Case Study: Simpson Strong-Tie

Simpson Strong-Tie Extends its Cloud Infrastructure with EVault Managed Backup & Replication

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While the average person might not be familiar with Simpson Strong-Tie, chances are they likely have one or more Simpson Strong-Tie products strengthening the underlying structure of their home or workplace. In the world of construction, Simpson Strong-Tie (a subsidiary of Simpson Manufacturing, Inc.) has come to be highly regarded for its 50+ years of quality design and engineering innovation, particularly for products like its well-known Simpson connectors, Simpson fastening systems and pre-fabricated shearwalls.

Goals

Recent years saw Simpson expand and acquire several other firms and continue to push the envelope farther to 1) expand its brand name into other countries and 2) expand its product offerings while maintaining its reputation for quality and customer service.

This dedication extended to the company’s IT infrastructure which evolved into its own progressive, internal cloud architecture and Citrix-based thin clients with full virtual desktops to support Simpson’s global workforce at 40 locations and five worldwide data centers. Manager of Global IT Operations & Support, Eugene Alfaro knew Simpson’s outdated, inefficient data protection processes also was in desperate need of an overhaul.

Built around what he described as “legacy backup applications, legacy media tapes and outdated technology,” Alfaro hoped to move Simpson Strong-Tie to:

  • Virtually eliminate the risk of data loss
  • Update and replace aging tape backup processes with true disk-to-disk backup
  • Extend its cloud-based services to encompass a new hybrid on-premise/cloud solution
  • Reduce local backup administration with easy, end-to-end managed services
  • Ensure SOX compliance and rapid offsite data recovery

Challenges

“What prompted our move to EVault, A Seagate Company, and EVault? We lost data,” said Alfaro, “The cause of the data loss was a system failure. But, the real problem was that we couldn’t recover effectively from the data loss.”

He went on to note, “Backups weren’t reliable and they were difficult to manage and verify. Tape technology required a long time to back up and restore data, raising the risk that you wouldn’t be able to back up everything you needed. Full backups were also being overwritten when they shouldn’t have been.” These problems were exacerbated by the fact that Simpson Strong-Tie ran its IT staffing and budgets on the very lean side, without extra people or funds to spread around.

Simpson’s data loss ultimately required Alfaro and his team to restore data from a much earlier backup tape. This alone cost the company potentially millions in lost productivity. It also left Alfaro and his senior management with a resolve to never let it happen again.

Solutions

Alfaro had become familiar with EVault’s EVault technology at an earlier employer. As he recalled, “We looked at deploying it there and I just kept my eye on EVault since then. It was the EVault DeltaPro technology that kept me interested. Never having to do a full backup again, and the creation of synthetic fulls, was very attractive. Doing a full backup every Friday just didn’t make sense.”

When he got back in touch with EVault, he became more intrigued once he learned of the other services the company now offered. He was especially interested in EVault’s cloud architecture and the options available to implement the technology. This included implementation as a hybrid software/cloud architecture that would allow both local backup and recovery from client-owned software and hardware coupled with remote data replication to one or more of EVault’s secure, SAS-70 Type II data centers. Alfaro thought EVault’s experienced managed services also looked like a promising way to remove the backup management burden from Simpson’s already strained IT staff.

As he recalls, the decision to go with EVault came down to two things: A solid, innovative technology and EVault’s own dedication to end-to-end management and customer service. The latter became readily apparent from Alfaro’s first EVault contact on through to the company’s project management, implementation and follow-up support. It has even since extended to the on-going EVault Managed Services Simpson enjoys today.

This type of end-to-end solution and service fully managed by the same company was exactly what Alfaro wanted (and had a tough time finding with competing vendors Symantec and IBM). “Even though Symantec had a cloud offering with their product and a third party to store their data, it wasn’t Symantec-owned. Even the deduplication component came from another vendor. There were just too many cooks in the kitchen, with three different parties, including a separate software services provider,” he said.

After looking at its options, Simpson chose to move forward with EVault. The company now has 30 Windows-based servers in three data centers backed up nightly to each of three local EVault disk-based “vaults” also installed at each data center. Data protected on the servers ranges from Microsoft Office file shares to data associated with Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, AutoCAD files and the company’s Citrix datastore. Each local vault is, in turn, replicated nightly to a remote EVault data center where data can be easily restored at a moment’s notice. The entire process is also overseen by EVault managed services, a welcome relief for Alfaro and his team.

Results

Today, Alfaro reports rapid backup and recovery are now a given that he and his team no longer need to worry about. That’s thanks to EVault and EVault Managed Services.

Said Alfaro, “Our budget is so lean that we had to have a truly, easy to manage, hands-off environment. We wanted easy administration and managed services, but we wanted managed services from end-to-end. That means every issue encountered and the close of the issue is actually managed by EVault Managed Services. This is truly a fully managed service.” What’s been his experience since with EVault? “So far, it’s been truly, fully managed. EVault does diagnostics, and has even gotten a storage system manufacturer involved in replacing a part when it began to fail on a local vault. Our managed services team identified the issue, tried to troubleshoot it, and then initiated follow-up contact with the storage vendor which led to a prompt replacement of the part.”

Just as important have been his impressions of EVault’s EVault technology itself. “Before you adopt any cloud-based technology, you need to ask yourself if it’s cloud ready,” he said. “Cloud readiness, to me, means a technology that uses limited bandwidth and the addresses latency on the Internet. I also look for early signs the technology was designed lean from the beginning. A lot of companies come out and say, ‘We are a cloud services provider,’ only to capture an attentive market but this is where EVault truly has an advantage. The company designed EVault from the beginning to be a cloud services technology. Its EVault DeltaPro technology is very, very efficient. The technology is also resilient and very tolerant in its communication. It’s designed to be thin and works well in the cloud.”