Weather in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, home to Dare County Schools, can be volatile, especially during hurricane season. This chain of islands sits in the Atlantic Ocean, just a few miles off the coast, where Hurricane Isabel most recently carved a path in 2003. The school system was lucky to escape unscathed, but for Technology Director Carl Woody, this scare was just the catalyst he needed to make the switch to an easier-to-manage, more reliable backup and disaster recovery system.

Hurricane season wasn’t the technology director’s only concern. Woody found it difficult to ensure that staffers at eleven schools were swapping tapes on time in each of his 30 servers. The risk of not getting an accurate restore in the event of human error or an actual disaster was getting too high.

“We have a large quantity of servers, and to manage all of the tapes for each backup rotation, I had to rely on a different person at each site to swap the tapes,” said Woody. “It just didn’t happen.”

To ensure that up-to-the-minute data recovery would always be available, Woody decided to look for a new backup system that would be simpler for him to manage. In addition to ensuring dependable backups, Woody also wanted a system that made restores quicker and easier. Woody was referred to STORServer by a fellow administrator who had a positive experience with the company’s Business Continuity Appliance at a previous school system where he had worked. After comparing STORServer with several other options, including solutions from Dell and EMC, Woody decided on the STORServer K12 Appliance, which Dare County Schools purchased nearly one year ago.

STORServer’s line of Business Continuity Appliances offers complete backup, disaster recovery, archiving, data protection, and life-cycle management solutions housed in one box. Each appliance includes the hardware, software, server, tape slots, disks, and training that customers need and comes ready to plug in.

Using Dare County’s new STORServer Appliance, all of the school district’s data are backed up to disk and then to one set of tapes that Woody can personally manage.

“None of the management of the tape libraries at each site is required anymore,” Woody said. “Staff members at each school do not have to worry about 30 tapes for each server.”

The new appliance proved its usefulness soon after its purchase, when one school’s technology facilitator–a teacher with a technology background–accidentally deleted several gigabytes of important storage snapshots from a server while attempting to clean a drive. Woody said restoring the data using STORServer took approximately 10 minutes. The consolidated management of backup and disaster recovery has also given Woody peace of mind about his ability to restore the district’s systems in the face of a hurricane or other disaster. His biggest fear–that each server did not get backed up–is no longer a concern. And when a big storm does arrive, control of the information is solely in his hands.

“Did we get the backup? Did everyone grab that tape off-site? I don’t have to worry about any of that,” Woody said. “When a storm comes, I simply take the disaster recovery tapes out.”

The STORServer appliance saves Woody a tremendous amount of time when restores are needed. The restore process is simple enough that at least one person at each school can do it.

“Restore is pretty much instant,” Woody said. “Because of the appliance’s web-based interface, the time-consuming process of finding out which tape the information is on and then scanning it to ensure the information is there is eliminated. We don’t worry about where the data are anymore, we just select what information we want and the restore is done.”

Woody also enjoys not having to rely on different platforms of backup programs to manage the school district’s technology–a combination of Microsoft Server, Novell Netware, and Windows XP desktops. The district’s previous backup system used a combination of Veritas and ArcServ. STORServer’s TSM software is compatible with all of the school district’s assets.

The K12 Appliance’s easy-to-use management interface has been another time-saving asset for Woody, who can accomplish vital tasks–such as creating rights for administrators–quickly and easily.

“Everything is web-based and very easy to manage,” Woody said.

Woody credits the new K12 Appliance with significantly increasing productivity for the school district’s staff of more than 800.

“The amount of time personnel have saved because of the appliance–whether in terms of managing the tape library, restoring data, or decreased system down time–is very significant,” said Woody. “You can’t put a dollar figure on it. We’re thrilled.”


Dare County Schools

STORServer Inc.

About the Author:

eSchool News