When Leonard Brandt joined Stirling High School as music teacher and IT manager in 2000, the school had a reputation as one of the IT leaders in the area. “We had two computer labs, one with 40 workstations running Microsoft Windows, and one with 20, running DOS off floppy drives,” he recalled. “There were two dial-up Internet connections – one for staff and one for students – but no servers. Of course, this does not sound like much by today’s standards, but at the time it was quite advanced for schools in our area.”
Over the ensuing years, the network evolved to include connections in every office and classroom, with 10 servers and three computer labs running 40 workstations each. Then Brandt discovered virtualisation. “I attended a presentation about virtualisation in 2007, and saw immediately that it would benefit our environment,” he said. “I did a lot of research and was really excited about the concept and considered it the wave of the future. Due to budget constraints, it took some time to implement in our environment, but four years later, we were able to begin our virtualisation project.”
Over the years, Brandt used a number of tape backup solutions like XCOPY and Symantec Backup Exec. Once he began to virtualise, he discovered that he needed a backup tool that was designed specifically for the virtual environment. He also needed a reliable tool that was easy to manage, since he was a one-man IT team. And he needed a cost-effective tool that would not strain his budget.
Brandt turned to First Technology, one of South Africa’s leading single-source providers of IT products and services and a Veeam® ProPartner, for help. After a careful assessment by the datacenter team, First Technology recommended Veeam Backup & Replication™.
“In a virtualised world, traditional backups are sometimes inefficient and often do not complete on time. You run the risk of losing recent data should a hardware crash occur,” said Riaan Swart, Senior Technical Consultant of Datacenter Solutions at First Technology. “Our team felt that Veeam was the obvious choice to ensure consistent, reliable backups for Stirling High School. Veeam’s disk-to-disk backups can run at any time, even during production, so there is no disruption to teachers or students. Since no agents are necessary and licensing is per processor, Veeam is very cost-effective, and backups can be automated to save more time and resources.”
Today, approximately 80% of Stirling’s environment is virtualised and supports about 1,200 staff and students. The infrastructure includes two VMware ESXi hosts running eight virtual machines (VMs) that support key applications such as Active Directory, domain name systems, and administrative records. The main datacenter is backed up to a remote server located in Brandt’s classroom.
The speed of Veeam Backup & Replication stood out from the start. “I could not believe the speed with which backups were completed,” Brandt said. “Backing up a terabyte of data takes only 20–30 minutes, while before it was a 9-hour operation.”
Backups can now be performed every night, and with much more efficiency. “With Veeam, I can set my own schedule and choose which servers I want to back up each night,” Brandt said. “One night it might be the proxy servers, another night student files. We never had that option before; it was always an all-or-nothing situation that took hours to complete.”
Brandt appreciates the reliability of Veeam. “I get an email every morning with the status of backups performed the previous night,” he explained. “Before, I had to physically find the drive and double-check the time stamps to make sure a backup had run. Now I just check each morning to see what servers were backed up. Veeam gives me total peace of mind.”
Use of disk storage space is also more efficient. According to Brandt, “We used to back up only data, but now we can back up an entire VM. We essentially have more data and restore points stored in the same amount of space.”
File-level recovery is significantly improved. “Before we virtualised and installed Veeam, 100% of recovery was at the file level,” Brandt noted. “We did incremental backups so, for example, if a file was lost, I would have been able to recover it eventually, but it would have taken time. Now, with Veeam, I can go back to the backup that occurred immediately before the data was deleted and recover the file in five minutes. I can essentially go back to any point in time; that’s just brilliant.”
Brandt’s virtualisation project has proved very successful and he advises colleagues at other schools to consider virtualisation. “I have never regretted the decision to virtualise and use Veeam to back up the environment,” he said. “As an IT manager responsible for the school’s data, it has made an enormous difference and had a tremendous impact on every aspect of the school and its IT infrastructure.”
Easy-to-manage solution built especially for the virtual environment
Veeam Backup & Replication is built specifically for virtual environments to provide efficient VM backups. It is easy for a one-man IT team to monitor and maintain backups.
Fast and reliable backups to protect critical virtual machines
Brandt can now backup one terabyte of data within a half hour, while before it took as much as nine hours to complete. Backups can also be performed nightly, with email confirmation on the status of every backup. Critical applications and data such as student records are backed up reliably and consistently.
Cost-effective solution to meet budget requirements
Brandt finds that Veeam is very cost-effective and provides a great deal of value, allowing him to stay within his budget.