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Case Study: Playing IT Safe with Simple, Reliable Backup


Protected platforms –VMware esxi 5.1, Windows 2008 R2 Exchange 2010, SQL Server 2005, progress database
Data Protected – client files and confidential information
Competitors – Veeam, NetApp
Challenges – Multiple geographical locations, incumbent tape system, regulatory requirements
Solution – Unitrends Recovery Series712 and Unitrends Enterprise BackupTM software
Benefits – flexibility, virtualisation ready, simple installation

Rothera Dowson Solicitors has been providing high quality legal advice and services in Nottinghamshire for nearly 200 years. With a head office in Nottingham and four branch offices, the modern, multi-service law firm provides high quality legal advice on the broadest range of issues for individuals, businesses and other organisations. Keeping business and client information safe and available is key to the firm’s culture of integrity and excellent reputation in the local community.

With several geographical locations, strict regulatory bodies and an ageing tape solution, Rothera Dowson’s IT team had a challenge on their hands, especially since they were going through the delicate process of migrating to a virtualised platform.

With approximately 90 users spread across four branch offices and a head office in the centre of Nottingham, Rothera Dowson had developed a sophisticated set up to ensure the IT infrastructure supported every geographical location while meeting the firm’s operational requirements. Even if offices had only three or four employees, each was connected to the head office data centre via a terminal server, making the IT infrastructure in a small branch as complex as an office supporting 100 staff.

Working with the incumbent tape backup solution, Rothera Dowson grappled with day-to-day issues as well as a slow and difficult restore should systems fail. The tape solution was outdated and stored data uneconomically. When the decision was made to migrate to a virtualised platform, it became apparent the old tape system wouldn’t be up to the job of protecting data during that process.

Moreover, Rothera Dowson’s IT team is required to maintain data according to the demands of the SRA and legal regulatory bodies, which set rules on where and how legal data is kept. Any recovery solution it adopted would have to be able to cope with the strict demands set by these governing bodies, as well as the geographical diversity of the offices themselves.

Recovery revamp Working together with a Unitrends partner, Rothera Dowson developed a reliable solution with Unitrends Recovery-712 at the head office. The Unitrends Enterprise BackupTM version, located at one of the branch offices, uses Unitrends software to replicate everything backed up by the Recovery-712. The branch office acts as the firm’s disaster recovery location. In the event of a fire or disaster at head office, the firm can decamp to the branch and remain fully operational.

Stefano Pratesi, principle IT consultant for Rothera Dowson explains: “The Unitrends software has been installed and is running on a virtual server using our own hardware. The software has its own interface so it looks and works exactly like a Unitrends appliance. Using a mixture of Unitrends hardware and our own has allowed us to deploy a hybrid solution in effect.”

In addition to the Recovery-712 and UEB unit, an archive backup of the system is taken off site each week, so that even in the case of total failure, Rothera Dowson will be able to get up and running again.

The virtues of virtual Unitrends’ compatibility with the virtualised environment made Recovery-712 the ideal product to support Rothera Dowson in its long-term migration plans. The solution’s reliability is also key for the migration: each physical server can be backed up before going virtual so there’s always a copy in case the virtualisation doesn’t quite go to plan.

Pratesi explains: “When migrating to a virtualised platform it’s vital to make sure essential data is safe before getting to the point of no return. With Unitrends, one of the key advantages is that I won’t require a new agent for everything that I install later on in the process. The price won’t keep mounting up in the way that it could with another solution. So Unitrends is a logical choice.”

Simple and effective When it comes to working with the Unitrends 712, the product is a simple and effective tool. Pratesi says: “I installed it and it just works in the background, exactly as I was expecting. If there’s ever any problem with the unit, it alerts me, so I don’t have to be constantly monitoring the device.”

Unitrends support is key, Pratesi adds: “Even when there is a problem, which is rare, the Unitrends team will set up a support tunnel to our device so they can fix an issue remotely, leaving our team to get on with their day to day jobs.”

Flexibility of selection Recovery-712 has offered Rothera Dowson backup flexibility. Whereas the old tape system was inflexible, the company can select when and how often a backup of the system is taken. Pratesi says: “Critical applications and main vital databases are backed up multiple times a day, giving us a shorter recovery point objective (RPO) should anything go wrong. The joy of the Recovery-712 is that we could back up every minute if we wanted to.”

Firm scope for future growth The Recovery-712 offers Rothera Dowson more than just backup flexibility; it offers the firm scope for future growth. With some data having to be kept for years under legal requirements, Unitrends gives Rothera Dowson the ability to backup less critical servers to the cloud when the data capacity expands above the limitation the device is designed for.

Star quality Perhaps the most significant aspect of the solution is that it has provided Rothera Dowson with unprecedented reliability and resilience. The firm’s migration to a virtualised platform is now risk-free and the firm has peace of mind.

Restore times have gone from an unknown timeframe to just few minutes, allowing Rothera Dowson to maintain its Lexel accreditation – the gold star quality mark that recognises legal firms committed to the very best practice in client care, file and data management.