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Cohesity backup replaces legacy EMC at Piedmont HealthCare

A healthcare firm doesn't take full advantage of Cohesity secondary storage capabilities, but finds its backup and recovery features simpler and faster.

Cohesity advertises its scale-out data protection system as an answer for all secondary storage needs, but some shops just want a better answer for their old-fashioned backup products.

That was the case with Piedmont HealthCare, a medical group with more than 50 locations and 1,000 employees throughout North Carolina. Byron Williams, Piedmont's IT infrastructure manager, said the medical group switched to Cohesity backup after growing frustrated with its legacy data protection products.

Piedmont had used legacy backup stalwarts from Dell EMC -- NetWorker software and Data Domain deduplication disk targets. Williams said the combination was complex and wasted a lot of time.

"If a backup failed, troubleshooting took a long time," he said of the Dell EMC backup products. "We had to reach out to EMC support to pull the logs. Sometimes, it took a day just to hear back from them after reviewing the logs, and your backup job might not get fixed until the next day.

"With Cohesity, the process of adding a virtual machine to the backup job takes just a few clicks. With NetWorker, sometimes you have to install a NetWorker agent, configure the agent on the virtual machine and then come back to NetWorker to finish the configuration. It's very time-consuming."

Cohesity backup consists of its DataProtect software either integrated on DataPlatform appliances or as virtual appliances; Piedmont bought the appliance option. Williams said he had never heard of Cohesity when he started his search for better backup in mid-2017, but Piedmont's IT service provider SHI International recommended the relative newcomer. Williams said he was hooked from the first demo of Cohesity's DataPlatform.

"We liked the web interface, the way you set policies ... it was night and day compared to what we had," he said. "We knew from the demo it would do everything we wanted to do."

Williams said it was "nice to get away from" the Java-based NetWorker interface.

Still, before closing the deal, Piedmont also looked at Rubrik -- another scale-out converged data protection vendor. Williams said Rubrik's product also impressed him, until he saw the price.

"Rubrik was a nice product, but when they came back with what it would cost, it wasn't even close to Cohesity," he said.

In October 2017, Piedmont purchased two Cohesity C2500 appliances, each with 96 TB of raw hard disk drive capacity and 6.4 TB of PCI Express flash. The healthcare firm installed the appliances in data centers 25 miles apart, replicating backed-up data between them for disaster recovery.

The healthcare company switched to Cohesity at the same time it installed a new Pure Storage all-flash array. Cohesity supports array-based snapshots on Pure's storage.

Piedmont now backs up all of its more than 100 virtual machines to Cohesity, using its DataProtect software for Citrix servers, Microsoft Exchange and SQL, all domain controllers, and most of its healthcare applications.

Williams said he sees an average 2-to-1 data deduplication ratio with Cohesity backup software.

He said the biggest benefit since switching is "the time it saves us. When we go to recover a file or a whole VM, that process is simple. There's a Recover button on the dashboard, and it takes three steps to recover. It's a lot quicker than NetWorker. That took 10 steps or more."

Piedmont made the transition by pointing Cohesity backup jobs at DataPlatform appliances, rather than at Data Domain, while keeping backed-up data on the EMC targets during the switch over for insurance. Williams said he still uses Data Domain for data from an AIX server, because he is waiting for Cohesity to add an AIX client.

Williams said while Piedmont doesn't use Cohesity for advertised secondary storage use cases such as archiving and analytics, he does find its test/dev features valuable.

"You can just take one of the snapshots you have for your backups, spin up a clone of it and have a test environment running from Cohesity," he said. "When you're done testing, it's really easy to destroy that environment."

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