Assessment firm turns to StorSimple cloud storage for backup, DR

Personality testing firm CPP installed a StorSimple cloud storage controller for user files and SharePoint, and expanded into cloud backup and DR.

CPP Inc., a personality testing publisher headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., dabbled with cloud storage when it needed a new file server for user data and a Microsoft SharePoint rollout more than a year ago. Now the firm has three StorSimple Inc. cloud storage controllers and uses the cloud as its tier-two storage, as well as for backup and disaster recovery (DR).

I bought a StorSimple box thinking I would use it just for a file share, but the more I used it, the more I liked it.

Michael Johnson,
director of infrastructure and desktop support, CPP Inc.

CPP, which publishes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment test, has three StorSimple appliances moving data to a Microsoft Windows Azure cloud. CPP, which also has offices in Singapore and Australia, began using StorSimple to move data to the cloud in mid-2011, and added StorSimple cloud boxes at its remote locations in early 2012.

CPP has all its users' file shares, SharePoint data, a mirror copy of its Exchange server and the virtual machines (VMs) supporting that content on its StorSimple box at headquarters, according to Michael Johnson, CPP's director of infrastructure and desktop support. Placing VMDKs and VMs on a StorSimple appliance and replicating to the cloud removes the need for daily backups. For DR, Johnson said he can pull down images from the cloud in any of his three locations.

"Now I have my DR site on the cloud," Johnson said. "I can spin up a production environment in either location, and at the same time put snapshots in the cloud. My goal is to eliminate tape all together, and I’m on track."

Storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) arrays from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) are used for primary storage, and Johnson said he will keep those systems. He said the company is decommissioning an aging EMC array used for its tier-two storage and will stop using tape for off-site backups.

CPP has a license for 20 terabytes (TBs) on each of its three SS7520 controllers, and Johnson said he has at least 5 TB in the cloud. "That will grow significantly," he said of the amount of data in the cloud. "Now we have end-user data and SharePoint. Next, I'll migrate storage off my legacy systems onto the StorSimple."

Johnson said he was initially reluctant to put storage in the cloud. He was leaning toward adding a NetApp file server, but agreed to look at StorSimple after a VAR recommended it.

"I was all about performance, and I understood what the big three storage vendors [NetApp, HDS and EMC] had to offer," he said. "I bought a StorSimple box thinking I would use it just for a file share, but the more I used it, the more I liked it. I've started moving all my tier-two workloads to StorSimple, and now it's a key part of my infrastructure."

Before going to the cloud, Johnson said he wanted to ensure his data was accessible and safe at all times. StorSimple's encryption is done on the controller, so only CPP people can access the keys. "Storing data there is safe," he said. "Previously, we had physical data on tape at Iron Mountain. But you don't always know if you can restore from tape. So we shortened our RPO [recovery point objective] and RTO [recovery time objective] significantly by moving into the cloud. I'll take data in the cloud over data off-site on tape."

Still, Johnson said he's not quite comfortable enough with the cloud for primary data. "I haven't had the opportunity to fully test it with tier-one data yet," he said. "I would like to over time. We can run some tier-one data on it, but you have to make sure you have enough bandwidth to store things in the cloud and get it back down quickly. I think StorSimple can handle that fine, but I don't think I would run my Oracle database on it."

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