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No more babysitting backups

Heartland Payment Systems makes credit card transactions hassle-free for 50,000 merchants and their customers. Unfortunately, backing up all that credit card data was a big hassle for the Frisco, Texas-based company.

Each of Heartland's Digital Linear Tape (DLT) drives could only store up to 70GB of data before the tape would have to be switched. This year, the company's data storage load will probably reach 2,640 gigabytes, a 50% increase over last year. "We have beaucoup data," said Brad Williams, director of network services for Heartland. "Our night operator spent the whole night, every night, doing nothing but switching tapes."

Tape storage costs were also an issue. For legal reasons, Heartland has to store credit card processing records for three-to-five years. "Our off-site storage company charges us for how many tapes we store," said Williams. Finding a system that could store more data on fewer tapes would save Heartland considerable money.

Searching for a time-saving, space-crunching storage solution, Williams watched many demonstrations at computer shows. He decided to stick with DLT, but to take it to the max with SuperDLT drives with autoloaders. He narrowed his choice to three SuperDLT companies that offered robotic tape libraries: Boulder, Colo.-based Exabyte Corp.; Milpitas, Calif.-based Quantum; and San Diego, Calif.-based Overland Data, Inc.

Williams quickly ruled out the Exabyte and Quantum systems, because they were not easy

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to expand. "What you see is what you get with those standalone systems," said Williams. "They hold X amount of tapes, and you can't stack additional systems on when you need them further down the road."

On the other hand, Williams found that Overland Data Neo series of tape libraries have a modular design that makes scaling easy. Williams' choice, the Overland Data Neo series LXN2000, can support one or two drives and 26 individual SuperDLT tapes. Overland's LiveSwap technology makes it possible to add or remove drives without interrupting other library operations or re-inventorying the entire system.

"When I need another drive, I can just add a module," said Williams. "There's no downtime involved."

Another plus for Williams was Neo's Fibre Channel capabilities. At peak transaction times, he'd experienced performance and availability problems with legacy DLT drives. Neo offered dual-path connection functionality, supporting host connection through both a primary and secondary path. Usually, libraries offer single, dual-ported Fibre Channel input, which are subject to single points of failure. Also, having two independent Fibre Channel access paths to the tape library increases bandwidth and speeds up transactions.

The decision made, Williams ordered the LXN2000 unit. "The original unit was drop-shipped to us," he said. "We hooked it up, fired it up and it didn't work." He made a quick phone call to the integrator, and another unit was delivered to Heartland the next day. "We fired that unit up and haven't had a single problem since then," said Williams.

Heartland's Neo LXN2000 tape library is rack-mounted in the data center, alongside a Compaq server running Windows 2000. All backups are run using the legacy backup application, Backup Exec 8.6 from Mountain View, Calif.-based Veritas.

By eliminating manual tape switching, Neo's autoloader has boosted the IT staff's productivity tremendously. "Our night operator can focus on other things that need to be done," said Williams. "There's no need to sit there with tapes in hand while backup is running."

Today, the fact that backup is no longer a hassle is still a constant source of wonder to Williams. "I can kick a job off on the weekend, and it just goes," said Williams. "I don't have to worry about it. That's really something."

For more information about Heartland Payment Systems, visit its Web site.

For additional information about Overland Data, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in February 2002

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