Quorum OnQ Review

Took us just hours to do a complete server restore, with minimal downtime

What is our primary use case?

We're still old-school. We have a tape backup system that we use for the majority of our servers. onQ is kind of like doubling our protection. We like the fact that it's a complete disaster recovery solution, so if we ever lost a server, we could spin it up virtually and get our server repaired and nobody would miss any work or have even noticed a difference, other than possibly a little speed, and we're not even certain they would notice that. 

We also use it for general file recovery every once in a while when somebody deletes something they shouldn't have. We use that scenario as our test, every now and then, to go in and make sure we can still recover stuff. 

We use it for "insurance." We're in central Florida and in the Panhandle and it's a hurricane-prone area. We want to have things covered as much as possible, which is why we back up to the opposite office.

We have one in-house server in each of our two offices. The box in each office cross-replicates to the other. We try to put as little in the cloud as possible. We are slowly moving some things to the cloud, but as far as company data goes, we really want to manage that in-house as long as possible.

How has it helped my organization?

We had an instance a few years ago where we lost one of the cards for the RAID controller on one of our servers. When they put the replacement parts back in it didn't recognize our RAID at all. We had to redo the RAID and then we did a complete restore off of the onQ's and it took about three hours. Our server was back exactly where it was the day before and there was very minimal downtime as far as that kind of endeavor is concerned. It worked flawlessly. We've never actually had to do it off of the tape system, but I would think it would be exceptionally tedious because it would take at least the better part of the day to set the server up. And then you would have to worry about copying the directories and making sure you got everything. To recover all the user accounts and system accounts, it would get complicated fairly quickly.

At that time, with Backup Exec, which is made for the tape backup systems by a competitor, I don't even know if you could completely back up the entire volume. You could do the files, but I'm not sure it would do the operating system. The newer versions of software claim they can, but it's still a little bit of a crapshoot as to whether it really recovers the whole system. If it doesn't, then you have to set the server up, re-install the software, and then try and copy your files back. It would be pretty ugly.

Mostly, onQ gives us confidence, knowing that we're really covered if we really have to bring the systems up. It's a complete solution, whereas tape backups, in some of those situations, are not designed to actually spin the system up. They're designed to, at best, copy it to another machine and hope it works. It's comparing apples and oranges. onQ really is a complete system that you can bring up in an emergency. Instead of being down for a couple of hours, you're down for a matter of minutes in a lot of cases.

What is most valuable?

In terms of recovering a file or data that somebody has overwritten or deleted, we usually get an email or somebody comes by and says, "Oops, I accidentally deleted something from my user folder or out of a directory. Can you get it back?" Generally, we prefer to use the Quorums if we can because they're a lot quicker than the tape backup system. We can drill through a directory pretty quickly and select the location. Backup Exec does very similar things but it's a little bit slower. And we have two different sets of tape. So if it's on another set of tapes, then we might have to physically switch the tapes out, which takes even longer. We don't have that issue with the onQ's, because we keep roughly 40 days of backups for our entire company on there.

When it comes to recovering what you need from a backup, it's really easy. You just drill through the directory, find the file and the date that you want, and click to recover. You then pick the directory you want to save it in. Usually, it takes a minute or two and it's done. It's quick and easy.

One of the other capabilities of these systems, which is really a huge thing to us, is that it does bare-metal restores if you need to. If you had to completely recover a system from tape, if it did work — which I'd be somewhat skeptical about — it would take a long time.

onQ is also pretty good at notifications. We get a report every day, and weekly, regarding the backups and the status of the backups.

It does automated tests to the systems to make sure that you can spin them up if you need to. And if something doesn't come back up in those tests, we get a notification saying the system didn't come back up. You can go in and find out why it didn't. In most cases, it's a timeout issue where the system just didn't give it long enough to actually come up. If we go in ourselves and test it and watch it for a little while, it will do it. Sometimes there's a driver issue because the onQ's may not have every hardware driver on the onQ system itself, to spin the box up. So it will spin up and say it's got a driver issue. You can go online, it'll download the driver, and then you can reboot it.

We've worked with Quorum a couple of times to go in and look at why a system didn't pass the test successfully and they've had to go in and modify a couple of the settings for some of the drivers that it copies. It's happened maybe twice and they're very responsive to doing that kind of stuff.

It does everything automatically by itself. We just sit back and watch the emails for the most part.

