Success Story – PowerReviews

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Rapid company growth prompts new backup solution

PowerReviews, a San Francisco, CA-based Web 2.0 start-up, founded with the mission to allow retailers to install review functionality onto their sites within 24-hours with no software engineering background required. The company boasts a multitude of global clients including: RadioShack, Staples, and Walgreens; and since its founding in 2005 the company has grown to more than 60 full-time employees.

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After securing partnerships with leading online retailers, everything seemed to be moving along as planned until the hard drive of a laptop failed, and it took the company two full days to restore important data. This incident raised concern among the IT staff and motivated the team to swiftly bolster the company’s backup and recovery capabilities.

Building a scaleable & heterogeneous backup solution

Because of rapid company growth and the untimely failure of the hard drive, Matthew Lewis, enterprise backup architect for PowerReviews, led the effort in evaluating and selecting a reliable and economical backup solution that can scale with PowerReviews’ growing IT infrastructure. Most of Lewis’ backup experience had been in proprietary software solutions, but he had recently expanded his skills with open source software and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

“Considerations for potential solutions included backup and recovery of 30 Windows and 16 Mac clients, ” says Lewis.“We needed a solution that could back up both platforms as well as a variety of applications.”

After discussing options with his colleagues, Lewis researched open source backup software technologies. He discovered Amanda Enterprise from Zmanda. Amanda Enterprise offers centralized backup of heterogeneous systems and applications, including Windows and Mac clients.

QuickStart streamlines installation

Lewis took advantage of Zmanda’s QuickStart Services to implement a data protection solution for PowerReviews’ daily operations. QuickStart Services includes pre-implementation consulting, software installation, backup-policy implementation, and testing of backup and restore.

“A Zmanda service engineer configured our Dell PowerEdge 2970 RAID array as an Amanda Enterprise Backup Server and our Dell PowerVault 124T tape autoloader for dumps from the backup server to tape,” says Lewis.

The Zmanda engineer and Lewis then ran tests on a Mac client and a Windows client. The tests revealed that a specific Mac file type had a compatibility issue with Amanda’s Mac client. Within a week Zmanda’s tech support remedied the problem.

Data protection confidence grows

Currently, Windows and Mac clients both back up to the Dell PowerEdge server Monday through Friday. The backup routine includes dumps to tape once a week. Employees can back up their data either at PowerReviews headquarters or remotely through a virtual private network (VPN).

Amanda Enterprise Edition analyzes the environment and devises a routine that load-balances backups and also gives the administrator a clearer picture of the storage available. This picture helps the administrator decide if extra hardware is needed.

“I can ramp up the number of clients on the backup system without adversely impacting our network performance.” says Lewis.

Still, Lewis knows that policies on the use of company machines by the users will reduce backup times and data storage capacity requirements. Like most organizations, PowerReviews will consider drafting user operating guidelines regarding the data that can be stored on employee computers.

Lewis says some employees are conscientious about what they put on their computers and others don’t want to be told what they can and can’t store on their company computers. Either way, Amanda Enterprise has the flexibility to allow exclusion of certain file types such as MP3, providing Lewis the ability to reduce overall storage consumption and backup times if needed.

“Since the installation of Amanda Enterprise in May, I have tested Windows and Mac restores without a hitch,” says Lewis. “Now we can backup with confidence.”

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