Sporton, a mobile device certification provider based in Taipei, Taiwan, must ensure that critical customer and employee data is reliably backed up and easily restored. To better protect its data while reducing backup and recovery administration time, Sporton deployed Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 to its data center, 12 branch offices, and mobile client computers. Sporton employees and developers now manage their own data protection and recovery, which has reduced backup administration time by 60 percent, and database recovery time by 40 percent. Server, application, and file data are now more efficiently backed up in the data center, and the company is saving 30 percent on disk storage. Having a highly reliable data protection solution has also saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars when customer data was at risk due to hardware failures.
Sporton International, based in Taipei, Taiwan, does testing and certification for mobile devices and wireless devices for customers around the world. Sporton was founded in 1986, and it currently has 450 employees and 12 branch offices in Taiwan, China, and Korea. The company has two main data centers, one in Taipei, and the other in nearby Linkou.
Because Sporton is responsible for maintaining business-critical certification data for its customers, data protection is an important part of the IT staff’s mission. “We store a lot of important customer data,” says David Feng, IT Director at Sporton International. ”If we were to lose a customer’s data and we didn’t have a reliable backup, it would be a disaster, and it would cost us a lot of money. It’s crucial for us that this data is easily recoverable in case of a hardware failure or other problem.”
The data protection landscape at Sporton is made more challenging by the complex nature of the IT infrastructure. The company has made a strong move toward virtualization in recent years, and it now exclusively uses the Hyper-V virtualization technology built into the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. The main data center currently houses 40 physical servers that are running more than 120 virtual machines (VMs).
||Two or three times we have nearly lost customer data due to a hardware malfunction. Data Protection Manager 2010 saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars because we can easily retrieve that data.
IT Director, Sporton International
A staff of seven administrators supports the IT needs of 450 employees who work on 550 desktop and mobile computers that primarily run the Windows 7 and Windows XP operating systems. Many of the company’s employees, including most of the sales staff, work remotely, and Sporton did not have a good data protection system in place for these client computers, which left them vulnerable to data loss. “Many users’ data lived only on their laptops,” says Feng. “So if a user lost a computer or if its hard drive crashed, we might not be able to restore critical information. We needed a mechanism to help us automatically protect client data, even when users are offline.”
Sporton uses the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 business collaboration platform to host a company intranet that includes employees’ personal pages, along with document libraries used by different departments within the company. There are also external SharePoint sites for some of the company’s major customers. The SharePoint installation occupies more than 4 terabytes of disk space, and it has been getting bigger over time. For business communications, Sporton recently upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. The company has begun using the Database Availability Group feature in Exchange Server 2010, which provides automatic database-level recovery from a database, server, or network failure.
In the data center, there are 15 physical servers running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software that host many of the company’s applications, including its ERP system, which was built completely in-house. Sporton developers frequently create and update SQL Server 2008 databases, and they have traditionally needed to enlist the aid of IT staff to help with data restoration issues. “There is a lot of demand on the staff, particularly the backup administrators,” says Feng. “And if something goes wrong in the evening or the weekend, and a developer needs a database restored, one of our staff members has had to go into the office to assist.”
Because the amount of data present across all of these servers and applications is large and has been growing, Sporton frequently needed to buy additional hard disks to accommodate the size of the backup, and administrators had to keep an eye on storage quotas. “We had to manually specify the size of the protection volume,” says Feng. “But in daily operations, the size of the backup sometimes exceeded the quota size we had specified, and if it got too big we could run out of disk space.”
The 12 Sporton branch offices host nine file servers connected across a wide area network (WAN). The branches perform daily local backups of their data, and then this data is collected and stored in the data centers. This places a high demand on the network bandwidth at the branch offices, and in some remote offices the data transfer rates are much slower than in others, so synchronizing the backup data with the data center took a long time.
To manage the backup needs of this intricate IT environment, Sporton has been using Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager since its first release in 2005 to help protect Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and other key software. While the IT staff was pleased with the feature set available in Data Protection Manager 2007, the company’s infrastructure had begun to outgrow the product, and IT administrators were spending too much time assisting users and departments with backup and restore requests. “We protect a large amount of data with a relatively small staff,” says Feng. “We needed to automate more of the data protection process and ensure that all critical data is reliably backed up. Part of our strategy was to find ways to let users do more of their own administration.”