What needs improvement?

There's not much room for improvement in onQ. The systems are pretty stable. Their support is top-notch. I like the fact that their support seems to be in North America solely, so there aren't any language issues. I really don't have any complaints.

The one thing they could do is some tweaking on the web solution that's supposed to monitor everything from one page, rather than having to bring each server up on its own webpage. It doesn't always accurately show what the system's state is at the time, and we have to restart that process now and then. But it's not really affecting productivity. It just would make our monitoring slightly easier.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using onQ since 2012. We're on our second set of disaster recovery boxes. We just replaced them earlier this year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Our onQ's are very stable. We very rarely have to reboot them. We don't have any real configuration issues or issues communicating with them. Any of the issues we've had have usually been a result of something on our end, such as network problems or something dropping between the two offices, which had nothing to do with their systems.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is very good. We bought ours big enough so that we could add another server if we needed to. But we never did max out even the old ones by the time we were done with them. And we ran them for seven years. We've had no issues with scalability. We never outgrew them or ran into storage space issues. 

I believe the maximum they recommend is about 40 days, but whatever their default was is what we left it at. We could probably even increase that some if we wanted to and not have any major problems, but we haven't had any need to.

The only way we would be able to increase the usage would be to add more servers. They're doing exactly what they were designed to do, which is give us an assurance that, should we lose one of our production servers, we can spin it up on the onQ's within a matter of minutes and keep working.

How are customer service and technical support?

Quorum's support, compared to any of the people we've dealt with, which has primarily been Symantec, is far superior.

Their support agents are very efficient, for the most part. They can usually resolve things. A couple of times we've had things that an engineer needed to look at. That was a case where our network connection between the two offices dropped, due to nothing related to Quorum. They had to go in and do a little bit of cleanup, get the files cleared out so it could do a proper backup. But that's happened maybe once or twice in seven years. Overall, they do what they say they do and they do it very well.

When you buy the server it comes with three years of support and, after that, you have to do a renewal process. But it's the standard support that comes with the system. When you buy it, you can pick which support level you want. You can get it five days a week during business hours, seven days a week during business hours, or 24/7. It all depends on what you need. We have the five-day, business-hours support but it's worked very well for us.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using Symantec prior to Quorum and we still have it because the system is still running. We keep a support contract with them. Our tape library is so large that we can hold six months' worth of backups. That gives us an extended range if we really needed to get some old data off of there. But generally, we go to the quorum first because it is just a lot simpler to use.

What prompted us to look into getting another solution was beefing up our disaster recovery plans, because of things like the hurricanes that we have. Ten or 15 years ago you'd get one hurricane every five or 10 years. Now we're getting to the point, with whatever's happening in the environment, that we have hurricanes two or three times a year. The onQ's are an "insurance policy" that if something fails, we've got a pretty complete system that we can bring online in a short amount of time. Or if we had to replace the hardware, we could copy everything back onto a new piece of equipment and it would work. It allows us to sleep at night.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was easy. They helped us. All we had to do was install the boxes. Once we installed the boxes, they connected remotely and helped set everything up. We installed the client on the servers that needed to have them and they configured things and made sure everything was running with a little bit of testing. Then they let us go. They checked back a week or two later just to see how things were going. But we've had so few issues that it's pretty infrequent that we have to talk to these guys.

The integration process with our organization's network was easy and seamless. There was very little impact. The only thing we had to do is because we have an internet connection to our sister office, an MPLS network. At one point we had to increase our bandwidth. At certain times of the day — although we tried to do it just at night — if there was a large amount of data to replicate, then it would still be running the next morning. And that impacted things to a slight degree. After upping our bandwidth we had no issues at all.

The deployment of our newest boxes took two-thirds of a day or so. The biggest problem was my getting the other box up to Tallahassee. We could have had it shipped, but we don't have any IT in that other office, so one of us had to go up there. So the delay was really on our end because I had to get the hardware up there and install it. We spent two or three hours in the Orlando office setting all that up and then another two or three hours in our Tallahassee office setting up the other box. Altogether, it was definitely less than a day.

Quorum maps out the implementation plan for you. They do some research in the beginning, before the box is ever shipped. They needed an IP range for five or six IP addresses. We sent that to them and they labeled what was going to be the interface for each office. They've got it down to a pretty streamlined process where there's really not a lot of lag time or any mysterious questions.

