Louisiana city finds security in a better backup system

Louisiana city finds security in a better backup system

BY TRUDY WALSH | GCN STAFF

Don't expect to find life slow and easy in Alexandria, La., along the banks of the Red River. The city's famous neighbor to the south may be called The Big Easy, but Alexandria's community of 50,000 is bustling with new jobs and development.

But growth has a downside. Alexandria's systems needs'e-mail, data files, Internet access'were overwhelming the city's network.

'It was killing us,' said Jimmy Koonce, Alexandria's manager of information systems. 'Backing up our 12G Oracle6 database took nine hours.'

It didn't help that Koonce had an eight-person staff for 500 city users.

The problem was twofold, Koonce said. 'Our tape drive couldn't handle the amount of data we were giving it, and our server had too small a pipe on it. It was a bottleneck and a logistical nightmare.'

Koonce said the city was lucky that the department didn't lose any data, but it was clear that the city needed a new backup system.

'We were putting the data in a precarious situation,' he said.

The city's WAN ran across nine campuses throughout Alexandria, each with its own server running Microsoft Windows NT. 'We had to go to each one of those sites and make sure the backup ran properly,' Koonce said.

After Koonce's staff researched ways to speed backup and reduce the bottleneck, it went shopping. It bought an IBM 64-bit RS/6000 S-70 server, a Mammoth-2 tape drive from Exabyte Corp. of Boulder, Colo., and NetVault backup software from BakBone Software Inc. of San Diego.

Nine hours to one

Using the combination of the Exabyte drive and NetVault backup software, Koonce and his staff can back up Unix data, three different Oracle Corp. databases and Lotus Notes applications from one central tape drive in about an hour.

'Even though our applications come in Unix, NT and Lotus Notes, the NetVault gives them all a Windowsy-looking interface,' Koonce said.

And not to imply that the city's users are not the most conscientious about backing up the data on their PCs, but Koonce does encourage users to keep their documents on the servers. 'That way we don't have those situations where their PC goes south on them, and they don't have a backup.'

Koonce has worked for the city for 15 years, so he has witnessed its explosive growth firsthand. 'When I first came here, the IS department took care of the mainframes and the enterprise software,' he said. 'Now we have an explosion of PCs everywhere. We're putting in a fiber-optic network. But we don't have much more staff than we did 15 years ago.'

One of Koonce's biggest challenges is that he has had to spread his staff so thin to keep up with the demands of the city's 500 users. 'If they can't open a Word document, we get called,' he said. 'If they can't open their e-mail, we get called. If they didn't plug the printer in, we get called.'

Having good backup data is all the more important now that people are so dependent on computers, Koonce said. 'I know we all talk about how much things cost,' he said. 'But we have to look at the cost of not having good backup. It's something you can't even calculate.'

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