Case Study for using AppAssure for City Government’s Data Backup

*The FolloDell AppAssurewing is a case study from Dell AppAssure.  Great Lakes Computer is an Authorized Partner for AppAssure Software and Solutions.

Just five miles from the Texas border with a population of approximately 38,000 folks, many who work in the oil industry, Hobbs, NM is home to shopping, a comfortable climate, casinos, horse racing, golf, Old West history, the New Mexico Junior College and University of the Southwest educational facilities, along with the Lea County Southwest Symphony and Hobbs Community Playhouse. The city’s staff of some 450+ employees at the city’s administrative offices is responsible for the smooth running of the police and fire departments, parks and recreation, the city’s transportation system, waste water treatment facility, cemetery operations, water production and more. Ron Roberts’s IT department of six specialists (including Christa Clements, Software specialist, and Jeff Sanford, Communications Specialist) manages the infrastructure that makes the city run.

Some of the most important data is processed on the SQL servers in Roberts’s team’s care including images, scanned documents, the GIS layered maps program, MUNIS – the financial software package, license plate recognition system application, AIMS – the ambulance billing system, and more. “It’s safe to say that the city runs on SQL applications,” says Roberts. “Without them, we’d be in deep trouble.”

Protecting Critical SQL Applications

And trouble was just what Roberts and his team were trying to avoid as they struggled for years with a backup system for the city’s critical data that was cobbled together using tape, Backup Exec, disks, and SAN devices. “We even tried writing some of our own backup scripts for NT Backup,” laughs Roberts, “and some of the servers, we were backing up manually. With this hodgepodge, it was hard to check each day to make sure we got a good backup. We were doing nightly full backups, and then offsiting them on the weekends. Some servers were taking 17 hours to back up and then failing because the backup got too big.” Not only that, the best recovery scenario the city could hope for was at least 24 hours along with the fact that the city’s night operation could become sluggish as data was being backed up.

Huge backup windows, failed backups, and having to manage multiple backup systems began to take its toll on Hobbs’s IT team. “We couldn’t get a centralized backup solution for our environment,” explains Roberts. “We’d have to do a full install on each server and then manually push it over to one of the SANs. It was a hassle, but I tell you – we were lucky. There were several occasions that we went to a backup that wasn’t there. We often caught the failed backup, but it was a constant effort. The final straw was the water bill server. The power supply went out and we couldn’t get it back for days. We were able to repair the power supply and then resurrect the original server with all data intact, but the backup data on tape was not available. If the current server had not been repairable then data would have been lost since the last successful backup of several months past.”

Continuous Protection + Stellar Storage Space Savings

The City of Hobbs switched to Dell AppAssure when it was clear things were not going to get better. “When the city manager got on board, we decided to go for a good solution,” says Roberts. “We looked at several different backup and disaster recovery solutions, but Dell AppAssure is the Cadillac of the systems we looked at, and a great fit for us.”

Dell AppAssure gives the Hobbs IT team key application protection and allows all aspects of their infrastructure to be protected, including a centralized administrative system. Says Roberts, “Everything’s integrated and we can see the check marks and can know it’s working.” Hobbs is also now experiencing continuous application protection with no work flow interruption. “We’re doing hourly SQL Server snapshots and no city operations are affected by this,” says Roberts. Not only that, but we’ve got 1.4TB compressed to 21GB, which is a 63.95x storage savings. This is pretty phenomenal. We like that it’s just a small footprint on the server which relieves burden about wondering whether we’ll have the backup capacity for all our data.”

The City of Hobbs’ backup window has been eliminated and none of the night operations are affected in the least. In addition, Hobbs is seeing recovery points under an hour, where prior it would take at least 24 hours, and the ability to restore itemized files has been great for the team. Notes Roberts, “We really like the ability just to restore individual email messages or one document.”

Looking to the Future

As Roberts, Clements, Sanford, and the rest of the IT team look to the future, they’ve already planned out how they’ll use Dell AppAssure to take the City of Hobbs to the next level of business continuity. “We’ve had the problem of moving an old system to a new system in the past where we’d build a new server and then manually move it all over,” explains Roberts. “It’s pretty time consuming. The fact that we can do this with Dell AppAssure is great.” Soon the city will be adding Dell AppAssure’s desktop protection, as well as beginning to move to virtualization. They’ll also be using Dell AppAssure’s replication feature for offsite disaster recovery from any disaster be it flood, tornado, or another power outage. “We look forward to having an offsite storage solution with Dell AppAssure,” notes Roberts. “We’re on the edge of tornado alley, but we’ve also recently gone through a 500 year rain, so if something happened to one of the city’s administrative buildings, it’ll be nice to have our information secure in another location.”

As Roberts sums it up: “Dell AppAssure is the best solution out there. The technology is a great fit for us.”