It takes one person, from our side, for deployment. We have a staff of two people in our IT department. The other person I work with stayed here while I was in the other office setting it up. Since we're the only people in the IT department, nobody else would be going in and using it.

In terms of maintenance, there really is none on the Quorum boxes. They push out updates every once in a while. Generally, they contact us and say, "Hey, we have a couple of updates to put on there." It's usually 30 minutes every now and then. I wouldn't even say that happens on a regular basis. They've done their homework and their hardware works pretty dependably.

What was our ROI?

In terms of capital expenditure, the main thing the solution has done is to allow us to really utilize our hardware to the maximum. Money is always an issue for a company of our size, and we don't always have the capital to replace servers on a regular basis. This gives us the ability, technically, to run servers until they just stop running, if we really want to. We're in that scenario now where we've got a system that still runs, but we have to replace the hardware because the operating system is no longer supported. onQ has allowed us to get every bit of life out of a server, which does lower our bottom-line.

It has saved us $40,000 or so, the cost of two or three servers. It has allowed us to run two or three servers a lot longer than we normally would have. Sometimes, we're getting another year or two out of them.

I wouldn't look at it as a return on investment, any more than you would look at the return on investment for an insurance policy. It's there if you need it and you hope you don't have to use it. In the meantime, we use it for some basic file recovery and some other things, plus it helps us meet some of our HIPAA compliance issues in terms of being able to recover, and as part of our disaster plan. There's value there, but I'm not a bean-counter so it's hard to put a dollar amount to it without doing a lot of analyzing.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The initial expenditure for us was a little under $40,000 for the recent renewal. For the first three years after that, other than electricity, there's no cost. After that, their support contract has to be renewed annually. We spent close to $6,000, between the two offices, for support. That's not a big deal when you're pretty much guaranteed that you're going to be able to recover in an emergency situation. That's well worth it.

I think they're really reasonable. If you price out servers like the ones they put in here, and even if you were to put it in your own system — without figuring out the software and all of the logistics of doing that — it would cost you almost as much just to buy the hardware. Microsoft licensing is very expensive and, if you're going to do anything on your own, you've got to have a team of developers. That's just not something we're in the business of doing with a small IT department. We don't have time to do stuff like that.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We didn't evaluate other solutions. A colleague of mine and I went to a lunch, to one of Quorum's seminars one day, and we were very impressed with the presentation. Everything they said made sense and we didn't really see any need to look any further. And we still don't or we wouldn't have bought another set of them.

Symantec is slow, at least for our solution. I'm sure they have cloud backups but, as I said, our resistance to putting any more in the cloud than we have to is pretty high. We're really trying to keep things in-house. And without spending a ton on hardware, tape is just slower. 

It was a cost thing primarily, but also speed. Personally, and not to bad-mouth competitors, Symantec's support is very difficult to navigate and to get any real attention from on a lot of issues, and that definitely doesn't happen in a timely manner. We don't have that problem with Quorum. They're very responsive.

What other advice do I have?

Check out the competitors. I was so impressed with Quorum that we haven't checked out anybody else. We just wanted to stay with them. We have a good relationship with them. But do your homework and have them really demonstrate what it can do for you. I think you will be just as impressed.

The biggest lesson we've learned from using onQ is that it's a system that works. We've lost a server and done a complete recovery in a matter of hours. That's really all the convincing we needed, to know that the system works. If needed, it does what they say it will do. It did it flawlessly. There was no, "Oh, we're going to have to tweak this" or, "Oh, we're going to have to do that." When we lost that server, as soon as we got it up and running, they were on the phone. They guided us through the few things we needed to do. The whole thing was just a matter of hours to have it back up and running. It doesn't get any better than that, to me.

The solution hasn't affected our overall storage efficiency. It doesn't impact anything on the servers. It's a small footprint and runs in conjunction with our Backup Exec. They don't seem to step on each other, so it doesn't cost us any additional time. It just does its thing on its own without any interference. It's pretty slick.

They're always coming up with new stuff, but we haven't really looked into everything. Our needs are pretty simple. Things change very slowly in our company so we're not really looking to expand anything right now. But if they had other products, we'd probably look at them.

The solution is a 10 out of 10. It's well-designed. It does what they say it'll do and they back up what they say. They help you if you need it. I wouldn't change anything. We're really pleased with them. They're a great company and anytime we've needed help they've been there. They have jumped right into it.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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