New backup system restores data and confidence in North Carolina

In 2007, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools had more than 50,000 students enrolled in their system. That many students means a lot of data- ranging from emails to financial information to legal data - from its students, staff and other users. Yet the district had no reliable means of backing up data. Director of Information Systems Kevin Sherrill knew they had to come up with a solution.

“The system we were previously attempting to use was making it incredibly difficult to restore data. It wasn’t reliable and we didn’t have the capability for online backups,” recalled Sherrill. "Considering the amount of data we were dealing with and the number of individual people dealing with it, we knew we needed a top-of-the-line, easy-to-use and manage solution.”

The school district was formed in 1963 when the Winston-Salem and Forsyth school systems merged to become one of North Carolina’s largest K-12 educational institutions. With 42 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, 11 high schools and 11 special schools, it is the fifth largest school system in North Carolina and the 85th largest school system in the nation.

“With the number of students enrolled in our schools, the data we have to keep up with is astronomical,�� said Sherrill. He and his staff identified four key goals to guide their choice of a new system. First, they needed capacity - a solution that could back up the large amounts of data that a district their size generates. Second, they needed reliable backup capability and restore points - which was where their old system failed them. Third, they needed easy online backup to disk as opposed to removable media. Finally, they needed the ability to restore their servers in a timely fashion.

In November 2007, Tod Kisner of Tego Data Systems introduced Sherrill to the Elite STORServer Backup Appliance, an integrated, scalable backup solution. After considering the features offered - including the option of a 30-day capacity for online backups - the district chose the STORServer.

The first real test of the new backup appliance came when one of the high schools had a system crash. STORServer had them back up and running within two hours.

Buddy Martin, systems administrator for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, has been pleased with both the dollar savings and the confidence the new system inspired – something “you can’t put a price tag on.” Time has been saved as well; technicians switch tapes once a week now, instead of once a day, as required by the old system.

The district currently backs up 80 different sites and a total of 140 servers with the STORServer Backup Appliance, with backups averaging 1,160 GB of data.

In the coming months, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will be moving its STORServer environment into a virtual datacenter. “As we consolidate from physical to virtual, our backup needs will change, but we know STORServer will continue protecting our data like they’ve been doing for years,” said Sherrill.