Using AWS Storage Gateway, we switched from physical to virtual tape backup simply by dropping the gateway’s virtual appliance into our existing Veeam workflow. Setting it all up took three hours, at most. We can now provision virtual tapes on AWS with the click of a button.
Jesse Martinich Network Service Manager, Southern Oregon University
  • About Southern Oregon University

    Serving more than 6,200 students from its campus in Ashland, Oregon, Southern Oregon University (SOU) is a four-year public liberal arts college providing career-focused, comprehensive educational experiences with an emphasis on student success and intellectual growth.

  • AWS Services Used

  • Benefits of AWS

    • Transitioned to cloud-based backup without changing existing workflows or software
    • Reduced risk using geographically remote backup for enhanced disaster-recovery capabilities
    • Eliminated costs including physical tapes, hardware refreshes, tape-library support, and offsite storage
    • Eliminated time-consuming management of physical tapes, saving staff time
    • Reduced anticipated recovery time in the event of a disaster

Serving more than 6,200 students from its campus in Ashland, Oregon, Southern Oregon University (SOU) is a four-year public liberal arts college providing career-focused, comprehensive educational experiences with an emphasis on student success and intellectual growth.

Like any modern educational institution, Southern Oregon University generates a lot of data, from course materials to administrative documents. Much of its data exists in virtualized, on-premises data centers. The university used physical tape backups—stored in two onsite tape libraries as well as in a vendor’s archiving facility—to keep this information safe in case of disaster, employing Veeam backup software to write data to tape.

SOU was growing increasingly frustrated with its magnetic-tape-backup process. Tape libraries often broke down, and managing physical tapes required constant sorting and shipping. “On average, we spent an hour a week just managing tapes, sometimes more,” says Jesse Martinich, network services manager at Southern Oregon University. “It’s unpredictable, because tapes are prone to issues. You can’t run without backups, so when something happens you have to jump on it. That makes it hard to plan your week.”

Given SOU’s geographic location along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and its exposure to earthquake risk, SOU was also looking for a solution that would meet its disaster-recovery requirements, because its tape storage library was in the same city as the university. In the event of a major earthquake, it would be critical to retain access to student data.

Cloud-based storage offered a way to solve these challenges, but SOU needed to find a solution that would not increase costs. “The first cloud-backup solutions we looked at were out of our budget,” says Martinich. “As a public university, if it’s a difference of thousands of dollars a month, we will spend the time rather than the money. AWS offered a solution that enabled us to save both.”

Cloud-based backups became a viable option for SOU when its IT team discovered it could actually save money by backing up to virtual tapes in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) via AWS Storage Gateway, and then archiving backup data onto Amazon Glacier as a low-cost, long-term storage tier. The university was able to set up a test environment inexpensively thanks to the pay-as-you-go nature of AWS. At the same time, SOU realized it could likely improve its disaster-recovery posture while eliminating the disadvantages that come with managing physical tapes.

The SOU IT team easily shifted its backup destination via AWS Storage Gateway, which can be configured as a virtual tape library that links SOU’s data center with AWS Cloud storage. For SOU, the ability to connect Veeam with the AWS Storage Gateway virtual-tape library was critical. “Using AWS Storage Gateway, we switched from physical to virtual tape backup simply by dropping the gateway’s virtual appliance into our existing Veeam workflow,” says Martinich. “Setting it all up took three hours, at most. We can now provision virtual tapes on AWS with the click of a button.”

The process of migrating data to Amazon S3 was rapid and seamless. “Within two monthly backup cycles, we had entirely converted our physical-tape-backup process over to AWS,” says Martinich. SOU uploads approximately 30TB to AWS per backup, and it is keeping about 320TB on Amazon Glacier. Although the data SOU stores in Amazon S3 is not highly sensitive, the university takes advantage of built-in encryption to protect it.

Using AWS, SOU transitioned to a cloud-based backup solution while preserving existing investments in workflows and software. Configuring its AWS Storage Gateway as a virtual-tape library enabled SOU to continue using Veeam without modification. “Tapes are a headache, prone to hardware failures, offsite storage costs, and constant maintenance needs,” says Martinich. “AWS Storage Gateway provided the most cost-effective and simple alternative.”

“We even got disaster recovery by using a bicoastal data center,” he adds. “By using the East Coast AWS Region in northern Virginia, we have confidence we could recover after a site-level disaster, because our data is geographically separate from our physical location. It would only take three to five hours to retrieve virtual tapes from Amazon Glacier.” Even if an earthquake or other natural disaster damages SOU’s on-premises infrastructure, its data will be safe and available to support the restoration of IT services.

Using AWS Storage Gateway, Amazon S3, and Amazon Glacier, SOU reduced cost and risk while enabling its IT staff to focus on more important tasks than managing tapes. Martinich says, “We were able to eliminate a number of costs, including purchasing physical tapes, hardware refreshes, support on tape libraries, and offsite storage, and we get back countless hours of employee time.”

Learn more about moving tape backups to the cloud using AWS Storage Gateway.