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Backup can be a terrible burden. If you are one of the two system administrators working in a large public sector organisation and have 5TB of data to backup then it is not going to be one of the aspects of the job that lights up your day.

Disk spins and is quick. Tape streams and is slow and that, darn it, is that. Unless you can stage the backup data to disk first and then send it to tape offline as it were.

The University of Naples 'Federico II' has experienced exactly this problem. It's a large academic institution with 8,000 staff and 130,000 students. The students have 24-by-7 IT availability and the IT infrastructure is un-manned from 8.00pm until 7.00am. Of the staff, 7,898 are not IT administrators; there are just two.

An enormous amount of data is generated. The administrators backed up the central campus data to tape. It took five days to write 5TB to tape.

There is a second, remote branch of the university in Montesantangelo. It had a purely nominal monthly backup procedure in place. In other words its data was at risk.

Earlier this year it was decided that enough was enough. The two infrastructures would be consolidated and data would be backed up to disk first at the remote site and then streamed off to tape without the existing backup window constraints.

There were constraints, there always are. The university needed an open system; depending on how mission-critical the data was it resided on the SAN (80 percent), NAS (18 percent), or DAS (2 percent) devices. In addition, a number of Operating Systems were deployed and any new product had to be able to cope with all of them.

Other selection criteria included: cost-effectiveness; modularity; high scalability; support for Fibre Channel, iSCSI and Ethernet; as well as reliability.

The University of Naples installed an Overland Storage Reo 4000 disk-based back-up and recovery appliance in the Montesantangelo remote branch and a Neo 2000 tape library in the central campus to back up the 5 terabytes of data including the web servers, student applications and email.

Giovanni Barone PhD, head of the IT team at the University of Naples, said: "I could not afford to take on two more back-up administrators to run the remote site and the Neo and Reo allow the current operators to easily manage the entire system from a central location."

The general backup process immediately saw a radical improvement. The disk-to-disk (D2D) set up immediately reduced the back up process from five to two days, a significant drop of 60 percent. The migration of data to tape, which still takes five days, is now done in the background without the concern of glitches happening to the only copy of the data along the way.

The remote site back-up situation has also improved markedly. Barone said: "If our Montesantangelo remote branch experiences a loss of data they can now easily and quickly retrieve the copy at our central campus," in less than 30 minutes.

More is going to be done: "Next year we will add a second Reo appliance to deploy a bi-directional back up strategy that allows us to store a copy of the main office data in our remote branch for extra protection."

Barone is really pleased with his Overland kit: "The protocol versatility of the Neo tape library and the scalability of the Reo disk appliance are just two of the reasons why we have chosen Overland. The Reo 4000 and Neo 2000 have been providing us with such a smooth performance that we can't imagine how we could have carried on without them today.'

Chris James, the EMEA marketing director EMEA at Overland Storage, is pleased too: "Our Reo and Neo appliances easily ticked all the boxes giving the IT staff piece of mind and enabling them to focus on providing students and staff continuous and reliable access to data."

I don't suppose that any organisation, once having seen the advantages of staging back-up data to disk will ever go back to writing back-up data directly to tape. It takes too long and it is risky if glitches happen. By moving to D2D backup the University of Naples has increased the productivity of its two administrators and much increased its ability to protect the data it has to look after.