Case Study: Xamin, Western Digital, and StorageCraft

Case Study: Xamin, Western Digital, and StorageCraft

December 17

IT providers do an awful lot. In essence, they provide technology solutions that empower their clients and allow them to be more productive. Once these solutions are in place, they monitor and manage them so they can be sure everything runs smoothly and that any critical data is secure and won’t fall into the wrong hands.

At the end of the day, some of the most essential things an IT provider can offer relate to backup, disaster recovery, and information security. Businesses need experts who understand these concepts and can implement safeguards that keep their systems online and defend the data therein. Business would do well to find people like Pete and Jeff.

Pete Smothers and Jeff Kuehn are engineers at Xamin, a Chicago-based managed service provider (MSP) specializing in everything from managed IT services to project services, consulting, and strategic services. Pete works on the sales side, while Jeff handles much of the systems engineering. With thirty three years’ combined experience, the two steer Xamin toward affordable solutions they can package and sell to their clients.

Xamin works with a number of client types, including two specialty areas: medical and financial, which carry their own challenges like the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) and Sarbanes-Oxley. But whatever the case, Xamin can build a backup and disaster recovery solution that serves individual clients’ uptime needs, while also keeping important information secure. As Pete says,

It’s usually clients coming to us and asking, “what’s the best solution for the dollar?” It’s our job to build a solution around those needs.

An IT provider can help a variety of clients, whether they’re audited and regulated or not, but there are two aspects that can cause businesses the most financial stress: uptime and security.

It takes a slick combination of hardware and software to meet recovery objectives, which are the guidelines Xamin uses to determine what a client needs. Pete explains that Xamin will look at a client’s recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) to determine what kind of uptime they need and how much data they can afford to part with (if any). Once they know what the client needs, they can roll out a solution tailored to their requirements.

The question, then, is what is a good combination of hardware and software to meet these recovery challenges?

Using StorageCraft Recover-Ability

On the software end, any business needs something more than simple backup software. They need something that backs up systems reliably and is flexible, secure, and easily manageable. For Xamin, StorageCraft® Recover-Ability™ was the clear choice. Jeff makes use of StorageCraft® ShadowProtect® for snapshots of various systems along with StorageCraft® ImageManager™ to consolidate image files and to replicate data offsite. Jeff shared four reasons why he uses StorageCraft Recover-Ability:

It’s hardware agnostic

Using StorageCraft® Hardware Independent Restore™ technology, Jeff can restore machines to same or dissimilar hardware:

About four years ago we set up our main offering and StorageCraft is the main focus. For us the main appeal was that it was an image-based backup and it had the ability to recover to any piece of hardware.

It can be used in physical and virtual environments

Some clients have all physical machines, but many these days have a combination of virtual and physical. ShadowProtect doesn’t care what type of systems you have:

We’re moving lots of clients into virtual environments and we didn’t want hardware to become a limitation. We didn’t want clients to have a failure and then decide they want to go virtual or to run into issues moving things from one physical system to another.

It can replicate to just about anywhere

Onsite backups are a great start, but to really be protected from large disasters, you need something in another location:

The built-in replication tools in ImageManager, which several clients use today, were just another piece of the plan that really came to benefit clients that chose to purchase that license for site-to-site replication. The flexibility of being able to replicate to just about anywhere is definitely a benefit of ImageManager.

It works, and they can prove it

At the end of the day, you can’t just have a backup and wonder if it works, you’ve got to know it works:

[With ShadowProtect] we did a lot of restorations and testing and could always deliver. Today all of our clients are required to do annual DR testing, so most of our clients have a site they go to in order to test and we’ll put all of their backups on external media and do full restorations of their environment in a lab.

Of course, the hardware you use to store backups is just as important as the backup itself. When hardware failure is as common as it is, it stands to reason that you need stable, reliable equipment to put your backups on, and it needs to have the proper specs to fit a variety of clients. And that’s exactly what Xamin found in the Western Digital® WD Sentinel™ NAS.

Using Western Digital’s Sentinel NAS

Xamin uses the WD Sentinel DX4000 as a part of each client’s backup network. With capacities ranging from 4 TB up to 16 TB, and an Intel Atom D525 1.8 GHz Dual Core processor as well, there’s a size for each client’s backup storage needs, with the processing power to handle nearly any storage operation. (The WD Sentinel X-series is available in rack-mount and pedestal models).

