What is our primary use case?
The solution is the means for taking our NetVault backups and handing them off to QoreStor for all the dedupe and compression. We keep them temporarily on disk for a short period of time, like a week or two, but then we start replicating up into the cloud, within six hours of backup. In summary, we use it primarily for backup and restore.
We're currently on-premises. We're a pretty small organization, but we have a cabinet in a co-location facility and we have QoreStor there, in our infrastructure. It's a virtual infrastructure but we control it.
How has it helped my organization?
Getting rid of tape was pretty huge. We managed with it but it was clunky and slow. The context here is that we've been running NetVault Backup for a decade or more, so we were already Quest customers. That's where we got into backup originally and we've been with that backup system for a very long time. We're very comfortable using NetVault, but it's single-threaded on tape. You can only run a single backup job at a time. That meant we had to be careful about the scheduling of backups. We couldn't have one backup run too long because it was going to cut into the time of another backup. We had to try to keep the backup windows pretty tight and, as we got more stuff to back up, it was getting trickier to keep those windows synchronized. So the first benefit of Qorestor was getting rid of tape.
QoreStor allows you to multi-thread backups, and that gets rid of having to be so careful about the timing of everything. Because it's snapshotting, you can run it any time of day. I still tend to run backups in the early morning, but not every job can run in the early morning. As a result, things run throughout the day.
Another aspect is the cloud. Putting data up into the cloud gives me another way to have security around that data. It's not just on-premises now. It's both on-premises and in cloud, so I've got the best of both worlds.
Overall, it simplifies the management of backup and gives me a more secure feeling that my data is going to be available if I need to retrieve it. It's mostly an efficiency thing for us at this point. In the old days, we used to have to go swap tapes out. As a small company, we didn't work with an Iron Mountain or the like to store offsite tapes for us. I would just take them home with me or put them in my office so that if we lost our data center we'd still have data on tape somewhere. So Qorestor is more efficient and gives us a more fluid operation.
In terms of the amount of time it's saving us, I would probably swap tapes once a month or once every other month. That is not a lot of time, but the trip might take half a day every month to go to the data center, swap the tapes around, and take them home. Using the low-end tape library was not always as efficient as I would have liked. It wasn't terribly sophisticated. Sometimes we had to mess around to get it to work correctly. So I would estimate Qorestor is saving us a day a month, at a minimum.
Also, although we don't restore that often, if you did have to do a lot of restoring, the speed of restoring off of disk, versus tape, is pretty nice.
Qorestor has reduced our storage-related costs mostly in terms of the cost of labor, rather than in equipment or licensing. In terms of just the management of the system, the time I spend is likely where the savings are.
What is most valuable?
QoreStor seems to do a fabulous job of deduplication and compression. Otherwise, some of this could get pretty expensive in terms of storage costs. The fact that it can really cut that data down is great. The dedupe and compression are pretty extreme. On disk, we're getting dedupe rates of up to 65 percent of data and compression of 34 percent. When you go to the cloud, it's more like 76 percent for dedupe and almost 50 percent for compression.
What needs improvement?
I can only replicate into one cloud environment or what they call a Cloud Tier. This might be because of the level of my license, but I was hoping, for security of data, to be able to back up into multiple Cloud Tiers. The cloud provider I work with has facilities where I am, here in Boston, but they also have a facility in Dallas and pretty soon they're going to have a facility in London. But the current software that I have will only allow me to do one. It would be nice to have the security of knowing that, in a super-disastrous situation where we lost our data center and the cloud environment in the same facility, we would have data stored remotely in another facility across the country. It would cost me twice as much but it's not very expensive to put this relatively small amount of data into the cloud. If I had that option I would do it.
For how long have I used the solution?
We first heard about QoreStor from Quest in January of 2019. I did a call with some of the Quest folks to talk about it. So it's been a little over two years now.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The combination we have of NetVault and QoreStor just runs. It's not something I tend to think about all the time. NetVault backup jobs will fail now and then, and you've got to go in and try to figure out what happened. But I wouldn't say QoreStor itself really fails.
I really don't have to think about QoreStor too much. Every so often I used to look at the dashboard to see how much data was being stored. Because of the dedupe and compression, the amount of data that's actually out there on disk and in the cloud is almost identical to what it was six months ago. In part that's because we're making small, incremental changes to our applications, and after three to six months we're also eliminating backups. When you take stuff away and you add stuff in, it grows in very small amounts over time. It's staying within this window of what I can afford.
At the end of the day we don't really have to restore data all that frequently because it doesn't happen that we lose data very often. It's more like a security blanket. Every so often you need to get some data back, but mostly it's just knowing it's there if we need it.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
I would imagine you could put about as much data as you want on there. I don't really know what they claim as their upper limit, but we're only backing up 5 TB on disk and under 10 TB in the cloud at the moment, and that's been running for over a year.
Being such a small outfit, I've never really talked to anybody about replicating all of our data center into another location, so that we have a real disaster recovery solution. I would guess it would significantly increase our cost. Knowing that the data is there is the biggest thing. We're not a bank, we're not a high-availability type of environment like some places might be. Needless to say, I care about our data. I don't want to lose it, for sure, because that would cause a lot of problems for people, but I don't think we're going to have the wherewithal for a real disaster recovery solution. Maybe over time, as we get better involved with the cloud, we'll find we can improve things there.
How are customer service and technical support?
