Super Bowl champs change backup strategy

The Kraft Group, which owns the New England Patriots and other businesses, is forsaking tape for a hosted disk-to-disk backup service.

With three Super Bowl rings in four years, it's clear that the New England Patriots take great measures not to lose games. The same can be said for how they approach their data.

With time-consuming tape backups draining resources, the IT department of the New England Patriots did what the Super Bowl champs did so often during the season: adapted to a problem with a more efficient solution.

The Kraft Group, the holding company for the New England Patriots, the New England Revolution soccer team and various paper and packaging companies, is in the process of replacing all their tape backups with a hosted disk-to-disk backup service from data protection outsourcer AmeriVault Corp.

Whether to keep backup and restore responsibilities in-house or hand them to a third party is a decision more and more companies are grappling with. The Kraft Group, which has data residing on servers that span 13 locations throughout New England, felt it had been trucking tapes off site for too long and the time had come to outsource backup duties.

CIO Patricia Curley, said the AmeriVault service -- which provides remote backup and restore for users on EMC Clariion arrays in its Waltham data center -- is the same concept as off-site tape archiving. "We still schedule the backups and store data off site, but now it is done automatically on a faster medium with data restores that are instant. All the manual labor of tape is taken out of it."

User still has control

The AmeriVault online backup service has two key pieces of software. CentralControl is software that sits on a desktop where users can schedule the frequency and type of backups for each server and do point-and-click data restores. CentralControl is also used to select encryption methodology and passwords.

Agent software is installed on all the servers that will be backed up. After an initial full backup is moved over to the AmeriVault disk systems to get things started, the agent software uses delta processing to back up only data that has changed.

Other companies that provide similar disk-to-disk backup services include Arsenal Digital Solutions, EVault, Iron Mountain Inc., LiveVault Corp., Managed Storage International (MSI) and Storactive Inc.

Curley declined to mention what other vendors the Kraft Group evaluated, but said that they were most impressed with AmeriVault's encryption capability. "And it didn't hurt that they were local," added Curley. In addition to hosting backup, AmeriVault includes a mobile backup server service that provides a temporary replacement server if one of the Kraft Group's servers is damaged.

Hosts with the most?

Peter Gerr, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, Mass., said that hosted services like AmeriVault's are starting to make more financial and technical sense.

"The price of disk and bandwidth are going down, while at the same time companies are dealing with more data, flat IT budgets and less time to do backups," said Gerr.

Gerr added that there is an emotional resistance to outsourcing backup out of the understandable fear of not getting your data back. "There is still a level of trust and comfort that needs to develop," he said.

Gerr pointed out that a benefit of hosted backup is that a user ends up with a built-in disaster recovery site. Curley of the Kraft Group agrees and also had DR in mind when considering third-party backup. "If God forbid a disaster hit Foxboro Stadium, we would be up and running so much faster with this service."

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