The Business Challenge
One of the ways U.S. Legal Support, Inc. differentiates itself from industry competitors is by offering cutting-edge technological access to extensive litigation data and services. For example, the USLS Mobile App provides a secure platform for on-the-go access to a client portal that delivers court reporting and record retrieval services. Depositions can be recorded remotely and records can be retrieved at any time. On-the-go access through the mobile app is great, but only if litigation information is available at all times.
“The primary task of the IT team is making sure all data and applications are available 100% of the time to meet clients’ needs,” explained Ryan McClain, Systems Architect at U.S. Legal Support. “If we don’t deliver data 100% of the time, we run the risk of losing clients. Our data grows by roughly 200% every two years, making high availability even more challenging to deliver.”
U.S. Legal Support decided the first step to achieving 100% availability was to move data center operations in-house rather than outsource them. Virtual machine (VM) backup was slow, even with a 200MB connection, and backup storage was expensive—$3,000 per month for 30TB of space. The next step was building a modern data center based on Cisco UCS servers, Cisco Nexus switches and Nimble Storage arrays. The IT infrastructure is almost fully virtualized on 220 VMware vSphere VMs, except for a domain controller and tape server.
“We chose Cisco UCS because it’s a dynamic platform that runs reliably and scales rapidly,” McClain said. “Next we needed fast backup and recovery for high availability.”
The IT team tried to back up and recover VMs using the same tool it had used to back up physical machines, but agents were required in each VM to be backed up, and that was time-intensive and expensive. Even worse, agent-based backup took a toll on the production environment and failed far too often.
“At this point, there were differing opinions about a better backup solution, so we tested the group’s two leading contenders,” McClain explained. “It quickly became obvious that Veeam was superior during a real recovery situation. Veeam restored files in minutes; the other tool couldn’t restore a single file because the backup was corrupted. We called the vendor for technical help and were told they had no idea why our backup was corrupted. They said they couldn’t help us. We were shocked by that response.”
McClain said a second recovery demonstration sealed the deal for Veeam.
“I deleted metadata in my Active Directory account and then quickly restored it with Veeam Explorer™ for Microsoft Active Directory,” he explained. “Everyone said, ‘Go buy Veeam now!’”
The Veeam Solution
Veeam® Backup & Replication™ succeeded in delivering high availability to U.S. Legal Support, and when the company replaced an aging network-attached storage (NAS) device with two ExaGrid appliances, Veeam and ExaGrid took availability even further. The combination of Veeam, ExaGrid and Cisco UCS improved internal service level agreements (SLAs) through even faster recovery time and point objectives (RTPOs).
“Veeam had backed up and recovered to an older NAS that was I/O intensive, so restarting a failed VM from a backup with Instant VM Recovery® took a bit longer than it should have,” McClain said. “By replacing our aging NAS device with ExaGrid, we enabled Veeam to go as fast as it could go. You’ve got to let Veeam do what it does best—back up and restore data in a rapid fashion.”
The ExaGrid-Veeam Accelerated Data Mover speeds up backup and recovery. For instance, a synthetic full backup to the NAS device could take 24 to 48 hours, depending upon the type of data being backed up. With Veeam and ExaGrid, that same synthetic full backup takes six to eight hours. ExaGrid’s appliances network together in a scalable grid, allowing U.S. Legal Support to maintain a fixed-length backup window as data grows.
Recovery is faster with Veeam and ExaGrid too. Veeam’s Instant VM Recovery and Virtual Lab take advantage of ExaGrid’s unique landing zone to restart VMs quickly from a regular backup. Recovery with Veeam and ExaGrid take a few minutes; a similar recovery with Veeam and the NAS device could take up to 15 minutes.
“We’ve used Instant VM Recovery to bring up a copy of the Microsoft Exchange server while exporting litigation data from a certain timeframe, without impacting users,” McClain said. “And we’ve used Virtual Lab to run software and database upgrades before putting them into production.”
Veeam and ExaGrid make the most of built-in compression and deduplication. When U.S. Legal Support combined compression in both solutions, meeting recovery points became much easier. Before taking advantage of compression, the IT team couldn’t go back more than 14 days to recover. By combining deduplication in both solutions, U.S. Legal Support reduced storage requirements and the associated cost. After data is passed from Veeam, ExaGrid deduplicates it again, resulting in a reduction ratio of almost 4:1. This enables U.S. Legal Support to store 204TB of data in 50TB of space on its two ExaGrid systems.
U.S. Legal Support also takes advantage of Veeam’s native tape support to archive backups.
“Our data growth is so large that instead of purchasing more backup storage, we use Veeam to copy backups to tape,” McClain said. “We save $100,000 for every 40TB of data that we archive with Veeam’s tape support.”
McClain said another helpful Veeam feature is built-in encryption because it secures backup data from end to end. U.S. Legal Support is required to abide by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
“Knowing data is encrypted at all times—at source, during backup, inflight and at rest—is extremely important from a regulatory standpoint,” McClain said. “Veeam’s encryption is a feather in our cap with respect to HIPAA and whenever we respond to requests for proposals that focus heavily on security. Veeam has helped us target and win clients we might not have pursued in the past because of built-in encryption.”
Veeam Backup & Replication has been such a positive addition at U.S. Legal Support that the IT team upgraded to Veeam Availability Suite™ because it combines Veeam Backup & Replication with advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning.
“We’re just beginning to take advantage of Veeam’s virtualization management capabilities, and we love what we see so far,” McClain said. “The visibility that Veeam provides is unbelievable. We know that every VM is backed up, and when you have hundreds of VMs with more on the way, that’s a big deal. The alert dashboard and single-click drill-down help us identify and resolve issues in both the vSphere and backup environments, such as latency, before they affect availability. Veeam is so easy to use; it’s not complex like some of the other management tools on the market. Those other tools make you want to quit IT.”
Backup is 83% faster and recovery is 80% faster
A synthetic full backup using Veeam with the aging NAS device took up to 48 hours, while the same synthetic full backup job using Veeam with ExaGrid takes about 8 hours. Recovery with Veeam and the NAS device took up to 15 minutes, while recovery using Veeam and ExaGrid take about three minutes.
Built-in deduplication reduces backup-storage ratio by 4:1
After Veeam deduplicates backup data, ExaGrid deduplicates it again, resulting in a reduction ratio of almost 4:1. This enables U.S. Legal Support to store 204TB of data in 50TB of space on its two ExaGrid systems.
Backup copies to tape save $100,000 for every 40TB of archived data
Data grows by 200% every two years at U.S. Legal Support. Instead of purchasing more backup storage, the IT team uses Veeam to copy backups to tape, saving $100,000 for every 40TB of archived data.