WAN backup capabilities compelling for title insurance co.

A title insurance group moves from local to centralized storage backup of its 140 offices. But the key to this groups' successful implementation isn't just backup, it's how the data gets from one office to another.

Like many growing companies with mounds of data to manage, the Old Republic Title Group, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based title insurance company, needed to get a grip on its storage backup. With offices located throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam, each office was backing up its own data locally then shipping the tapes to the home office in Minneapolis.

The system was not only outdated, it was not secure. Backup and disaster recovery was paramount to Old Republic's senior vice president of operations, Robert Matanane. So, about a year and a half ago, Matanane moved forward to find a storage vendor who could implement a backup and recovery system, while moving nearly a terabyte of data over the company's existing Wide Area Network (WAN).

According to Matanane, the company operates 140 offices, some small, some large, but all connected through a WAN using a "multitude of links." The company primarily uses Windows NT servers.

The Old Republic Title Group is one of the nation's largest title insurance groups. Since 1978, it has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Old Republic International Corp. a Chicago-based, multi-lined insurance company with assets of approximately $7.2 billion and total capitalization of $2.6 billion.

"We needed a way to manage data storage centrally," said Matanane. "It just wasn't efficient to continue doing it locally. We needed retention information for disaster recovery and rebuilding."

The company had some very specific needs, said Matanane. First, the company was still backing up on physical tape. But, it wanted to route information to its main site and retain information indefinitely without having to manually backup the tape and have it shipped. Matanane also said he wanted immediate access to certain "points-in-time" when title processing, not only for efficiency in processing but also for disaster recovery considerations. "So we could rebuild," he said.

While backup was being performed locally, Matanane said, "you just never knew," if and what was being backed up. "We wanted to control it from this spot here."

But, it wasn't just about backup. The major criteria for the new set up was that the vendor's product had to allow for data to run over the WAN and it had to run through the links (VPN, DSL and frame rely.) However, the files are "pretty big ones" said Matanane, so the software had to have ability to compress the data as well. "So, when it hit here, we could store it," he said.

"It comes through the pipe in a small file size. "This feature was very important, considering we have some very large files that have to be sent."

The system also had to have multimedia support such as RAID and optical disks.

According to Mantanane, the company now uses a number of CommVault Galaxy components and architectural features. Including:

Galaxy iDataAgent for Exchange - Which allows the company to backup/restore the exchange databases and individual mailboxes and messages (including attachments and properties), without taking the system down.

Galaxy iDataAgent for Windows NT - Which allows the company to backup/restore the NT file system on the remote servers.

Galaxy CommServe - Galaxy's centralized database on which the policies and information for all ofthe remote computers being backed up.

Galaxy MediaAgent - Galaxy's controller for the backup hardware (raid disk arrayand optical juke box) and the module that runs the back-ups.

At the heart of the system is Commvault Galaxy's policy-based management that allowed Old Republic Title to centralize data and optimize timing and compression on its WAN. According to Matanane, the client side (in this case the server running the iDataAgent) automatically compresses (the company choose this option on the client side) thereby taking advantage of the local CPU resources on that computer.

"Through Galaxy, the data is then written initially to our RAID server, said Matanane. "After a two month cycle, through, Galaxy, we offload backups to the Optical platters creating an auxiliary copy. Eventually the raid server is pruned to clear out the data that has been moved to the Optical system." Incremental backups are performed nightly. A Synthetic Full backup is done weekly. This allows Old Republic Title to backup, incrementally, 140 offices per night over some very slow links and generate the equivalent of full backups at the Santa Clara headquarters.

Unlike many implementations, there were only a few minor glitches when setting up the system.

"There were just minor hiccups," said Mantanane. "Actually, when you lay things out, they look easy, " he said. "But, we had some minor issues, but they [Commvault}] had the ability to work on them. It was a first for them and a first for us. We had issues with policies. Some of the links were slower, so we had to make sure they were workable. There were issues with our hardware, our optical drive -- certain parts had caused problems. We had issues with their interface where the GUI seemed slowed. But, overall, it was pretty minor."

During the implementation process, Mantanane had the "opportunity" to test the system first hand.

"One of our field offices was dealing with a file that was corrupted so they called us up and used we used Galaxy to bring up the file and re-installed it over the WAN in about 5 minutes," he said. "The ability to manage the software is very, very nice. Since we do incremental backup, we were actually able to go back, to point-in-time, to restore the data."

Mantanane said that they're extremely please with their system even though they haven't been able to really measure Return on Investment (ROI). The benefits are obvious companywide, he said.

"It's hard to compare because we didn't have anything before," he said. All I can say is now I have redundancy in backing up information. That was a feature that I needed. The ability to restore information is a huge savings for us. We couldn't do that before without having had the tapes shipped to us. And that would have been too timely to do. So far, the new system has saved us a tremendous amount but, I just can't put a number on it."

Storage Innovators Case Studies

Tips: Backup

Best Web Links: Fibre Channel and Networking

Best Web Links: Optical Storage

Dig Deeper on Data storage strategy

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.