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"I'll never use tape again," said Jonathan Ferrara, IT director at the Revere School District in Massachusetts. Ferrara has used a variety of backup packages, including Symantec Inc.'s Backup Exec and Microsoft NT Backup, but with processes failing to complete or tapes failing, "there was always some sort of problem," he said.

That led Ferrara to try outsourcing backup by sending encrypted backup streams across the Internet to a local hosting center, which in turn mirrored the data to North Carolina. "It worked great," he recalled. But after only about a year of use, Ferrara received a bill that was $10,000 more than his initial budget. "I just couldn't justify the cost."

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Complicating the task were the purchasing procedures Ferrara had to follow. As a state agency, the district can choose to work with any vendor certified by the state's Operational Services Division; if a vendor isn't on that list, it must try to procure a contract from the lowest bidder. Ferrara's outsourcing provider lost that state-approved vendor status because it failed to complete the necessary paperwork.

Ferrara decided his best bet was to bring backup in-house once again, only this time without including tape as part of the equation. His Internet research led him to SonicWall Inc. CDP, a continuous data protection product.

"SonicWall was a trusted name for us," Ferrara said -- the district had used the vendor's firewall products in the past -- and he was able to find a reseller on the state contract list that sold SonicWall CDP.

The product, which SonicWall acquired from Lasso Logic Inc. last year, is a disk-based backup platform that copies files as they're written, rather than running a scheduled job. He purchased two units for two separate schools and currently uses it to back up 31 servers.

The Revere School District truly put SonicWall CDP to the test this summer. The disk drive died in the server housing the district's identity management application, which contains information on 6,000 students. Using SonicWall CDP, Ferrara estimated that he was able to get data back in about 30 minutes.

Going forward, Ferrara hopes SonicWall CDP will add the ability to perform remote replication data between units in case of a catastrophe.

Unlike SonicWall, other CDP vendors, like Revivio Inc., have traditionally focused on high-end enterprise database environments. But SonicWall's small business focus may be catching on. This summer, IBM announced that it would sell its Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files through retailers, such as Circuit City, CompUSA, Office Max and Staples.

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