While businesses can take a number of approaches to backups, Xamin decided that regular network traffic should be separate from traffic dedicated to backup procedures. Jeff explains:

We isolate the backup traffic to a completely separate subnet with a standard IP range. All of the servers and assets that are running are being backed up and the traffic is sent across a backup network.

Jeff says this allows the network to function smoothly while backup jobs are completed. Each client backup network leverages the WD Sentinel NAS device along with StorageCraft ImageManager, which manages and consolidates backup images on the NAS from a separate management server:

The WD Sentinels are deployed along the backup network and the regular management network so they can be accessed from either. Most of our deployments have a backup proxy or administrative server that sits on the management or production network. The admin server is where we deploy ImageManager so it can perform consolidations for the backups stored on the WD Sentinel.

But why choose the WD Sentinel, when there are so many other NAS options to choose from? Jeff had a few reasons:

Windows Storage Server 2008 is built in

Because they have Windows Storage Server, we can actually deploy our management agent on the device so if that WD Sentinel has any issues, it generates an alert in our ticketing system.

Monitoring is a breeze

Traditional NAS devices can’t necessarily be monitored unless we do some sort of ping monitoring. With the WD Sentinel, we can monitor it with our agents. Since we work with these highly regulated markets, backups are critical for clients. If the device we use to store the backups goes down, we need to resolve that right away so backups can continue.

Replication can happen from the WD Sentinel to wherever needed

We use a third-party cloud vendor and most who replicate backups use that solution. We also have a few clients that do internal replication using ImageManager, these ones are usually replicating to one of their own facilities. They usually have a SAN or another WD Sentinel NAS on a secondary site for site-to-site replication.

It’s just plain easy

We can deploy them quickly, pre-configure them, ship them to the client, and all we’ve got to do is plug them in—it’s easy.

Building a Backup and Disaster Recovery Framework

With StorageCraft Recover-Ability and the WD Sentinel NAS, Xamin has a backup and recovery framework they can rollout to clients of varying sizes, with various needs, all while ensuring security, compliance, manageable costs, and above all else, reliability. Jeff explains that StorageCraft and Western Digital is always a good offer for clients:

Using StorageCraft and Western Digital storage devices has been a real integral part of our backup offering. It’s our main lead-in and primary products for disaster recovery.

Pete agreed, explaining that reliable products are the easiest to bring to clients. Backup and disaster recovery is really about having confidence in your solutions:

We’ve endeavored to choose product lines that we can be deep with. In order to spend time configuring these products and evangelizing them, we have to be confident in them. Microsoft, VMware, StorageCraft—these are the types of products that we’ve adopted early on and we’ve worked hard to maintain our partner levels. We drive these products very easily to our customers.

When it’s all said and done, the clients are happy, sensitive information is secure, and everybody can rest easy. As Pete puts it,

We partner with a lot of the big players and we put StorageCraft and Western Digital right in there with them—they’re in that mix of very trusted partners. They help us help our clients sleep at night.

About Xamin

Xamin is a Chicago-based IT provider that’s been providing IT service since the late nineties. They deliver managed services, professional services, and consulting services, with a special focus on compliance-heavy vertical markets like medical practices and financial institutions.

As early adopters of virtualization, they see the value in having flexible systems and harnessing technology to their and their clients’ advantage. As their website reads:

“At Xamin, we believe that competitive advantage in today’s fast-paced marketplace is achieved by employing leading-edge technologies that predict—instead of react to—future business needs. And that fostering long-term partnerships based on mutual trust and collaboration is integral to achieving growth and sustaining long-term business value.”

About Western Digital

We are thousands of people worldwide working to enable you to store, collect, access, and use a vast and growing body of digital information.

Our reliable hard drives and solid state drives, marketed under the WD and HGST brands, are everywhere that digital information and content is found: in the cloud, supporting your mobile digital lifestyle; in business and personal computers; in external storage devices; in the digital video recorder in your home; and in sophisticated medical, military, aerospace, automotive, manufacturing and telecommunications systems.

We also make media players that enable you to enjoy your digital content on the biggest screen in your house—your TV. Our customers range from some of the largest companies in the world to individual users like you.

With the acquisition of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST), now a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital Corporation, we have expanded R&D resources, a broader product portfolio, greater manufacturing scale and a larger geographic footprint. With two successful independent subsidiaries, WD and HGST, we expect to accomplish great things as we build the new WD to be the world’s leading storage solutions provider.