Case Study: DeSilva Gates Construction

DeSilva Gates Construction Restores Critical Project and Contract Data with EVault

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DeSilva Gates Construction has come a long way from its early start in the 1930s as a small grading and paving company. Today, the company is the largest local construction employer in the Dublin, California region, which – at its peak – had a combined workforce of over 1,000 employees and over $350 million in combined annual revenues. Specializing in heavy, highway and civil engineering construction services for both public and private clients, DeSilva Gates has spent the past 10 years managing infrastructure improvements for what now amounts to over 3,000 acres of commercial and industrial projects, as well as over 20,000 residential properties.

Goals

When construction details are at stake for multiple, concurrent projects, DeSilva Gates depends on management of another critical infrastructure: Its own IT systems that keep important data readily available. Equally important is protecting that data.

DeSilva Gates’ IT systems routinely process and store a variety of documents ranging from scanned contract documents, email and even specifications and computer-aided grading plans or estimates developed by employees in the company’s Take-Off department. (According to Network and Systems Administrator Brian Gold, the Take-Off department is largely responsible for helping the company accurately calculate and “move mountains” of dirt both in and out of job sites).

Before joining DeSilva Gates, Gold worked for another firm used by the construction firm to replace faulty backup tapes. This had become a frequent occurrence. Once he joined the company, it didn’t take long for him to recommend a closer look at EVault Software from EVault, A Seagate Company. Having worked with EVault in the past, he knew EVault could help the company achieve the following:

  • Improve data protection process reliability with a switch from tape backup to disk-based backup
  • Reduce hands-on backup management needed at both the central headquarters and remote job sites
  • Speed restore times from prior backups
  • Prolong data retention times for both on-going and completed projects

“When I came here, they were already looking for a better backup/recovery solution than tape,” said Gold. “I told them, ‘I think I have a solution.’”

Challenges

Despite the clean, impressive results of a finished project, on-going construction can be messy. DeSilva Gates Construction’s central and remote job sites were no exception, experiencing their fair share of dust and dirt. Unfortunately, this type of high-dust environment didn’t mix well with the company’s tape-based backup processes: Frequent breakdowns, errors and needs for replacement were common. The backup process wasn’t foolproof, either, since it often relied on remote administrative assistants at job sites to switch out tapes (or, even, the project manager whenever the admin wasn’t there).

Tape-based backup wasn’t always reliable for recovering important documents or files and had also begun to take too much time to manage. “Backups used to be a full-time job of the Help Desk. We’d have to check the backup and troubleshoot why something failed,” recalled Gold. “Then, if someone needed you to go back in time because they needed an email from six months to a year ago, there might be a problem getting it back because that could have been the day the backups failed.”

Solutions

Gold had seen EVault Software in action in the late 1990s when he was a network administrator for another organization. Even back then, EVault’s rapid restore functionality made him take notice. After witnessing how well EVault helped him perform a bare metal restore of a previously failed server, he was hooked.

“I was able to bring the data back up, all the same as it was the day before. That was right there when I said this is an amazing product,” he recalled. He’d been equally impressed with EVault’s DeltaPro deduplication technology which allows it to back up and transmit only the changed data blocks since the last backup job. Its streamlined, centralized management was another plus.

After joining DeSilva Gates, a quick call to EVault led to meetings with an EVault representative. After working out the cost/benefit ratio, Gold was even more convinced EVault was the right choice. “The deciding factor to go with EVault at DeSilva Gates was my calculated ROI on the move. When I worked up my return on investment to switch to EVault, it was less than two years. Looking at how much we’ve used EVault since, it’s probably been even less than that,” he said.

Today, the company uses EVault nightly to protect file shares, folders, databases and email residing on over 50 predominantly Windows-based servers, as well as 10 Windows-based desktop computers. A single EVault server-based “vault” stores the backup data, in many cases retaining certain data sets for multiple years. Gold also uses EVault to migrate some of the vault’s longer-term backup data (and backup data from retired servers) to lower cost secondary storage pools where it can be quickly restored. The EVault Vault Backup Agent is also used monthly to send backup data to tape.

Results

Based on past experience, Gold knew he could depend on EVault. Now DeSilva Gates does, too.

He estimates use of EVault has since saved the company’s IT team and Help Desk at least 10 hours a week that it used to spend on tape management. EVault’s disk-based restores have also proved to be a Godsend in more than one occasion. Case in point? When the president of the company lost his Exchange-based mailbox, Gold and his team were able to quickly restore it from the previous night’s EVault backup job to get him back up and running.

Even more telling was the case of the ‘million-dollar document.’ “There was a TIFF image document we couldn’t find. We knew the approximate date we’d saved it,” he recalled. “We actually called it the million-dollar document that we were able to restore, thanks to EVault. That’s because it would have been a million-dollar lawsuit, otherwise. It had to do with an insurance certificate that someone stated we didn’t have. Since we keep a three-year retention of backup data with EVault, we were able to go back, locate and restore it very quickly.”

Given his long history with EVault, what have been his overall impressions? “I know there are other data protection solutions out there,” said Gold. “If I needed to look at them, I’m sure they might be good as well. But, as a data protection solution, I’ve always sworn by EVault and have already recommended it to about three other customers who’ve taken it on.”