IT has always been a critical part of the RAM Group. Apart from essential services such as email, CRM and accounting, RAM’s sophisticated IT platform allows it to track and monitor its fleet of vehicles and the packages they carry in real-time 24/7, as well as communicate with its couriers. This capability is vital to RAM Group. Without it, the always-on business would be blind.
“Losing our IT platform wouldn’t quite be a complete catastrophe, but it would be very close. It would grievously hinder the business and our ability to operate,” said Lance Soller, Group IT Manager at RAM Group. “We didn’t want that risk hanging over us. As a result, when we virtualised our IT estate we knew that we needed to upgrade our data protection capabilities to match.”
Based entirely in South Africa, RAM Group provides 900 of its 2,500 staff with IT services on 160 virtual machines (VMs) in five data centres. RAM Group began virtualising its IT infrastructure in 2008; now 95% of its infrastructure runs on VMware vSphere. RAM Group’s reason for adopting virtualisation was simple: It wanted to make the absolute most out of its IT infrastructure investment, rather than purchasing powerful servers and only using them at a fraction of their capacities.
“The move to virtualisation has been a natural progression for us,” Soller said. “However, it soon became clear that our legacy backup tool, whilst brilliant for the original physical environment, was not designed with virtualisation in mind. For example, using agents made backup and recovery of virtual environments a slow, complex process, and the legacy backup tool did not offer the reporting and monitoring capabilities we increasingly needed to keep track of our virtual infrastructure.”
The reliability of its backups was RAM Group’s primary concern; therefore, upgrading data protection capabilities became an intrinsic part of its virtualisation project. When the IT team began researching potential solutions, Veeam Availability Suite™, with its proven capabilities and ease of use, stood out as the only real choice.
Veeam Availability Suite provides powerful and affordable backup, recovery, replication, monitoring, reporting and capacity planning for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. With Veeam, RAM Group has seen a huge improvement in its backup and recovery capabilities. Backup takes between five to 15 minutes per VM, compared to the two to three hours it took previously. With Veeam, RAM Group can perform backups much faster, freeing up the infrastructure for other tasks.
Recovery speed has increased by 5X with Veeam Availability Suite. Recovering a full VM takes approximately two minutes, where previously it took up to 10 minutes. Veeam enables the IT team to guarantee near-constant availability of IT services.
Thanks to Veeam’s built-in deduplication and compression capabilities, backups require 25 to 35% less storage than the legacy backup tool. Storing backups is far more efficient and economical with Veeam.
“Veeam’s backup speed and efficiency alone have greatly improved our confidence in our data protection,” Soller said. “Yet beyond the improved backup and reduced storage for backups, Veeam’s recovery features allow us to safeguard our IT services even further. Instant VM Recovery, Veeam Explorers for Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, and U-AIR (Universal Application-Item Recovery) have all performed excellently in tests and given us greater confidence. While they haven’t yet been used in anger, the fact that they are there if and when needed gives us peace of mind.”
Two Veeam features that particularly impress RAM Group are SureBackup® and On-Demand Sandbox™. Using SureBackup allows RAM Group to automatically test that backups will recover as and when required, while the On-Demand Sandbox enables RAM Group to create a Virtual Lab for testing, troubleshooting and training.
“SureBackup gives us extra confidence in our data protection by providing another check and balance to guarantee that everything will work as planned,” Soller said. “The On-Demand Sandbox has been fantastic for implementing updates. Our developers use it for testing and troubleshooting all the time to avoid chaos in the production environment. For example, when implementing Windows updates we are able to test the updates before rolling them out across the company, without removing production machines from circulation, or worse yet, risk rolling out updates without thoroughly testing them first.”
As well as backup and recovery, Veeam Availability Suite provides advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning capabilities for virtual and backup infrastructures. With Veeam, RAM Group can see exactly what is happening in its entire virtual environment, and when and where issues arise, the IT team allocates resources appropriately.
“Quite simply, we wouldn’t know what the virtual environment was doing without Veeam,” Soller said. “As a result we can plan our IT resourcing much better, using defined metrics rather than relying on a ‘feel’ for what’s happening. We use Veeam constantly to ensure we are running our server resources in the best possible way and provisioning extra resources where needed.”
Veeam also allows RAM Group to spot and respond to IT problems before they impact the business. Alerts are fast and comprehensive, giving RAM Group insight into issues that otherwise would have been overlooked and could have escalated into major problems. Coupled with troubleshooting features that help resolve issues much faster, Veeam enables the team to be proactive. Since implementing Veeam, there has only been one incident where the team couldn’t react fast enough to stop a problem from occurring, and even then the effects were minimized thanks to Veeam’s troubleshooting features.
“Veeam has been a huge benefit for RAM Group, and I would recommend it without hesitation,” Soller said. “The ease of use and its clear and functional dashboard have made taking advantage of Veeam’s capabilities as simple as possible. We have complete confidence that our virtual infrastructure is protected from disaster, giving us maximum availability of our IT services—from fast and reliable backup and recovery, to peace of mind that both backups and any updates have been fully tested, to the knowledge that we can spot and address any problems before they happen.”