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Tobin International Maps Its Way to a Secure Enterprise with Backup Express

  • August 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

Tobin International has the second-largest map collection in the world. Pretty impressive - considering that no less venerable an institution than National Geographic owns the largest set. Stored in the company's map archives are aerial photographs of the Gulf Coast region dating from the early part of the 20th century. In fact, we have some of the first plane fly-overs of Texas and Louisiana ever done. Captured in the 1920s, these old images were taken by former World War I flying ace Edgar Tobin, who proceeded to found the company in 1928.

In its current incarnation, Tobin International generates $30 million per year in revenues. It is owned by P2 Energy Solutions, Inc. (P2ES), the oil and gas sector's largest owner and provider of enterprise solutions encompassing financial and operational software, implementation, integration and outsourcing services, mapping data and storage systems.

At the present time, Tobin employs 275 people in Houston, San Antonio, Denver and Moscow, Russia. Tobin is a geo-business information systems company, specializing in map data and spatial decision support software, plus a variety of implementation and integration services to energy, pipeline and telecommunications firms. My company's cartographers, surveyors and photographers have traveled all over the globe to gather this information, which allows organizations to make better decisions about potential land asset exploitation activities.

All of this information, much of it based on vector and raster images, is the crux of what Tobin is all about. We are in a unique scenario because so much of what we have is map data. To protect this, what we consider our most valuable asset, we rely on Backup Express from Syncsort, Incorporated. We run a Windows-based internal architecture with approximately 50 servers across three U.S. locations with 260 workstations. In addition to Windows, other operating systems in use include UNIX, Solaris and AIX. Thirty of the servers are backed up by Backup Express, which is run off of three Windows 2000 master servers.

Between the San Antonio, Houston and Denver offices, we back up more than 30 terabytes of data per week. This heavy traffic is supported by equally heavy-duty hardware; we have the largest tape library in San Antonio: a StorageTek L700 with approximately 215 tapes and four super DLT drives. Like the tape libraries in Houston and Denver, it resides on an FC-connected Brocade SAN. The office in Houston employs a 15-tape dual AIT drive SpectraLogic Tree Frog library. In Denver, Tobin has a StorageTek 9730, with three DLT drives and 30-tape capacity.

Before implementing Backup Express, we had an inadequate backup solution that had been unable to keep up with our growing data volumes. I began the search for a new backup solution as a priority project. This procedure turned into an extensive eight months of research. Before deciding on Backup Express, we evaluated software from VERITAS, LEGATO, BakBone and BrightStor. I looked at research from other vendors, and we did our own research on the Internet, newsgroups, articles and Gartner. Among the qualities that we were looking for in a new solution were fast backups, good performance and ease of use. Very important too, was a solution that would fit well within our unique workplace demands.

The thing that sold us most was the speed and the power of the underlying engine in Backup Express. In San Antonio, we now have a 52-hour backup Window for 14 terabytes. We start on a Friday night and finish late on a Monday morning - so we spend all weekend doing our full backups. During the week, we run incrementals, which start at 6:00 p.m. and usually finish at approximately 4:00 a.m. We back up approximately one terabyte each night. We do full backups on the weekends in Denver and Houston. Those two terabytes back up relatively quickly - we can back each up in a day. Incrementals are also performed at these two locations on weeknights, starting after 6:00 p.m. and finishing in the early morning hours.

Another feature that we appreciate about Backup Express is the ease of use and the simplicity that it lends to operations at Tobin. We don't need to worry about spending a lot of time on Backup Express because we are able to have all our jobs auto-scheduled. We don't even have a dedicated person to handle the backups. If necessary, all my guys are trained to use it. Other products have too many bells and whistles with cluttered interfaces. Backup Express just gets the job done. That's the most important thing. We use it for our enterprise-level backups. We consider that the most critical.

Syncsort Backup Express is an enterprise-wide backup and restore product for heterogeneous networks, which ensures the security of your enterprise. Available for UNIX, Linux and Windows, it offers an intuitive GUI and distributed architecture that eliminates network traffic. It also has extensive support for SAN, NAS/NDMP, clusters and all major tape libraries.

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