The business challenges
Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) believes in the power of education to drive transformative change across social, cultural and economic boundaries. That belief makes it one of the most dynamic and forwardthinking universities in England. LJMU also believes in the concept of “One University” — a community working together to achieve common studentcentered objectives and success.
“Students are the focus of everything we do, so our top priority in IT Services is making sure their data is backed up reliably so it can be recovered fast,” said Mark Smith, Senior Operations Officer at LJMU. “We protect data for faculty and staff too, which means the critical IT systems supporting everyone’s work must be fully protected.”
Critical systems include PeopleSoft Campus for student information, Oracle E-Business Suite for payroll and Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaborative projects.
“Our challenge was the backup software,” Smith continued. “Backups were failing frequently and had to be rerun during the day, but rerunning them slowed down the systems that students, faculty and staff rely on the most like email. If backups fail and we can’t recover from them, we can’t deliver essential services.”
Smith and his colleagues were also concerned about rising ransomware attacks. One third of U.K. universities were attacked between 2010 and 2020, making ransomware a formidable foe.
“Security is always top of mind, so we needed to replace legacy backup with reliable data protection that would instill confidence,” Smith said. “Legacy backup didn’t instill confidence, so we did our research, considered market leaders and chose Veeam. It became quite clear early on that Veeam was the one for us.”
The Veeam solution
LJMU replaced legacy backup with Veeam Availability Suite to ensure student, faculty and staff data is always protected. Veeam backs up and replicates reliably, verifies recoverability and recovers quickly. Veeam also offers additional ransomware protection in the form of immutable backups on-premises and off-premises. Furthermore, Veeam is more affordable than legacy backup and easier to use, saving the university £150,000 over five years and four weeks of backup management time annually.
“The money we saved with Veeam enabled us to invest in new technology including Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365,” Smith said. “The decision to extend Veeam protection to Office 365 was obvious because Microsoft doesn’t offer comprehensive backup, and since we currently have hybrid Exchange and OneDrive environments, we don’t want to lose access to historical emails, OneDrive files and Teams’ data while we transition to the cloud. Teams’ data grew significantly during the pandemic as students, faculty and staff worked remotely, so protecting it is critical.”
Microsoft Office 365 is the university’s first step in its cloud journey, and the next step may be Azure. Veeam offers native Azure backup and recovery, as well as direct restore, which would restore the university’s on-premises IT infrastructure to Azure for disaster recovery (DR).
“One of the things we like best about Veeam is easy cloud integration, particularly Veeam’s immutable backups in cloud object storage to strengthen ransomware protection,” Smith said. “We also activated Veeam’s Possible Ransomware Alarm to alert us to abnormal activity on each virtual machine (VM).”
Smith said the team also appreciates Veeam licensing because it’s simple and portable. Any workload can be backed up across any environment. For now, Veeam backs up and replicates 150 TB across 310 VMs (and a few physical servers) on-premises and to DR sites.
Rick Williams, Operations Officer at LJMU, deployed Veeam. He said he quickly realized the university had been missing out on helpful and beneficial functionality such as DataLabs to verify the recoverability of backups and replicas (via SureBackup and SureReplica), Instant VM Recovery to recover whole VMs quickly and Veeam Explorers for Microsoft Exchange and Oracle for fast granular recovery. This functionality, combined with reliable backup that doesn’t require extensive management, saves the IT team approximately four weeks annually.
“To be honest, what’s most helpful about Veeam is being able to set it and forget about it,” Williams said. “Our team is relatively small, so we don’t have extra time to look after backups. Legacy backup required extra time and resources that don’t exist, making it more of a burden than a benefit. Veeam is the opposite — it’s helpful because it monitors backups and alerts us if there’s an issue, which happens rarely, but if there is an issue, it’s usually a configuration problem on our part. My point is that Veeam has supported us from the start, beginning with after-sales help. We didn’t even know who our sales contact was for legacy backup. Having a positive relationship with a vendor that is actually helpful is a massive benefit.”
- Backs up and replicates reliably, verifies recoverability and recovers quickly
“Data drives education, so protecting data is our top priority,” Smith said. “Veeam is consistently reliable and so easy to use — it’s the best fit for us.”
- Offers extra ransomware protection with immutable backups onsite and offsite
Veeam offers immutability through a hardened backup repository and through Object Lock technology in S3-compatible storage such as Microsoft Azure Blob, Azure Archive Storage and Azure Data Box.
- Saves £150,000 in IT costs over 5 years and 4 weeks of backup management time annually
“From a team point of view, each one of us is a jack of all trades, so when backups are reliable and management is easy, we have more time to focus on everything else in the data center,” Williams said.