I can't say I've ever had any major issues working with their technical support. They're pretty responsive. Over the years, backups create problems now and then and things go a little haywire. They have been a strong company in terms of support.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
The main reason I got interested in it was that we built our virtual infrastructure about five years ago when we had to move into our co-location facility. We're pretty much a Dell EMC shop. We purchased their Compellent storage technology and used VMware to build out our virtual infrastructure. Along with that, we bought a Dell EMC Tape Library for backup purposes, which was the first time we had had a tape library. As a small shop, with the lowest level of tape library, we were able to back up all of our data, full backups and incrementals, onto tape. It worked pretty well for us. But when QoreStor came along, one of the advantages was getting rid of tape and going to disk and cloud. That's what got me intrigued by it. We moved forward and purchased a license for QoreStor and we were able to decommission our tape library. That cut down on the overhead of having to manage the tape library.
How was the initial setup?
The setup of the software is definitely not the easiest thing. I worked a lot with Quest engineers, especially in the early days when we were first testing it and trying it out. I actually had some of the developers working with us at one point because they were going through these point releases, and I was having trouble getting it to work in this S3-compatible situation. We got it all working eventually, but setup is definitely not the easiest thing in the world. Maybe that's just true of this kind of software. I don't know if you can make it easier or not, but it was pretty tricky getting the whole thing working, initially.
We started testing in August of 2019 and we actually weren't in production until February of 2020. By that time we had to go through the upgrade from version 6 to 6.1, where they had the S3-compatible feature. So it actually took quite a while. Overall, it was at least a six-month process for us. We were in the product pretty early, so I'm not sure it would take that long today, but it was pretty dicey for a while until we finally got things working. The earlier version was not ready to work with S3-compatible cloud environments like Dell EMC, but the later version was.
We're a small company. I'm pretty much the only person who spends any regular time with backup. I'm the one who's been doing backups for years here. I'm also the director of the organization, but it's just part of the job that I do. I'm the "equipment guy" and I've been doing backups for a couple of decades. The expertise of the Quest folks is what made it possible.
What about the implementation team?
We worked with Quest. They were really good. They had some internal staff that helped us build a system and get things going. And when we ran into trouble, as I mentioned, they brought in some developers to help us out.
We had a problem that was surprising. The cloud provider was upgrading their equipment, which they do fairly often as it turns out. And one day they said, "Okay, tonight, we're going to upgrade the equipment. So we'll be back running tomorrow." The next day, all of a sudden, it was not working and we were not able to replicate into their cloud. We wondered, "What happened here?"
This is where Quest's engineers got involved and it turned out it wasn't really a QoreStor issue. It was because of the certificates involved in the cloud environment that weren't managed correctly. As a result, QoreStor wouldn't recognize that it was a valid place to store data. It took quite a while to figure out where the problem was. Quest was really good at trying to help troubleshoot that. It was a pain to deal with it, but we finally got it solved. That wasn't Quest's problem but they wanted to help us figure out what the issue was.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The price is acceptable, it was definitely within our means.
The license is a perpetual license. Ours is a 5 TB license and, as long as my data stays within that limit for disk—they actually triple the amount you can put into the cloud—that license is going to keep me going indefinitely. I will probably purchase maintenance at some point, after a year or two, to get the upgrades to the software.
The initial license came with three years of maintenance so we're still within that window and haven't had to buy additional maintenance yet. We had to make sure, on the storage side of the house, that we had enough disk space to allow for that short-term storage. Because we came from tape, we hadn't needed that so much, but going to more of a disk- and cloud-based backup, we had to buy up half a dozen disk drives to help build out the storage environment.
If you have a lot of data and you're going to go disk to cloud, then you have to have the disk space in your environment or in your cloud environment.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I didn't evaluate any other options because we've been using NetVault and working with Quest for a long time. It was just taking advantage of an opportunity to try out this new product they had. I wasn't really shopping for this solution. They came to me and said, "Hey, we have this solution. Can we talk to you about it?" I didn't anticipate even going down this path. It wasn't something I was looking for. But as they talked about it, and I thought about our tape environment, I was willing to try it and they were willing to put some time in to show us what it would do. They showed us and we just stepped our way into it.
What other advice do I have?
If you're in a situation where you're still using tape, at a minimum, this is worth investigating.
For me, the biggest lesson was the exposure it gave me to the cloud environment. Prior to using this, I had heard people talk about AWS, and I had heard semi horror stories about how you never know what it's going to cost you if you get involved in that environment. We worked with our local co-location company and they had built out their own cloud environment. So it was a really good opportunity for me to dip my toes in cloud. From what I can tell, Quest is clearer about what your costs are going to look like. In this case, we're just paying for that cloud storage cost. They give me a number so that I can calculate, based on how many terabytes of data, what it's going to look like, and what it is potentially going to look like a year or two from now. If my data continues to grow at the rate it's growing, then I know it's within the tolerance of what I can afford. That was a great learning experience. It was nice to move down the technology path and to get a little more familiar with the cloud environment. That was a useful step forward for a small business, like ours, that hadn't really been there.
Along with the deduplication, it also provides replication and archiving capabilities, but we don't run that. You have to build out another infrastructure somewhere else to do that, or maybe have another license of QoreStor that they can mount somewhere else. We haven't needed to go to that level.
Prior to using Qorestor, we hadn't ever done any cloud backups. But when it starts to back up into the cloud there's a pretty big spike on IO as all that data is moving across. When I look at my IO over 24 hours, there are two big spikes which happen when the data is flowing into the cloud environment. I'm not sure it would make any difference, but the cloud environment is also in the same location as our cabinet infrastructure, our server infrastructure. We're right in the same data center where the cloud equipment is. It hasn't compromised our network traffic in any fundamental way.
Overall, it just does the job. I don't really have to think about it. It was really just the complexity of the setup that would drop my rating of it a little bit, to eight out of 10. But my experience has been good with it.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?