The University of Toronto is ranked repeatedly among the top 25 universities worldwide and as Canada’s top school by five of the most prestigious international ranking organizations, including Quacquarelli Symonds. The university is recognized for excellence in research, teaching and alumni success.
A significant portion of research takes place on the Scarborough campus. Students work alongside faculty on more than 200 projects, ranging from how biological mechanisms in the brain give rise to complex cognition to turning food waste into high-quality bio plastic.
A modern, digital IT infrastructure supports campus research and innovation such as the startup business incubator that provides student entrepreneurs with workspace, coaching and seed capital (when possible). More than 150 startups have taken root at the incubator and half remain active today. Of the half that are active, the combined valuation of the top five companies conceived on campus exceeds $32 million.
The IT infrastructure also supports online learning. Once an option for instruction, online learning has become a necessity in the age of COVID-19. To protect the health and safety of everyone on campus, the University of Toronto Scarborough created an instructional environment that mixes smaller, on-campus seminars, labs and experiential learning with larger, online courses and lectures.
“The way students, faculty and staff learn, teach and work has changed, but the university’s commitment to create rich, inclusive environments for learning will never change,” said Wesley Huang, senior systems administrator, University of Toronto Scarborough. “Our job is to ensure critical components supporting these services are backed up and available all the time, including authentication systems and web servers. If they’re not available, research, the incubator and online learning could be impacted.”
Huang said the challenge was VDP. Backup was slow, taking up to 10 hours each night, so when classes started at 8 a.m., the virtual machines (VMs) supporting authentication systems and web servers were still being backed up, sometimes slowing down online access for students and faculty. Legacy backup also caused VMs to crash occasionally, and it lacked insight into VM recoverability and VMware vSphere performance.
“These are the types of challenges that keep you up at night,” Huang said.
The University of Toronto Scarborough replaced legacy backup with Veeam® Availability Suite™ to keep critical components of the IT infrastructure available all the time, including authentication systems and web servers supporting research, the startup business incubator and online learning. Veeam also extends availability to Microsoft Azure to fortify the campus’ disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) strategy and saves nearly $10,000 in on-premises backup storage each year.
“There’s no question about it — we all sleep better at night because of Veeam,” Huang said.
Veeam provides functionality that legacy backup lacked, beginning with faster, more reliable backup, which reduces the backup window by 50% so students and faculty won’t experience a delay when they go online. Veeam also verifies the recoverability of backups (a feature called SureBackup®) and provides advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning that gives the IT team visibility and insight into the vSphere environment for proactive problem resolution.
“Our IT team is relatively small, so having this kind of functionality is a major advantage,” Huang said. “And, during a pandemic, this level of functionality is vital.”
Veeam backs up 40 TB across 400 VMs on-premises and will potentially replicate to Azure to strengthen the campus BC and DR strategy.
“One of the main reasons we chose Veeam is because of Veeam Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure,” Huang said. “Being able to recover our onpremises VMs in the cloud aligns perfectly with our mission to maintain constant availability of critical campus services. Veeam supports our adoption of cloud technology — a big plus for any campus.”
Veeam Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure is a feature of Veeam Cloud Data Management™, a software, hardware and cloud-neutral platform providing simple and reliable data migration and protection.
“The fact that Veeam is neutral across the board is another big win,” Huang said. “Legacy backup required specific storage, but Veeam provides flexibility and choice, enabling us to use any storage. That’s how we save close to $10,000 in backup storage each year.”
The University of Toronto Scarborough combines the intimacy of a close-knit campus with the breadth of liberal arts and the depth and rigor of one of the world’s top research universities. More than 14,000 students from 89 countries foster a culture of community engagement in their pursuit of knowledge. Approximately 1,500 faculty and staff support the students and the university’s mission of research, teaching and scholarship.
Experiential education is a hallmark of the University of Toronto Scarborough. Students get a head start on their futures by taking advantage of campus opportunities such as research, a startup business incubator and online lectures and course work. When legacy backup threatened their availability, the IT team replaced it quickly.