Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn LLC of New York makes its money by providing investing, tax ramification, and estate planning advice to families and managing tax-exempt portfolios for pension and hedge funds, endowments and foundations. Ironically, the firm needed an outsider's financial insight to solve its data backup problem.
The company, which has approximately 55 employees, was having trouble coordinating data backups between its New York City and suburban White Plains offices. "We were using different versions of backup software, so I was concerned about our ability to quickly provide accurate, up-to-date information, if a problem arose," said Maury Myar, chief technology officer and principal at the firm, which has been in business since 1973.
The financial services corporation relies mainly on the Windows 2000 operating system to support the primary applications, Microsoft's SQL Server, Lotus Notes and Citrix Systems Inc. application sharing system. The company also uses a Unix-based, legacy IBM accounting system.
Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn had used Computer Associates ArcServe system to back up its servers for more than a decade. One problem was the firm had to rely on manual techniques to select and secure each tape. While the financial services supplier had IT professionals at the White Plains office, the task of managing the DLTtape drives often fell to non-IT personnel, who sometimes did not know how to perform such tasks.
Also, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn's disaster recovery plan was primitive. At week's end, the company would run full backups at each location. A courier then physically transported the tapes between the two locations, thus, providing a measure of geographical safety. Yet, the two sites were working with different versions of the ArcServe software during the week. "If we did have to completely restore our data, it would have been a time consuming, demanding process, one requiring a number of conversion steps," said Myar.
Although Myar was not satisfied with the approach, he didn't see any options. "I thought that a tape library system would be too expensive, costing say $50,000 or more, for an organization of our size," he said.
In the fall of 2001, he attended a focus group presentation sponsored by Quantum Corp. a Milpitas, Calif.-based vendor who supplied Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn's tape drives. When Myers discovered that a 16-tape backup unit was priced in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, he began exploring that option and did some research into backup software and hardware.
After perusing the market, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn selected Backup Exec from Veritas Software Corp., Mountain View, Calif., because it was compatible with a wide range of systems and simple to use. Quantum's ATLSuperloader was chosen because it offered a long-term migration path. The system now works with DLT1 drives but is compatible with SDLT drives, which offer twice as much capacity (5T bytes) and faster transmission rates, up to 115GB/hour.
In February 2002, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn began migrating from its ArcServe system to the new backup system. First, the company installed the Veritas software and a few months later the Quantum hardware followed. "The installation went much smoother than expected; we had a few software glitches with the Veritas system but we quickly cleared them up," said Myar.
The changes have made the firm's backup system more automated via tools like Quantum's remote management functions. The product's browser-based interface makes it simple for technicians to perform functions, such as loading or unloading new tapes. As a result, IT professionals at the firm's New York office now complete the backups for both locations. The company backs up select information during the day (using two 1.5Mbps connections to transport the information between the sites) and completes a full backup for all applications (approximately 100G bytes) on the weekends. Since the two locations are in synch, the company feels more comfortable about its disaster recovery plans.
Myar expects the new system to eventually help the company ensure important information is on file. Currently, the firm relies on Lotus Notes' replication features to periodically make copies of important information. The financial services firm has searched for similar functions with Microsoft SQL but has not found them. Eventually, the firm expects to use its backup system to periodically make copies of the database information. "The replication functions are something we expect Quantum to make available with its product in the next 12 months or so," he explained.
So far, Myar is happy that he went to an outsider for some advice about its backup system. "We thought pricing for a tape library system would be out of our league, but it turned out to be right in our ballpark," he said.