HSM bolsters data availability and security

HSM bolsters data availability and security

A three-tier hierarchical storage management configuration helps protect customer data.

Ron Levine

Banta Digital Group, a division of Banta Corp., specializes in content management and digital imaging services. The company provides customers with a range of customized services to manage all aspects of digital workflow, from content management through creative design services, prepress, and printing.

In response to customers` increasing requirements for a fully secure 100% digital workflow solution, Banta Digital Group recently introduced B•real-time. Developed in partnership with a number of vendors, B•real-time ensures the security of customer data, while improving availability.

Customers connect to Banta Digital Group via a wide area network, allowing them to manage their creative, prepress, and print processes in-house from their desktops. By automating the workflow process and assuming many of the functions traditionally performed by an outside prepress company, Banta`s clients reduce production cycle time by as much as 50%.

"In developing B•real-time, we placed a great deal of emphasis on security and reliability," explains John Chase, network specialist at Banta Digital Group. "File protection, storage reliability, and continuous file access to customers` critical data are crucial components, requiring a fool-proof disaster recovery system and storage access capability."

To bring its disaster recovery capabilities to the highest possible level, Banta wanted to implement a data storage methodology that provided optimum data availability, security, and dependable server backup--all automatic and transparent to users. "We may have more than 200 users logged onto our network at any given time, resulting in an enormous number of files constantly being updated and saved," says Chase. "It`s our job to store those files, protect them, and ensure round-the-clock accessibility."

"Prior to implementing B•real-time, instead of backing up our data once each night, we needed to continually create backup files throughout the day," recalls Ken Drapp, Banta`s senior Unix administrator. Banta turned to Datalink (Minneapolis, MN), an information management solutions provider that specializes in designing high-availability solutions and backup strategies, to design a system tailored specifically for high-volume data storage and availability requirements.

After assessing Banta`s requirements and investigating best-of-breed products, Data-link recommended that Banta replace its current hierarchical storage management (HSM) system with an automated HSM and data protection system consisting of an enterprise server connected to three levels of storage, providing several terabytes of capacity. New and frequently used files are saved to a RAID device. Less frequently used files are migrated to a near-online magneto-optical (MO) jukebox. Files rarely used are archived to a high-capacity tape library. Backup processes are continual and automated, thus providing an extra level of file protection.

The HSM software is key to the success of the three storage mediums working together in a seamless and transparent mode. The software automatically moves files between media types, managing the network`s complete storage hierarchy (online, near-online, and archiving). High and low watermarks (parameters) can be configured and set depending on each customer`s needs (e.g., number of copies, frequency of use, file size, and date stamps). With this solution, storage capacity is efficiently managed and all files are protected against loss or corruption.

For additional data protection, the HSM software is configured to automatically mirror RAID data onto the MO library within minutes of files being received. To conserve RAID space, if a client`s file exceeds the maximum size limits specified on the RAID device, the "additional" data is automatically off-loaded to MO, and then a second copy of the complete file is immediately saved to DLT. All other files are typically migrated to a DLT library according to the user`s set parameters.

Banta also wanted to ensure 100% availability of clients` files. To meet this objective, Datalink recommended installing redundant hardware components throughout the file delivery subsystem (e.g., controllers, access paths, etc.).

"Datalink provided us with all the demo equipment and associated software. We were able to set up a whole test system, which included a small server, RAID device, optical jukebox, tape library, and HSM software. We tested the system for three months to make sure it met all of our needs before we made the investment," says Drapp.

According to one of Banta`s customers, Randy Rudolph, director of advertising at Damark International Inc., working with Banta has streamlined its production process. "We`ve seen our new product introduction time drop from 32 days to 19 days, prepress production cycle shorten from three days to one day, and staff requirements reduced by eight people," Rudolph says. "The benefits have been savings in time and money, and an increased ability to meet the competitive challenges of our industry."

Ron Levine is a technology writer with Coast Writing, an independent firm specializing in computer application articles. He can be reached at ron@coastwriting.com.

This article was originally published on August 01, 1999