BitLeaps LeapServ Catches Data

 
 
By Herman Mehling  |  Posted 2007-07-03
 
 
 
Using tape backup and recovery had proved unreliable for years at Danlee Medical Products. The last straw came in 2005 when the company realized its tape backup system hadnt worked for a month straight.

So Danlee turned to Computer Related Technologies, a solution provider in Liverpool, N.Y., for help. CRT knew exactly what Danlee needed and, without hesitation, recommended bringing in BitLeap, which provides a Web-based managed service that automatically and securely backs up data via an on-site appliance called LeapServ.

As a customer of the BitLeap service, CRT swears by it and advertises it on its Web site.

"I can recommend it with complete conviction, knowing it is going to do what it claims to do," said Frank Smith, CRTs vice president of service.

The BitLeap approach struck the right chord with Danlee, a small business that considers data its lifeblood.

"Our data is our business," Danlee President Joni Walton said. "We could not function without our customer and product data."

Danlee ships thousands of general medical supplies and specialized cardiology products to more than 2,000 customers nationwide and internationally from its headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y. A manufacturer as well as a distributor, Danlee sells more than 6,000 items, selling about 1,500 of them on its Web site.

For a small business with 11 employees, Danlee generates a huge amount of data every day. Four inside salespeople each make 60 to 70 calls per day, jotting down notes about clients, taking orders and performing other duties. In addition, the company is continually adding products to its catalog and Web site.

Justifiable fear

Waltons justifiable fear of losing business-critical information forced her in the days of tape to print out key reports each evening. That laborious task safeguarded Danlee against tape backup system failures. It also safeguarded against a number of other scenarios, such as somebody failing to do backups properly; forgetting to do backup at all; or thinking the system had backed up data only to find out, days later, that the data was missing or incomplete.

"At the end of every year, I had dozens of binders of printed reports," Walton said. "I had a whole wall of binders."

Waltons frustration with the many inadequacies of using tape technology reached its zenith two years ago, soon after she hired CRT as her IT shop. "CRT told us our tape backup system hadnt been working for more than a month," she said.

Tape not up to the task

It was a common problem for organizations relying on tape backup through the years. The revelation finally persuaded Walton never to buy another tape backup system. She had bought one nearly every year for the previous 11 years.

"Each tape backup system cost about $2,000, and one was worse than the other," Walton said. "I would say our tape system failed us 85 percent of the time."

Walton wanted to automate the backup process, have a fast data restoration capability in the event of a catastrophe and be able to do full reporting on backups, CRTs Smith said. Smith said he recommended BitLeap to Walton because he had many clients who were completely satisfied with the companys reliability, performance, affordability and—especially—customer service.

"Our staff is here 24/7 to help with the management and monitoring of customers backups, and assisting with complex restorations that might be needed," said Lindsay Snyder, executive engineer and a co-founder of BitLeap.

Smith said he particularly likes LeapServs bit-differential data replication, which enables the system to maintain a large amount of data off-site by using only a fraction of the Internet bandwidth available on mainstream broadband connections. LeapServ transfers only new files and parts of files.

Also appealing is the advanced Web-based customer interface that LeapServ uses, which helps users browse files, choose which ones get backed up, view file revisions, and download or restore any version of any file, Smith said.

A survey suggests that many backup and recovery systems are going untested. Click here to read more.

After Walton did her due diligence discussing the product with several of CRTs clients, she decided to go with BitLeap, choosing to buy rather than lease the LeapServ appliance. She paid $2,000 for the appliance and signed on for a monthly 50GB backup plan priced at $69. Danlee has been using the service for more than a year.

LeapServ backs up all Danlees various data—its contact database, invoicing, sales, inventory and financials—without involving Walton or any of her employees.

"We get detailed backup reports showing when each backup run started, how long it took, if there were any errors or warnings, and information about new and changed files," Smith said.

CRT receives automated e-mail messages from BitLeap whenever an event—such as a location losing its electricity or Internet connection—might impact LeapServ for longer than 3 hours. If the situation returns to normal and no action is required, CRT receives another automated message.

Reliable service

Smith said he can restore data by logging in to a secure Web site to download file revisions or using advanced restoration tools directly from LeapServ. "It has been a fantastic service at a great price," Walton said. "It has never failed. The best part is we dont have to do any work with it."

As recent proof of BitLeaps reliable service, Walton said the system was able to restore Danlees GoldMine sales database in minutes. This critical database contains all the companys sales calls, orders placed and contact information for all clients. It became corrupted when an outside salesperson made some mistakes trying to log in from a remote laptop, Walton said.

"BitLeap restored the database twice in less than 5 minutes—faster than it would have taken us to load a tape," she said.

Walton estimated that she recouped her BitLeap investment within a few months.

BitLeaps supporting role

BitLeap provides good support to customers, said Smith, who added that is something fairly rare in his experience. "If I have a problem or need something for one of my clients, BitLeap takes care of it right away," Smith said.

"We do anything we can to help, from walking customers through the features of the Web-based control panel to explaining how they can run reports on backups," BitLeaps Snyder said.

When BitLeap discovers issues that need to be addressed on Danlees backups, Snyder said the company works with CRT to identify the issues and find solutions.

BitLeap, of Carlisle, Pa., provides a Web-based, managed, off-site data backup service that is operating-system-agnostic and comes with or without an appliance.

Data backups can be performed on a scheduled or continuous basis over IP to secure locations in Ashburn, Va., and Southfield, Mich., using high-redundancy RAID 5 storage arrays. The same facilities also serve the FBI and Google.

The LeapServ Backup Server is a Linux box that can serve as a NAS (network-attached storage) device. Its dedicated processing power manages complex backups, saves bandwidth and does not hamper any existing servers ability to perform. Some data restores can come directly from LeapServ, thereby reducing lengthy download times.

BitLeaps solution can be purchased with or without hardware. Users also have the option of having their own server configured instead of buying or leasing a LeapServ.

A good SMB fit

Smith said the LeapServ service is a perfect fit for small and midsize businesses such as Danlee. "It does what it claims, doesnt require any employee involvement, doesnt chew up bandwidth, costs very little and doesnt fail," he said.

Smith added that LeapServ is also a great service for CRT in many ways.

Making a small-business owner happy gives Smith peace of mind, he said. "I dont have to worry about the service, nor does my client," he said.

While Smith makes about 20 percent selling a LeapServ appliance and earns residuals from monthly fees, he stressed that he doesnt make much money from each deal—and he doesnt care because selling BitLeaps service gives him something better. "It gives me an entree to sell other goods and services to my SMB clients, allowing me to widen my net in upstate and central New York state, an area dominated by SMBs," Smith said.

CRT and BitLeap have exceeded Waltons expectations.

"Weve been extremely pleased with the solution and CRTs support," she said. "CRT has been very proactive, always coming up with suggestions and advice. Now I dont even think about backup. When we have a problem, CRT knows about it before I do."

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.

Rocket Fuel