The Business Challenge
IT is important to every aspect of Poulin Grain’s business, supporting e-commerce, the company’s website, business communications and specialized databases. The entire company revolves around technology, so staying on the cutting edge of new advancements is vital to its prosperity. Paul Martin, IT Manager for Poulin, is a one-man team who manages all IT operations for approximately 100 employees in three manufacturing facilities and 22 remote salespersons. He oversees the main datacenter at the Newport location, a disaster recovery (DR) site at Swanton, Vermont, and a secondary datacenter in Canton, New York.
“Because I am responsible for everything wired and wireless—computers, fax machines, cell phones and pagers—I am always on the lookout for technology that will make my job easier,” Martin said. “When I heard about virtualization, I immediately thought that it would simplify my life, yet let me maintain the high quality of service that my users have come to expect.”
Martin took the leap to virtualization in 2008. Today nearly 100% of Poulin’s applications are virtualized, including all mission-critical applications. The virtual environment includes five VMware ESX hosts and 20+ virtual machines (VMs). Initially Martin employed a complex backup system to protect his applications and data. “Before we moved to virtualization, Symantec Backup Exec was the only product we needed,” he explained. “However, once we began virtualizing, we found that Backup Exec had not matured enough to handle virtualization. So we implemented the standard VM backup tool at the time to create image-level backups for the system drives. We used VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) to back up all data except Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server; for those we used Backup Exec. which we also retained to back up the two remaining physical servers. We then stored all the data on an HP appliance. So all in all, it was really a cumbersome process.”
Martin knew there had to be a more efficient way to back up his environment. He began looking for options that would be reliable, consistent and fast. “Reliability was the key ingredient,” he said. “We went weeks at a time where our backups were inconsistent. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about whether everything was backed up satisfactorily. Then I discovered Veeam and all the pieces fell into place.”
The Veeam Solution
Poulin Grain chose Veeam® Backup & Replication™ because it is built specifically for the virtual environment and is easy to install and deploy. Before Veeam, full backups took more than 18 hours to complete.
“One of the first things I did was implement ExaGrid, a disk-based backup appliance that provides fast backup speeds and more efficient data storage,” Martin said. “Using ExaGrid with our existing VM backup tool, we reduced the time for a full backup to approximately four hours, which was unquestionably a significant improvement. Then we found out that ExaGrid fully supports Veeam Backup & Replication. Working in tandem with ExaGrid, Veeam reduced backups to approximately one hour. And we could rely on the backups every time. After that, it was no contest. Veeam was our backup tool of choice.”
Martin can recover individual VMs quickly, thanks to Veeam Instant VM Recovery. It allows him to restore an entire machine by running the VM directly from a compressed and deduplicated backup file. “Before we implemented Veeam, it took eight hours to restore just one server,” he noted. “With Veeam, I can do it in a matter of minutes. Instant VM Recovery is awesome.”
With Veeam Backup & Replication in place and backups running smoothly, Martin next wanted a solution that would help him manage the virtual environment more efficiently. He tried several commercially available products but once again turned to Veeam for a solution.
Martin discovered that Veeam ONE™ offers a comprehensive view of the entire virtual infrastructure with real-time monitoring and alerting of performance, events and resource utilization. And with its web-based customizable dashboards, Veeam ONE lets him readily identify and react to issues.
According to Martin, “Veeam ONE is easy to use and allows me to quickly check on the status of my environment. Out of the box, it showed me things—such as a hard disk running out of space—that I wouldn’t have known about until it became an issue.”
The automatically generated reports that Veeam ONE offers are also an asset. “One of the things I don’t do well is document my network, but Veeam ONE does it for me,” Martin said. “The automated, detailed reports save me time and let me know the status of the network at all times. They are very important in helping me control the virtual environment.”
Martin finds the Veeam Community Forums a very valuable support resource. “I love the forums because they are extremely interactive,” he said. “Senior engineers don’t just post information; they actively answer questions and point you to the right resources to help you get the most out of the products. You also learn about product upgrades and enhancements as soon as they happen, which is a huge bonus.”
Highly consistent, fast and reliable backups
Before deploying Veeam Backup & Replication, Poulin Grain had a long and laborious backup process that took more than 18 hours to complete and involved four different backup tools. Now a full backup, using Veeam in conjunction with the ExaGrid appliance, takes only an hour to complete.
Full VM restores in minutes
The Instant VM Recovery capability in Veeam Backup & Replication lets Martin quickly restore an entire VM from a backup in minutes. What used to take up to eight hours can now be accomplished in a matter of minutes.
Efficient real-time monitoring and automated documentation of the virtual
Along with its comprehensive view of the virtual infrastructure, Veeam ONE provides 24x7 real-time monitoring and alerting that help Poulin’s IT manager respond to issues before they become critical. Thanks to automatically generated reports, he has full documentation of the structure and status of the environment at all times.