Cowboy museum ropes tiered online data backup from CoreVault

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum eliminated tape backup headaches and kept costs to a minimum by bringing in a tiered online backup service.

Like other small IT organizations, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum looked to an online data backup service provider when it wanted to rid itself of the logistical hassle of backing up to tape. The service it chose from Oklahoma's CoreVault is also helping the business cope with data growth more affordably with tiered storage options for backup data.

The cowboy museum, located in Oklahoma City, OK, gets approximately 200,000 visitors per year to its 220,000 square feet of exhibits, according to Susan Adams, assistant director of development. One of the organization's two IT people, IT director Sharon Kaster, had been manually managing tape backups using Symantec Corp. Backup Exec and a tape library, and storing tapes offsite at her home.

"Tapes were always failing and it would take hours to fix the problem," Adams said. "People would be without support services while we tried to rerun backup tapes."

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Adams said CoreVault, which backs up customer data using Asigra Inc.'s data backup software, was chosen to make offsite backups of about a terabyte of data split among three servers with direct-attached storage (DAS) in the museum's primary environment. Kaster said CoreVault was chosen for its local reputation (both of the company's data centers are located in Oklahoma) as well as competitive pricing.

When the museum signed on in September 2007, all of its data was stored for the same price, according to Adams. But last summer, the museum became one of the first CoreVault customers to try a new tiered storage offering from the service provider that charges different prices according to whether customer data is stored online, nearline or offline. "Our data was growing more quickly than we'd anticipated," she said. "We went to CoreVault and asked what else we could do to manage the data."

Adams and Kaster said they could not divulge the specific pricing they paid. CoreVault spokesperson Jeff Cato also declined to provide specific numbers for the pricing of the different services, but both the users and Cato described the pricing for nearline as about 30% less than for online storage, and offline storage about 60% less than online storage.

Cato said online storage is mirrored between CoreVault's two data centers, located 120 miles apart. Nearline storage is kept only at the secondary data center, and takes longer to restore. Offline storage is stored on tape and takes longest to restore. "We're automatically able to move data between tiers by setting up policies on the front-end using Asigra," Cato said.

CoreVault owns the data center and storage facilities, as well as the fiber-optic networks between them, which Adams said has also been an appealing factor about the company. "I spent 20 years in the telecom industry, and touring their facility I developed a comfort level with the service," she said.

According to Adams, about 300 GB of the company's data is kept online, 380 GB nearline and 211 GB offline. CoreVault also offers a Data Analysis Tool for determining which data should go on which tier of storage. At the same time, Kaster said she liked that the service leaves control over scheduling backups to the customer through Asigra's software on an appliance at the customer site. "We're still capable of managing backups ourselves, but we don't have to worry about tape issues," Kaster said.

While Adams and Kaster say they're satisfied with the service, it's not for everyone. Cato says the target customer has between 1 GB and 1 TB of storage. "We're their third-largest storage customer," Adams said. Last year, when the museum moved from Novell Groupwise to Exchange 2007 email, "we were CoreVault's first and largest Exchange 2007 customer at that time."

CoreVault is not the only cloud storage provider offering tiered storage plans to users -- Venyu, formerly AmeriVault, also offers tiered storage for a reduced price on lower tiers.

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