REVIEWER: Betty Owen, team leader for FSG IV Technical Support Business Unit of Acxiom Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Acxiom Corporation is a global leader in real-time customer data integration and customer relationship management (CRM), offering innovative database marketing services, advanced technologies and premier data content. Acxiom enables businesses to develop and deepen customer relationships by achieving a single view of customers across the enterprise. Founded in 1969, Acxiom Corporation is based in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has operations throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Australia.

PLATFORMS: Compaq Alpha servers (4100, ES40, 8400, GS140, GS80 and GS320) and growing number of Sun Enterprise class servers and IBM servers running Tru64 UNIX, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT and Sun Solaris.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our company's overall strategic goal was to develop a reliable backup/restore infrastructure ­ the primary requirement of which is to manage the backup of our expanding Oracle databases (holding over 100TB of data) within a shrinking backup window. We need cold backups that can be completed within the time frames stipulated by our customers who expect top-notch service from us. As the linchpin of this strategy, the financial services division switched backup systems, standardizing on Backup Express from Syncsort.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We maintain a number of Oracle data warehouses, ranging from 25TB to less than 2TB, which support large prospect databases that we use for dynamic data mining, real-time prospecting and CRM. A team of 12 UNIX systems engineers supports the systems on a 24x7 basis. A major challenge has been how to back up and restore the quickly expanding data warehouses in a multiplatform network environment. Backup Express met that challenge and has made our backup and restore much easier and less time-consuming. Our robotic tape library is large and still growing. Due to security requirements, most of the tape devices are direct-connected to servers dedicated to individual customers. Off-site tape management is handled on a customer-by-customer basis depending on the customer's business requirements. Backup Express has simplified a previously complicated customer service function for us. If we want to cut a tape for a customer, I can cut that tape, send it to them and they can read it on their machines with no hassle. We also use Backup Express' twinning ability to make two tape copies instead of one during any backup procedure. One tape can then be kept on site and another sent off site for vaulting.

STRENGTHS: Perhaps the best thing about Backup Express is the way it makes administration much easier. All Backup Express functions can be administrated through a graphic user interface (GUI) available on any node with a TCP/IP connection to the network. The GUI simplifies the import and export of tapes in the library and helps with labeling. We can see what tapes are in what slots, their status (empty, appendable, full) and what backup jobs are on the tape. Moreover, because the GUI is identical regardless of whether it is on a UNIX or Windows NT system, the learning curve is very low. Administrators can become productive with Backup Express in less than a day. It has also been a tremendous advantage to be able to install the GUI on my system at home to remotely manage the enterprise-wide backup processes. Every function available from the central console is available to authorized administrators on a remote basis.

WEAKNESSES: It would be even more helpful to have the ability to give users backup/recover permissions only, without giving them root permissions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our division decided to eliminate our previous backup system because of various difficulties with it. Some key criteria in the selection of Backup Express as the new solution were to correct the major problems of the previous product. Furthermore, the easy-to-use GUI that simplifies administration was a big influencing factor.

DELIVERABLES: Unlike our previous system, Backup Express delivers the ability to obtain licenses quickly and efficiently (the process is automated), speed in returning calls to support (within 15 minutes) and the ability to read the backup tapes on any machine, regardless of whether or not the software was installed on it (Backup Express' distributed architecture permits this).

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support during installation of the system and subsequently has been excellent. Syncsort has exceeded our expectations on all support calls by returning them within 15 minutes.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation was very good and met all our needs.

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