Sporton became an early adopter of Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 as part of the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program for the software. The company tested the product and provided feedback to Microsoft that helped shape the production release. Sporton began working with Data Protection Manager 2010 in July 2009, and initial adopters included the Taipei data center and a select group of Sporton employees.
Data Center Protection
Sporton began working with Data Protection Manager 2010 in its Taipei data center, starting with servers running Windows Server 2008 R2. The staff then extended the deployment to the company’s main application servers, the Hyper-V hosts and virtual machines, and then the branch offices.
Because Sporton had recently moved to Exchange Server 2010 and a Database Availability Group configuration, the IT group was excited to test the Database Availability Group protection capabilities in Data Protection Manager 2010. “From the very first build, Data Protection Manager 2010 provided excellent protection for our Database Availability Group,” says Feng. “Twice in the past few months we’ve needed to restore production data in our Database Availability Group, and the recovery has gone very well with no major issues. Without Data Protection Manager 2010, we could have lost critical email data needed by business and sales staff.”
Sporton has enhanced data protection and recovery capabilities for its SharePoint Server 2010 deployment with Data Protection Manager 2010. “We frequently get requests from users to restore small amounts of data—a single file or a few files—and in the past that was not always a simple process,” says Feng. “We are now using Data Protection Manager 2010 to quickly restore individual SharePoint list items. We have done this several times to recover lost user data, and in our experience it works very well, and it has definitely removed some of our data restoration overhead.”
The staff has also been streamlining the database protection process with instance-level protection available in Data Protection Manager 2010. This feature automatically protects all databases in an instance of SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2005. “Instance-level protection saves us a lot of time,” says Feng. “Database protection is now configured automatically, so we don’t have to do any manual setup to add or remove databases from the protection scheme, and this significantly reduces our backup administrators’ workload.”
To further reduce the demand on IT staff for assistance with data recovery, Sporton used Data Protection Manager 2010 to create a self-service portal that developers can use to manage data protection and recovery for their own databases. “I really appreciate the self-service recovery features,” says Sherry Wu, Senior Systems Analyst at Sporton. “Not having to go to the administrators for help is going to increase my productivity by 40 percent or more.”
In addition to applications, Sporton needs to make sure that its virtual environment is well protected. The data center has three Hyper-V cluster shared volumes (CSVs), and the IT group is using Data Protection Manager 2010 to safeguard these clusters and restore virtual machine data. “We’ve had several occasions where we had to restore virtual machines,” says Feng. “With Data Protection Manager 2010, we can easily recover data, and if necessary we can restore a virtual machine to an alternate Hyper-V host without needing to reconfigure the machine. We can also now recover specific virtual machine data with the detailed restore capabilities in Data Protection Manager 2010. It’s a very comprehensive solution.”
Sporton has also deployed Data Protection Manager 2010 to its branch offices to make remote data protection more efficient. By strengthening its overall data protection strategy, Sporton is also ensuring that its customers’ valuable data is highly secure. “We don’t have a lot of people in the branch offices, but we do store a lot of certification data there,” says Feng. “Data is backed up daily at the branch, and then we consolidate the data back to the data center over the weekend. Branch office protection in Data Protection Manager 2010 works very well for us. The data transfer is more efficient, which saves us bandwidth, and if there is a problem at a branch office, they can quickly restore the data from their local backup.”
||With competing products, you need training to learn how to use them, and even then you may not understand all the features. With Data Protection Manager 2010, we didn’t even need to look at the documentation—we could easily start testing the features.
IT Director, Sporton International
As part of its deployment of Data Protection Manager 2010, Sporton has changed the way it utilizes its backup storage hardware. “Data Protection Manager 2010 is much better at using existing backup storage efficiently,” says Feng. “It can provide up to 90 percent more efficient use of disk space, so we’ve been able to consolidate our existing backup drives. This also means that we don’t have to buy additional hard disks as frequently in the future, and with the auto-grow feature, we don’t need to worry about monitoring the size of existing protection volumes.”
