Cotton Companies Walks the Walk

Disaster assessment specialist practices what it preaches with Terian solution.

Cotton companies knows all about disaster recovery. The company, which specializes in the restoration of fire- and water-damaged properties, also realizes that practicing what it preaches goes a long way to preserving credibility.

Thats why Cotton, of Houston, hired solution provider Terian Solutions, also in Houston, to prepare the company for worst-case scenarios involving the loss of vital business data. Terian, in business for five years, sells hardware and provides managed backup services. Its annual revenue was $10 million last year.

"Cotton came to us because it liked our Secure Backup services better than any other backup services it found and because its headquarters is a quarter of a mile away from ours," said Mike Colesante, president of Terian. "[The customer] liked the idea that we could be on-site in minutes in case of an emergency."

Cotton employs more than 350 workers and has more than $50 million in annual revenue. Despite national reach, the company focuses on the Gulf Coast with services such as assessment and planning, restoration, and environmental remediation.

Until recently its IT department was a one-man show run by Jeffrey Miller, Cottons IT director. Having seen enough computer rooms destroyed in natural disasters, Miller was worried, so he turned to Terian for peace of mind, data protection and business continuity. Terians Colesante said small and midsize businesses are wise to outsource important tasks such as backup to a specialist with the right technology and facilities to manage them.

"A single serious event resulting in data loss or application downtime can result in significant revenue loss, fines or other negative implications," Colesante said. Terian moved Cotton from tape backups to its automated Secure Backup solution, which uses Asigras Televaulting technology.

"Jeff [Miller] liked the fact that the solution provides on-site, disk-to-disk backup at LAN speed, as well as the convenience and security of remote data vaulting in two locations," said Colesante.

Miller was eager to find an alternative to tape. "Id seen enough of the effects from floods, fires, wind damage and many other catastrophes to know we had to improve our data protection," he said.

Miller said he has seen computer rooms that were deemed safe destroyed and, with them, all of a companys data. "In many cases, the tapes that protected data were ruined by high heat or water damage," he said.

Aside from the professional reasons for improving Cottons backup and recovery technology, Miller also had a more personal reason. "I was losing sleep worrying about our tape backup system, wondering whether it was backing up properly or at all," Miller said. "I had lost some data on occasion and worried we could lose all our data if a disaster or a virus struck us."

Miller did tape backups of the companys 12 servers each day, verifying them from home in the evening. "I was spending too much time on backups and worrying about losing data," he said.

Miller looked at alternatives, including disk-to-disk solutions he could manage in-house, before he chose Terians Secure Backup service. "I decided it was time to outsource the task to experts," he said.

Colesante said Terian has refined its offering through the use of not only good technology but also best practices, which include employing backup professionals and keeping duplicates of client data in two secure locations. "Another practice we use is charging customers a capacity-based price similar to a utility service, which means they typically pay a small amount for secure backup," Colesante said. "Cotton pays $1,200 per month to protect 200 gigs of data. The $1,200 includes a rack-mounted server we installed for Cotton."

Asigras Televaulting is the first agentless solution to deliver bare-metal restoration capabilities across distributed or multisite networks, said Colesante. Agentless means there is no need to install client software on target machines, while bare metal means the software restores servers without the need to load applications or files.

Televaulting has two main components—a client, which resides at a customer site, and a server, which resides at a WAN-connected data center. Televaultings technology performs a full backup followed by incremental, minor backups.

Terians Secure Backup has been a big hit with Miller. "If we lost all our data, it would be equal to losing $1 million or so, not counting all the lost productivity and the manpower involved in trying to restore data," he said.

Miller said backups and restorations are very fast and manageable. "Because a copy of the data is available locally, routine and test restores are easy to do," he said.

On only two occasions in the past year has Miller had to test the speed of the service—one involved the payroll server, and the other involved the job estimates server, both vital data sources. "Both times Terian was able to help me restore the lost data within 30 minutes," Miller said.


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