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When Vaalco Energy needed a data backup solution fast to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, the $500 million oil and petroleum company opted for a managed services solution that uses Asigra's Televaulting backup service software platform.
Within days, Vaalco had the technology solution it needed in place, and the company has been so pleased with the result it is exploring other applications for the remote backup service.
Vaalco Energy, an independent company engaged in the acquisition, development and production of crude oil and natural gas, had never been a customer of managed IT services. But that changed quickly when it became the only cost-efficient solution that would allow Vaalco to meet a SOX audit.
"We thought that what we were doing, which was backing up manually to tape, was okay, but in the end it wasn't and we weren't SOX-compliant," said Robert Walston, IT supervisor at Vaalco.
The company needed a quick turnaround on a backup solution for its purchasing and accounting system.
"We had a time constraint and we had a few criteria that had to be met. We went with the first company that responded to our data storage inquiry," said Walston.
That company was NetMass, McKinney, Tex.-based company that specializes in online data backup and recovery solutions for businesses.
Along Came SOX
A 20-year old company with couple dozen employees based in Houston and another 20 based in Gabon, West Africa, Vaalco Energy backed up its data nightly to tape and Walston would take the tapes home.
The company has a number of systems: Exchange, a basic file store, a purchasing program and an accounting program.
"A lot of the data, about one terabyte, was backed up internally on our network," said Walston. Seismic data, for example, which is considered non-critical, was backed up on the network. Another 30 to 40 gigabytes was sensitive data that required SOX compliance.
According to Walston, the company used network-attached storage (NAS) and an external tape vault. But that solution, he noted, wasn't SOX compliant.
The issue of noncompliance came to light when Vaalco brought in independent auditor Deloitte & Touche. "They told us that our storage solution for sensitive data wouldn't pass a compliance audit and gave us a check list of things we needed to do to satisfy auditors," said Walston.
Vaalco was pressed for time. "We started an online search for off-site management solutions," he said. The company identified several potential storage providers and contacted all of them. Managed services provider NetMass was the most responsive company.
The MSP was also able to meet Vaalco's storage requirements: meeting the data center requirements for SOX, and the ability to backup a live running SQL database.
"A lot of software wants to stop and start the system before it begins the backup, but that doesn't work for us," said Walston. With the company's Houston-Gabon operations it's running a 24/7 shop.
Price was also a consideration when deciding on a storage backup solution. According to Dereck Stubbs, IT specialist at Vaalco, NetMass offered a software-only solution. "The solution only required a single piece of software without the need for us to buy additional hardware," he said. "We were also able to adapt it to our existing procedures."
A Partnership Is Born
Vaalco opted for the televaulting managed service solution that NetMass markets as ServerSafe Total Data Protection, a multi-platform online backup service.
According to the MSP, the data is compressed and encrypted and sent over the internet to the provider's secure data centers. In the case of Vaalco Energy, the company installed the ServerSafe client on its server. "We also get a client GUI for management interaction," said Stubbs, which allows his department to create backup logs and perform maintenance.
In a matter of a day, the software was installed and working. Stubbs was backing up data that same night, he says.
A week later, Deloitte & Touche auditors tested the system. "The burden of proof to show that we have a solid financial backup system in place was on us," said Walston. Within five minutes, Vaalco was able to restore its entire accounting system, a match to its production system. Mission accomplished.
Since the initial managed service agreement between Vaalco and NetMass, the energy company is leveraging the same backup technology for its purchasing system. "We're also talking to NetMass about backup for Exchange Server 2007, which we recently rolled out," said Walston.
According to Stubbs, the company's e-mail info store is about 40 gigabytes uncompressed. "We're interested in the message level restore feature that NetMass offers for Exchange," he said. The dynamic option allows users to restore e-mails at the message level without having to restore the entire Exchange database.
The managed service solution is a big hit at Vaalco. "It reduces the workload on our end," said Walston, noting that it saves time, is low management and eliminates the need to check tape media. "Now we always have a copy of our entire system," he noted.
Vaalco compared the televaulting solution to a competing technology solution from Iron Mountain where tape is stored in a certified off-site facility and brought back for restore. "With televaulting, we pay monthly based on the amount of storage space. If we went with Iron Mountain, we pay for someone to physically come to our office daily to pick up the tapes in addition to the cost for offsite storage," said Walston.
The televaulting solution made more sense to Vaalco decision makers, who like the scalability of the managed backup service solution.
The only change Vaalco had to make to accommodate the NetMass managed service was to upgrade its WAN to a T1, which provides greater bandwidth and redundancy, which was missing with the previously installed standard DSL line.