Outsourcing with a new twist

HomePortfolio finds an economical solution to back up their e-business Web site database in less time.

Outsourcing with a new twist
Managing tape backups

By Linda Christie

To back up their e-business Web site database in a shorter window of time, HomePortfolio needed an economical solution that wouldn't strap their IT staff resources.

HomePortfolio Inc. offers a full suite of e-business solutions for the home design industry, including a database of 35,000 home design products and more than 500,000 stockkeeping units (SKU). "With the magnitude of our products and personalized user information, the amount of storage we need to manage daily is pretty staggering," says Darren Mace, director of IT at HomePortfolio in Newton, Mass. "Many people think tape backup is easy. But, the amount of work required would take our staff away from performing core IT functions."

From the beginning, HomePortfolio contracted with their data center for tape backup services. However, with the addition of an Oracle data warehouse server, tape storage was getting too expensive. Also, the eight-hour timeframe required for backups was infringing on their Web site. "Our Web site is our bread and butter," Mace says. "It runs pretty hot from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. eastern time. So, we really only have a five-hour window available for incremental backups."

To find a better and less expensive solution, Mace contacted a number of storage service providers. "When we talked to Storability Inc., they had a different spin on handling backup data," Mace says. "They manage the data on your site from their AssuredStorage Operations Center (ASOC). So, the data never leaves your premises. That idea really appealed to me because it would be a critical loss if our data were damaged, stolen or compromised."

In addition to utilizing Storability's plug-and-play AssurENT Architecture that automates backup and restore functions, HomePortfolio is also installing and integrating the new DLT tape drive unit into their current production environment, as well as testing the backup agent software. "Now, all of our production equipment, including our Web servers, backup server and tape drive, will be together and secured in one cage at the data center," says Mace. "This gives us better security and control over our information assets."

As an added benefit, Mace says he doesn't have to take the time to come up to speed on the best tape backup technology and strategies to use. "Storability has helped us refine what to back up for weekdays and weekends. So, we can get the job done without degrading Web site performance or losing valuable data. They created three classifications for data in the same database. Now, we can extract the daily transactions for incremental backups and perform more complete backups on a weekly and biweekly schedule. They even provided scripting that allows us to talk seamlessly with the Oracle database and applications servers," he says.

According to Storability, the company's staff uses a 56K-byte line to remotely monitor and manage a customer's onsite storage 24x7. If something gets jammed in the middle of the night, the ASOC will be notified automatically. Then as needed, Storability will dispatch a customer engineer onsite to work on the equipment.

"Storage is our primary business," says Kirby Wadsworth, cofounder and vice president of marketing for Storability, a provider of automated storage assurance services located in Southborough, Mass. "Our staff has the deep expertise that most IT departments don't have. And, we can provide 24x7 monitoring for about half the cost of one shift at their own location. We also handle upgrades, adding new capacity, overseeing installation and testing."

Fortunately, today, many SSPs and storage vendors are offering remote management alternatives that give companies the benefits of storage-on-demand, 24x7 monitoring and world-class storage management without gouging their pocketbooks. "For a company that needs to focus all of their IT resources on their business, having someone to manage your tape backup operations is a great benefit." Mace says. "We anticipate that by purchasing the equipment and using Storability's remote management service, we will save 20-30%."

For additional information on HomePortfolio, visit their Web site.

For more information about Storability, visit their Web site.

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This was first published in July 2001

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