Hospital keeps data alive with snapshots

Unable to find a major software vendor that could adequately restore its data, a Long Island hospital found a snapshot solution from a startup.

South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) recently went shopping for software that could plug a hole in Veritas Software Corp.'s Backup Exec product, namely the ability to quickly recover its e-mails at an affordable price.

As network manager of the 800-physician hospital that serves several towns in the south shore of Long Island, Connor Brosnahan has seen the amount of servers in the hospital grow from three to 36 in the past two years due to new projects and expanded facilities.

Brosnahan's chief concern was e-mail. The hospital has over 500 e-mail accounts that were backed up to tape and took forever to restore when e-mails got lost.

"We would back up the e-mail servers on a nightly basis using Veritas' Backup Exec. Sometimes the backups would fail or a tape was bad," said Brosnahan. "What I needed the most was easy restores for Exchange."

None of the major vendors were able to satisfy his requirements. "We looked at software from Veritas, Hewlett Packard Co. and Symantec Corp. that had snapshot capability and not only were they pricey, but recovering the snapshots was slow because the software would read through each snapshot before finding the right one."

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Brosnahan added that the version of Backup Exec that he's using does not have snapshot capability (they're using 8.6). A Veritas spokesperson said that subsequent versions of the software now include snapshot. But Brosnahan noted, "Even if 8.6 had snapshots, it wasn't advertised to me. If they don't tell you about it, how are you going to know?"

In addition, he said that if he had gone with a snapshot product from HP or Veritas, it would have cost him $150,000. Early this year, Brosnahan came across the Web site for FilesX, Southborough, Mass., and felt that the features of the company's data protection software -- namely XPress Restore and XChange Restore -- had the recovery capability for Microsoft Exchange that the hospital needed.

And with FilesX, he was able to get everything he wanted for $34,000. "In healthcare, you really can't afford to lose a day's worth of work. We have a small IT staff and 2200 employees, so finding FilesX was a happy accident for me."

Brosnahan liked the fact that once the FilesX snapshots are in a repository, they are easy to search and find. "If you have 40 snapshots in there, and you need one in the middle, it doesn't have to search everything first, it just gets it. It takes a few minutes."

Brosnahan extended the use of FilesX XChange Restore and XPress Restore software to do snapshots of data from the hospital's most important servers and he is continuing to add schedules for more snapshots. "I weigh what the server is used for and then determine the frequency of snapshots," he said.

The most critical system in the entire hospital is the Local Area Network Therapy Information System (LANTIS) for the radiation oncology department. This system is designed to capture and manage all patient-related information on radiation. "Critical systems like this are snapshot every 30 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to minimize the effect of any data loss," said Brosnahan.

For systems that aren't as critical, such as Exchange and some SQL servers, the snapshots are scheduled every one or two hours.

Brosnahan sees only one drawback to the FilesX software: It doesn't take snapshots of Unix boxes. "Right now, it only works with Windows. But I'm told they're working on that," he said.

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