Case Study: Pronet

ProNet Turns to EVault to Replace its “Medieval” Tape-Based Backup System

Download Case Study

Application service provider uses online backup to assure clients their data is always secure and available.

Located in Leesburg, Virginia, application service provider (ASP) ProNet Technologies provides small businesses with access to mission critical applications and data protection to run their business from anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

“The one thing we sell more than anything is security. Without the security we’re nothing. We might as well have servers in our basement. We have to emphasize to clients that their business data is secure, with the proper security and encryption in place. Most importantly, if they lose something, we have to be able to reproduce it pretty quickly,” explains Dan Hine, who founded ProNet in 1998.

To better meet the data protection needs of its clients—which include credit unions, accounting firms, law offices, and hospitals—and streamline its own operations, ProNet decided to replace its tape-based backup and recovery system.

Goals

With just eight employees, including sales, admin and a technical support team, ProNet found that backing up to and recovering data from tapes cost too much and consumed too many man-hours. Its goals for the new backup and recovery solution were to:

  • Improve protection and security of backed-up data
  • Reduce time spent changing tapes at an offsite facility
  • Create a reliable backup system
  • Lower costs

Challenges

Under its tape-based backup system, Hine would send a technician to their server facility 30 miles away to manually change the tape each night. A third-party company would then pick up the tapes and store them at an offsite facility. “It would cost us $100 to $125 a night to send a technician out to change that tape,” Hine recalls. “Nobody wanted to do it. Sometimes I think it wasn’t getting done even though we were told otherwise.”

Even if the technician did complete the task, Hine and his staff had no way to verify that the backup had been successful. “With our tape-based solution, we couldn’t verify if our backups were completed successfully and were able to be used during a recovery attempt. We were looking for a solution that provided monitoring capabilities and the status of backups so we would know immediately if there were any issues that needed to be resolved. We were also looking for a more reliable medium to store backups. With tape, sometimes you get a defective one, but have no idea until you actually try to restore your data” Hine says.

Restores were slow and equally unreliable. Clients had to wait for hours while a ProNet staffer retrieved the tape from the storage center, drove it to the server facility, loaded it, and hoped for the best.

“We always cringed when a client had a request for a restored file. We felt like we were living in the medieval times with our backup and restore solution. We often worried about the integrity of the data, and whether it was backed up correctly. Everything in our company was being done remotely and from our desktops, except backup,” Hine says.

Then there were the security risks. In the time between the tapes getting changed and picked up, they were stored in the same place as the servers themselves. “If the place went up in smoke, then what? You have nothing,” Hine says.

The challenge was to find a better, secure solution that would enable ProNet’s IT staff to easily and automatically back up data offsite, verify that backups had been successful, and restore data more quickly—and do it all for less money and fewer man-hours.

Solutions

Following a thorough evaluation process and trial run, ProNet chose the EVault SaaS online service to protect its 18 Microsoft Windows 2003 and Exchange servers. Every night, backup agents installed on ProNet servers “wake up” and scan for files added or changed by its clients since the last backup. EVault DeltaPro™ technology compresses those files and encrypts the data before sending it over the network to a secure off-site storage vault. Since only new files and changed data blocks of existing files are compressed and backed up, a small percentage of the total data is sent over the network each day, shrinking backup windows significantly and increasing performance.

When a backup fails, Hine receives an email alerting him to the problem right away. If he needs help, EVault’s customer service is on hand to provide support. “I haven’t had to call them in months, but the last time I called them they answered on the first ring,” Hine says.

Results

Whereas tape backups used to cost more than $100 a night (including the physical labor of having a technician change the tapes each night), the EVault SaaS software-as-a-service ProNet uses costs less than $100 a month. ProNet’s customers no longer have to wait four hours to have a file restored; they can have it in minutes, and ProNet staff can do it from anywhere. Data is backed up directly to disk at an offsite vault, so it’s never at risk.

For Hine, one of the biggest benefits is the ability to verify backups and restore files remotely. If a backup fails for any reason, he knows about it and can deal with it right away. When he’s on the road, he’s still able to access his servers and has even restored files for a client using his Palm Treo smartphone. “Customer service has got to be our number one priority. Clients appreciate the fact that we are able to restore quickly and reliably each time.”