Sporton has found that Data Protection Manager 2010 makes it easy for IT administrators and developers to quickly get up to speed. “The simple learning curve is a major reason we selected Data Protection Manager 2010,” says Feng. “With competing products, you need training to learn how to use them, and even then you may not understand all the features. With Data Protection Manager 2010, we didn’t even need to look at the documentation—we could easily start testing the features.”Client Computer Protection
The deployment of Data Protection Manager 2010 to client computers began with 26 members of the sales department and a group of Sporton executives. The deployment has since been expanded to include 200 employees. “It is crucial that these users don’t lose any of their data, particularly their mail data,” says Feng. “Many of them work at remote sites or at home, and we need to make sure that they are always protected.”
As part of its goal of empowering users to manage more of their own data protection needs, IT staff have used Data Protection Manager 2010 to give employees control over what data on their computer is protected and to do their own data recovery if a problem occurs. “In the past, users had to contact us if they needed to get back lost data, but now they can do it themselves.” says Feng. “At first, not everyone liked having to manage their own data protection, but the feature is now widely accepted and users are telling their colleagues about it.”
“I use Data Protection Manager 2010 to back up my email data files every day,” notes Kathy Lin, Sales Director at Sporton. “I’ve been very happy with it, and it makes me feel like my data is safe.”
Most of the company’s mobile employees work on portable computers running Windows 7, and they take advantage of the DirectAccess feature, which enables users to establish a highly secure connection to the central network without the need to set up a virtual private network (VPN). With Data Protection Manager 2010, these employees’ data is protected, even when the computer is offline; when the employee reconnects to the network, the backup is automatically synchronized with the central backup store. Sporton employees have reported that the recovery features have worked well for them.
In order to help employees make the most of the functionality provided by Data Protection Manager 2010, IT staff prepared documentation about new features, but they found that employees are able to use the product with minimal assistance. “Our documentation was only two pages long, and that included screen shots,” says Feng. “Users find it very simple to navigate the interface. That’s really important, because if we give employees a feature that is difficult to use, we have to answer a lot more questions, and that increases our management overhead. That’s not what we want.”Benefits
By adopting the enhanced data protection features in Data Protection Manager 2010, Sporton has strengthened the protection of business-critical data in the data center and on client computers while significantly reducing IT management overhead. The company is also saving money, thanks to more efficient backup storage and strengthened customer data security.
Reduced IT Overhead
By moving responsibility for database and client computer protection from IT administrators to the users, Sporton has significantly reduced demands on the IT staff’s time. In an average week, administrators are cutting the time they spend on database recoveries by 40 percent and reducing backup administration time by 60 percent. “We have expanded the scope of our data protection while actually decreasing our IT overhead,” says Feng. “Usually it’s the other way around—increased protection means increased overhead—but Data Protection Manager 2010 saves time for both administrators and users.
Because Data Protection Manager 2010 uses backup storage more efficiently, Sporton has greatly reduced the need to purchase new hard drives to accommodate the growth of its backup data set. Sporton estimates that this will reduce hard drive expenditures by 30 percent per year. The company is also saving money with improved branch office protection. Because data transfer and backup processes make more efficient use of existing Internet connections, the company no longer needs to invest in increased bandwidth for offices with slow connections that may have caused backup problems in the past.
By improving the protection of customer data, Sporton has saved the company from significant revenue loss due to lost information. “Two or three times we have nearly lost customer data due to a hardware malfunction,” says Feng. “Data Protection Manager 2010 saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars because we can easily retrieve that data. The money we save far exceeds the cost of protecting the data.”Stronger Data Protection
Sporton has enhanced the protection of both its own data and its customers’ data with Data Protection Manager 2010. IT staff can easily safeguard the Database Availability Group in its Exchange Server 2010 configuration, and the cluster shared volumes in its virtualized environment. Client computers are safeguarded whether or not they are online. “Our data is more secure now,” says Feng. “Data Protection Manager 2010 addresses many issues we were facing, and it enables us to provide our users with increased functionality without increasing the demand on IT staff.”
A Highly Integrated Solution
By choosing a data protection solution from the same vendor that makes its infrastructure software, Sporton has made it easier to safeguard all of its information assets. “Data Protection Manager 2010 works well with all of our Microsoft applications,” says Feng. “And the protection and usage processes are almost the same across all products. So if you know how to protect Exchange, you know how to protect SharePoint and Hyper-V as well. There are competing products that have useful features, but they are hard to use and they can’t provide the comprehensive data protection solution we get from Data Protection Manager 2010.”
Microsoft System Center
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