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NetVault Backs Up Linux Network at University of Hamburg Hospital

BakBone Software

published April 19, 2002............Case study by:- BakBone Software

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As part of the University of Hamburg in Germany, the Universitäts-Krankenhaus Eppendorf (UKE) is a university hospital that incorporates 16 clinics and 15 medical-research institutes and with over 1,500 beds, it is one of the biggest hospitals in Hamburg. Whilst specialising in heart, liver, kidney and bone marrow transplants; the hospital also treats more than 250,000 patients and deals with 50,000 incidents in the A&E department every year. The university hospital is also home to some 4,000 students of medicine, dentistry, biochemistry and molecular biology and over 1,000 employees who are active in the field of medical research.

Responsible for the IT department of the neurology unit at the UKE, Volkmar Glauche has to ensure that all the work and scientific research carried out by fellow colleagues can be safely secured and brought back online in the event of a disaster. With 16 workstations running Linux each containing up to 30GB of data and images, medical students and psychologists from UKE count on Glauche's department to make sure that their work is safeguarded against any data loss.

The department needed to use an operating system that was compatible with its existing hardware and allowed multi-user/multi-tasking. It had to be stable and allow for network administration duties to be carried out. The obvious choice was therefore Linux. When the network was being built, SuSE was proven to be a viable option. Since then, due to the automatic installation/configuration features (ALICE) of SuSE, a workstation configuration database has been created which allows for a speedy new installation should there be an error with any hardware.

The department is relatively new and to satisfy his colleagues' demands, Glauche went out to the market to find a backup solution that was suitable for Linux SuSE and that could deal with archival demands. Although the neurology department does not need to archive its data, it has proven to be almost impossible to economically retain all the research data on hard disk. The material is stored as files in the file system and archived to tape, as the data must be able to brought back online to disk for further processing at a later date. Glauche was also looking to integrate the backup software into a proprietary solution so that the data could pass straight from a Sybase database to tape (through a backint plug in – CLI to NetVault) without him having to interfere in the process. Unfortunately, most solutions on the market couldn't meet such requirements, as they were too intrusive, that is until he discovered NetVault (from BakBone Software).

Originally, the department was looking at installing Arkeia as this was recommended when the department opted for the SuSE operating system back in December 1999. However, Arkeia proved to be incompatible with the department's server hardware and consequently, the tape library and RAID subsystem kept crashing. Every crash meant that a whole day's worth of research data went missing. Naturally, this was frustrating. Other solutions were considered, including Bru (from TOLIS), NovaStor and ArcServe (from Computer Associates), but again, none appeared to be 100% compatible with the department's hardware installation.

Glauche uses NetVault to backup all the workstations through a Linux server (SuSE) and on to DLT drives in a Quantum|ATL library. Conducting one full backup every week, usually at the weekend as it can take up to 30 hours, with incremental backups every day; NetVault backs up over 480GB from the workstations and then an extra 200GB from the Linux server every night, which takes about four hours. Of all the products that Glauche tested, NetVault and its features seemed the best solution to meet his needs. Of particular note was NetVault's policy management feature. This is where standard properties for all backup and restore jobs can be changed from one central point. Likewise, should anything change in the policy, each job does not have to be amended manually. This saves Glauche both time and money.

Glauche is extremely pleased with his NetVault installation. "The product meets our requirements and functions with no problems whatsoever" Glauche says. Furthermore, Glauche really welcomed NetVault's intuitive and stable GUI. "The GUI makes NetVault very easy to use. It has to be one of the best solutions for SuSE on the market today."

The neurology department at the UKE can rest assured that its data is safe with NetVault. Indeed, there has already been some data loss but with NetVault the system was back up and running within hours, without any problems. "NetVault backs up the data very well, but its data restore capabilities are even better," adds Glauche. The restore procedure is quite simple and involves firstly producing an installation disk, automatic installation of Linux SuSE, (which takes about 30 minutes), running NetVault client configuration and restoring the data from the backup server onto the workstation (which takes between one and three hours for up to 30 GB).

Glauche sees that NetVault is a long-term solution. He concludes: "I am really happy that NetVault will grow with our demands. After all, we are already experiencing a 4-8GB growth in data every week, so NetVault's scalability features are perfect for us.", ...BakBone Software profile

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