What is our primary use case?
I've been here for 37 years and I've seen all the data challenges there are. The Centers for Disease Control consists of multiple centers that are all under one umbrella of CDC, but each center has its own budget, its own IT, and its own data collection. They were all disparate and they could not be put under one system where we could protect all of them. Everybody had their own protection. Everybody had their own little silos.
Around the time we brought in Commvault, our challenge was to bring those silos together where one larger team could diversify into specific areas. For example, disaster recovery was a whole team of people. That's all they did and they specialized in it. We could develop SMEs in each area of IT, such as disaster recovery, database, and hardware configuration. We had to attempt to bring all these silos together. There's resistance to that to this day, because everybody thinks that they're special and the other people don't matter. Our challenge was centralization at that point. Each area had its own way of backing up and several of them had Commvault already, but it was at that point that we settled on Commvault as our backup solution.
Before Commvault, virus infection was our big problem. If a virus got fished into a system, recovery was disastrous.
Currently, our use case is disaster recovery, pure and simple, including everything from a file restore to a complete system restore.
It is on-premises and also hosted in the cloud.
How has it helped my organization?
We've had problems in the past where a storage person made an error and actually deleted a large chunk of storage, and we recovered it with Commvault. If we had lost that storage, it would have been a catastrophic loss of scientific data. The value of that is incalculable.
In addition, when we're applying for authority to operate, compliance requires that certain things just have to be backed up. That's a requirement of any system that we allow on our network. It has to be recovery-protected in some way, in the event of an error or a tragedy or an attack.
What is most valuable?
What is most valuable to me are the search features, where you can search through large backup data sets and find what you're looking for. Our data sets are so big that we're over the petabyte mark. To find a specific file for a specific user out of 10,000 users is a challenge. Sometimes the user doesn't know the file path. If we can glean from them a general description of where it might be, the search feature comes in very handy to actually locate it and restore it for them.
If you compare Commvault's user interface for managing on-prem, cloud, or multi-cloud environments in one place with some of the newer stuff that's coming out, it may seem to be a little too complex. But it's so powerful that I don't think the newer stuff competes with it that well.
And Command Center is helpful for reporting to upper management because they want to know the total figures, like how much we are protecting. They want to know the value of what we're doing compared to the cost of it. With Command Center we can tell them, "Look, we're doing this much and we've had this many restores." I have to do monthly reports to upper management on how successful we are at protection.
The solution also supports a broad coverage of workloads, absolutely. We use the VSA backups which means we don't have to have a client on each server. That, in itself, reduces a lot of the complexity. The broad coverage also means that we don't need as many personnel to administer things. It also helps with productivity. We're able to meet our SLAs for restores much better than we would otherwise.
What needs improvement?
The main area for improvement is that we sometimes experience negative effects from their updates. If they had a larger test area for their updates, that would help. I'm sure that they test, but our environment is probably 1,000 times bigger than their test environment. There are way more complexities in our environment, things that their updates overlook, and that causes a ripple effect of errors.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've been using Commvault for about 15 years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
As long as everything functions in our environment, Commvault is very stable, but that's not the case. There are always ripples in the environment and sometimes those ripples can cause dramatic effects in Commvault, such as corrupting DDBs.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It's plenty scalable. That's one of the main reasons that we use Commvault. It gives us scalability and versatility across multiple storage platforms.
How are customer service and technical support?
Their technical support is excellent. Any issues that we've had have been resolved.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
At the time we chose Commvault, it was the best, according to our evaluation. There were three main options: NetApp, Commvault, and one other. There wasn't a lot of competition in that area for enterprise-level organizations.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup was a long time ago and I don't even know if I was involved in it. My lead engineer was involved in it. I was just an overseer at that point and just moving into that position.
But I do know there have been a lot of complexities in upgrades from one version to the next. Sometimes we skip a version and go from nine to 11, for example, and there is complexity in that, or there has been in the past.
What about the implementation team?
We had direct support from Commvault.
What was our ROI?
When it comes to ROI, Commvault is like the return on investment with insurance. When you need it, you see it. But if things are going smoothly you don't see it. However, it has to be there. My favorite saying is, "People really don't care about backups. They only care about restores."
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
One of the most interesting aspects is that the licensing model can be modified. We're paying for our licensing by the client, as opposed to the size of the footprint of the backup, which decreased our cost by about 20 percent.
There are multiple costs involved. We have the hardware, the tape drives, and the storage that our backup targets use. We use non-recommended storage, which is not as robust as what Commvault recommends, but we're able to make it work. That saves a lot of money on storage and its maintenance.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I've looked at other solutions but to scale them requires multiple devices, dedicated appliances. In our environment, everything has to be security-scanned and remediated on a monthly basis. The more devices we have, the more complex it gets to do that.
What other advice do I have?
If you're a smaller-sized entity, Commvault may be a little bit more than what you need. You get what you pay for. Commvault's scalability and granularity are excellent for a large enterprise, but for a smaller one, some of the alternatives are probably more cost-effective. In this context, a large enterprise is one with storage in the petabyte range. That's where Commvault shines.
Our Commvault partner is KELYN Technologies. They're a very professional support service, as an intermediary between us and Commvault, so that we get really professional and timely support. We even bring them in on our proofs of concept. As new technologies develop, we have to prove that we can back them up or support and protect them. Having their engineers available to help us work through those issues is very valuable. Anything that they can't solve, they escalate directly to Commvault for us. That way, we don't have to be in that exchange with Commvault. If we're doing a proof of concept and get to an area where we just don't know how to deal with it, they go off, find out, and come back and say, "Okay, now we know how to deal with it."
And while my staff was mostly pre-trained on Commvault, as new developments and new enhancements come out, KELYN is right on top of them.
The value, for us, of KELYN comes from the following:
- We have a reduced licensing cost.
- We have more granular access to engineers to assist with new technology, new concepts.
- And sometimes we'll change our methods due to a new enhancement and they're invaluable in getting those things set up and working correctly.
Which version of this solution are you currently using?