So it is no surprise that IT staff needs to have a backup method that introduces as little downtime as possible between when disaster strikes and policy information can be brought back on line. After all, times of disaster are when agents will most need that information to service their customers. This is why Nationwide chose to migrate its NonStop backup process from a slow and labor-intensive tape environment to a responsive and automated virtual tape library. Nationwide relies on ETI-NET’s BackBox product to implement that library. BackBox allows Nationwide to back up more than 50 GB each day in a minimum amount of time with minimal oversight, and offers information recovery faster and more reliably than traditional tape systems. Through BackBox, Nationwide has rendered tape into a relic of the past.
“Running BackBox has definitely saved us time and money,” says Brian Quelette, senior applications engineer for Nationwide Insurance. Designed specifically for NonStop system environments, BackBox facilitates the creation of a virtual tape library using Nationwide’s local storage. The BackBox subsystem simply appears to the NonStop hosts as if it is several directly-connected tape drives, resulting in totally transparent support by backup applications.
Unlike other virtual tape products in the market, the BackBox virtual tape controllers do not store any of the virtual tape library information – the subsystem control metadata, including the virtual tape catalog, is stored on the NonStop system under the protection of TMF, while the virtual tape data is sent directly to the customer’s choice of hard disk storage. As a result, BackBox provides more resiliency and flexibility than the competition. Customers such as Nationwide are able to utilize disk storage space they already own for their backup data. And if anything happens to a BackBox virtual tape controller none of the virtual tape catalog information is lost, as it never leaves the NonStop system.
Quelette said that when Nationwide initially chose to migrate to a virtual tape environment, it was looking at a different vendor’s product that just didn’t integrate well with the unique properties of their NonStop systems. That was about the time when he and his team found ETI-NET’s BackBox solution.
“Their system was more robust and tied into what the NonStop did,” Quelette says. “So we ended up using them and we actually have all of the NonStop data on a Windows server.” Quelette says Nationwide enjoys BackBox’s easy-to-use Web interface to set up volumes and administer the backup process. BackBox also provided Nationwide the flexibility to write its own scripts to replicate the backed up data. Quelette and his team purchased two BackBox VTC servers, placed one at each of its data center sites and used scripting to copy backup virtual tape images to the other site’s BackBox subsystem.
The replication provides maximum redundancy and even more peace of mind should one of the sites go completely offline.
“So, basically, it is almost like a hotsite,” Quelette says. “ We send files to the opposite data center so if we ever have to switch to the opposite data center we can immediately restore that data.”
The benefits of replacing tape backups with virtual tape through BackBox are significant, Quelette says. Nationwide was able to save a significant amount of money by completely eliminating tape storage service from IronMountain. Virtual tape recovery efforts are much quicker, as it takes less time to bring up data from disk than from tape, especially given that tapes were often stored off site and had to be found and retrieved before even starting the recovery process.
Eliminating the layer of off site storage also got rid of worries of lost tapes, which not only posed recovery risks, but also very real information security risks. In addition, Quelette says that his staff’s time was freed up after implementing BackBox. Operators no longer need to babysit the backup process, giving them more time to worry about more important matters.
“There are tangible and intangible benefits to using BackBox,” Quelette says. “I know we’ve saved money, backups run a lot faster, we have the ability to get the files up faster, and the reliability of the data has improved. Plus, so much of the operators’ time is saved this way.”
As an added bonus, when Quelette needed to upgrade to NonStop Integrity, he and his team were able to use Back- Box to facilitate migration. Nationwide was able to take advantage of BackBox’s ability to be cross-connected between S-series and NS series hosts in order to use virtual tape as a system migration path.