would have been nearly impossible to rebuild, such as a SharePoint Server with custom-built plug-ins,” Carter said. “Moving these VMs would have been a major task without Veeam. With Veeam you don’t have to worry about different SANs on either side because Veeam can replicate between dissimilar storage devices.”
Carter said backup with Veeam is much faster and more efficient than YouGov’s legacy tools.
“Daily incremental backups of the Exchange Server used to take several hours; now they take 20 minutes with Veeam,” he explained. “Since backups are so much faster, we can perform daily backups of all VMs. With Veeam’s highly efficient backup, we see seriously fast backups with no effect on the network or the VM itself.
“Veeam saves us time too,” Carter continued. “We no longer waste time installing agents and worrying about license compliance because there are no agents to deploy or maintain with Veeam, and Veeam is licensed on a simple per CPU socket basis. We don’t worry about configuring backup jobs for every new VM either. We just place the VM in the appropriate folder, and Veeam backs it up automatically. We’ve structured our virtual infrastructure to take advantage of container-based backups in Veeam.”
Carter said recovery speed increased with Veeam. Instant File-Level Recovery enables YouGov to recover emails from a Linux-based Postfix email system.
“Because of a configuration issue, emails to survey participants were being redirected to a deferred queue and then deleted,” he explained. “But since we were doing daily backups with Veeam, we could go back to those daily backups and recover the emails, which are saved as files, using Instant File-Level Recovery.”
Carter uses Veeam Explorer™ to recover corporate emails from Exchange and plans to use it with Active Directory and SQL Server in the future
Backup and recovery with Veeam were so efficient that YouGov upgraded to Veeam Availability Suite for efficient vSphere monitoring, reporting and capacity planning. Legacy management tools weren’t providing the depth and breadth of information YouGov required to resolve issues before they became problems and affected the business.
“If the virtual environment is performing slowly and we can’t determine the cause straight away, we look at Veeam reports for memory ballooning and swapping or CPU bottlenecks,” Carter said. “These reports are key to determining cause. Veeam also lets us drill down into individual VMs for troubleshooting.”
YouGov’s VMs are allocated per geographic region, so Veeam’s business categorisation is particularly helpful to the IT team.
“Every six months I pull reports to view distribution of virtualisation resources by region,” Carter said. “Veeam gives us a good overview of where our costs lie, which helps us budget accordingly. Veeam makes a lot of things really easy for us, but best of all, Veeam keeps us always-on. Without fail, we back up VMs daily, and our users never know backups are occurring. That’s how we keep systems always-on and maintain our backup commitment to the business. Veeam also helps us mitigate risk and stay always-on by delivering detailed information so we can identify and fix issues before they impact our business.”
The ResultsAgentless, image-based backup and fast recovery enable always-on business
YouGov’s success is based on the data it compiles and analyses for clients; therefore, data protection is paramount. When agent-based backup tools couldn’t keep up with the growing virtual environment, YouGov switched to Veeam for agentless, image-based backup that didn’t impact VMs or users. Reliable backup combined with fast recovery enable YouGov to stay always-on.Storage-agnostic replication migrates VMs between data centers easily
Since Veeam Backup & Replication is storage-agnostic, YouGov’s IT team had no problem migrating VMs from Berlin to London. “If you want to move a VM from one data centre to another without worrying about different storage systems or rebuilding VMs, Veeam Backup & Replication is the best candidate for the job,” Carter said. “I even replicated Symantec Enterprise Vault, which involved 2 TB of data. There was no way I could have rebuilt that machine within a reasonable time. It would have been basically impossible without Veeam.”Detailed reporting documents VM performance, availability and utilisation
When legacy monitoring and reporting tools weren’t providing the detailed information needed to resolve issues before they impacted business, YouGov turned to Veeam. “I find the reporting side of Veeam remarkable,” Carter said. “With Veeam I can provide our CFO and executive team with detailed reports about data center utilisation and growth. Because we’re 100% virtualised, it’s important to stay on top of every single resource.”