Crutchfield Leans on CommVault for Support

When Crutchfield Corp. turned to data management vendor CommVault to help address growing backup times, the consumer electronics retailer kicked off what’s become a long-term partnership. Today, Crutchfield continues to rely on CommVault for backup and centralized data management as well as Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange support.

A CommVault customer since 2003, Crutchfield, one of the largest consumer electronics retailers in the U.S., has five locations in Virginia, including the company’s headquarters in Charlottesville. But that growth brought with it data management pains, and the company desperately needed to reduce its backup time, which was exceeding 24 hours.

After evaluating a number of vendors’ products, Crutchfield selected CommVault’s QiNetix Galaxy Backup suite. After doing one major and one minor software upgrade since the initial purchase, the retailer is currently testing functionality of CommVault’s new modular Simpana software.

Growing Backup Window

Founded in 1974, Crutchfield, with 600 employees, found that it was outgrowing its Veritas Backup Exec solution. At the time, in 2003, the company was backing up about 50 servers, a combination of Windows 2000 servers, file servers, domain controllers and a number of application servers, for a total of about 2 to 3 terabytes of data.

“Our backup window was exceeding 24 hours, which meant there was exposure in terms of data changing, since some parts of our organization, such as the call center, ran from 8 p.m. to midnight,” said Steven Weiskircher, vice president of IT at Crutchfield.

The IT department was also doing backups of NT servers at smaller remote facilities that typically housed one or two servers.

A Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Exchange 2003 user, Crutchfield was growing increasingly concerned about data recovery of its growing SharePoint repository. “The problem was that there wasn’t any easy way to retrieve any given item,” said Weiskircher. So, for example, if data stored in a file in a database was accidentally deleted, the entire database would have to be retrieved offline and restored.

Crutchfield knew it was time to go shopping. The retailer had in mind backup solutions from Legato and Veritas (now EMC and Symantec). Then the IT department came across CommVault at a trade show.

“CommVault had an item-level recovery mechanism for SharePoint,” said Weiskircher. The product also allowed for individual message restores out of Exchange mailboxes without having to restore an entire mailbox or mail server. For Crutchfield, those were two features that forced the company to take a harder look at CommVault.

Working remotely with the vendor, Crutchfield’s IT team did a two-week pilot of the QiNetix Galaxy Backup suite. “Using a demo version of the software on a SharePoint server in out test lab, we wanted to make sure the software did what the company claimed it did,” said Weiskircher. Crutchfield also did an item-level restore on a development server.

CommVault and a couple of other vendor solutions had overlapping capabilities, he said, but only CommVault offered the SharePoint and Exchange features he was looking for.

All Systems Go

The pilot successfully met Crutchfield’s criteria for a backup. According to company, the solution offered multiplexing of data streams to reduce the footprint of the backup window, had remote site capability to manage all backups from one site, and offered item-level restore.

At first, Crutchfield considered purchasing the QiNetix backup suite for SharePoint and Exchange and a second product for everything else. “At the time, we had heard about companies that lost backup tapes, so we were looking for a way to encrypt our backup tapes,” said Weiskircher. As it turned out, CommVault’s product allowed the company to encrypt data on the fly as it’s written to tape.

Eventually, encryption became a requirement for companies like Crutchfield that had to comply with Credit Card Processing and Payment Card Industry Standards (PCI).

The retailer purchased the CommVault Backup suit,e including an agent for Exchange, SharePoint, file and print, Active Director and SQL, and added in the encryption option.

Today, Crutchfield has 50 employees in its IT department. At the time of its first CommVault purchase, there were 35 employees, 24 of whom were developers. A few of the company’s IT employees implemented the backup software and turned to CommVault technical support as needed. Two Crutchfield technicians went for a three-day operations course at CommVault after the initial pilot for training.

The QiNetix Galaxy Backup software was installed on a two-processor Dell PowerEdge Server that was attached to a Dell PowerVault robotic four-drive tape library. The tape library has since been upgraded to six drives and holds 16 tapes. The equipment is located at the company’s headquarters. Configuration at the remote sites is one drive at each site.

Total capacity on all drives for all tapes is 7 terabytes. The company does daily incremental backups and does a full weekly backup that now takes about five hours.

Up Next: e-Discovery

A satisfied customer, Crutchfield reports that the backup solution does everything it needs. “Now we’re looking at compliance and e-discovery features in Simpana 7.0,” said Weiskircher.

The company is particularly interested in the incorporation of the InStream data classification and search engine from Fast Search and Transfer (FAST). This feature will allow an enterprise to do a level search across all tape and disk.

This year, the retailer will migrate to the latest QiNetix platform, now renamed Simpana. The upgrade to the core backup management software and all agents in use at Crutchfield will take about two weeks and involve about 200 servers.

Last summer, the retailer migrated to SharePoint 2007. The company did initial testing of Exchange Server 2007 and expects to migrate to the latest version this year. According to CommVault, Simpana suite 7.0 is optimized to take advantage of the 64-bit computing environment.

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Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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