Backing up Buckeyes

Enterprise endpoint backup in an evolving-BYOD, customer-centric IT culture.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of America’s largest universities and top-20 public universities: with 55,000+ students in 14 colleges; 175 undergraduate majors; and 240 master’s, doctoral and professional degree programs. OSU is further recognized by a top-rated academic medical center and a premier cancer hospital and research center.

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Students and faculty continuously migrate data to personal devices such as laptops, iPhones, Androids and tablets. As a result, the OSU mathematics department’s IT team sought a secure, reliable endpoint backup solution to protect data and sensitive research commissioned by the university that is produced and stored on faculty and student laptops. Previously, the department relied on server backup and Apple’s Time Machine product, but that combination failed to provide OSU with the enterprise level endpoint backup protection required by the university’s device-active faculty population.

Critical Needs

  • A scalable, enterprise-level alternative to file servers and Apple Time Machine
  • A continuous, reliable endpoint backup solution for users storing data on a variety of devices
  • Multiple data destinations for selecting and storing necessary data
  • Cross-platform support that works, looks and feels the same for users, regardless of operating system
  • A simple management interface—on a single admin console—that lessens the burden on staff resources

How It Works

When server backup products combined with Time Machine couldn’t provide the enterprise-level scalability and reliability the university required to back up its research and other mission-critical data, Tim Winningham, systems manager for the mathematics department at OSU, began researching solutions. Winningham needed a reliable endpoint backup solution that would allow him to spend more time improving the customer experience for faculty and staff, and less time managing technology.

“Tech people tend to get bogged down in the traditional system administration role,” Winningham said. “Moving to a customer experience service model allows us to get out of the file server business, and devote more of our time to innovating and laying the groundwork for university-wide backup solutions.”

CrashPlan was quietly backing up Winningham’s home computer in 2010 when he experienced first-hand the power of the solution’s restore capabilities: a hard drive crash nearly wiped out an entire collection of baby photos of his two children. “It was so seamless that I had forgotten CrashPlan was even running on the machine. And lo and behold—the pictures were all right there in the cloud,” Winningham said. “All I had to do was download them.”

After his home experience with CrashPlan, Winningham attended multiple industry events where he heard directly from other IT managers about CrashPlan PROe’s ability to solve large-scale file server issues. Following the conferences, Winningham decided to investigate PROe as OSU’s potential endpoint backup solution.

“It took me roughly a week after the conference to explain to the department supervisor how I saw CrashPlan PROe fitting in,” Winningham said. “One of the biggest advantages from a resources perspective was that we’d no longer have system admins forcing tech on people. Now, we give them a choice.”

And that choice was becoming increasingly more important as university staff and students continued to bring laptops, Macs and Android devices into the department for assistance. CrashPlan PROe’s cross-platform capabilities eliminated Winningham’s concerns over finding a backup solution that worked for both iOS and Windows operating systems.

It used to really freak me out, all the Macs being standalone. The university is paying to commission the data from people, and we need a copy,” Winningham said. “PROe has been extremely valuable through the scariness of all these iOS devices. It’s helped us through this transition period by providing one piece of software, one interface that’s easily deployable and easily scriptable. PROe makes it work for all parties, and it’s a great selling point.
Tim Winningham, Systems Manager for Mathematics at The Ohio State University

Winningham chose a private cloud strategy for the math department and credits its easy implementation. His team loves that it takes just two to three minutes to set up a user with CrashPlan PROe. “It’s not hard. I can even send student-workers to set up PROe,” Winningham said. “It easily integrates into Active Directory, and the interface is easy, smooth and intuitive. It doesn’t take time or tech training, and I don’t need to be the expert in backup because someone’s done it for me by putting a good product out there that plugs right into my JAMF Software Casper Suite reporting. So, that saves me money.”

Simple + Integrated + Accessible = A Reliable Endpoint Backup Solution

After installing PROe for members of the OSU math department, one of the immediate benefits Winningham noted was the simplified setup and management of each end-user. Previously, it took Winningham 40 hours per week to run and manage users on Time Machine. After the initial install of CrashPlan PROe, he spent approximately 40 hours for its entire, department-wide setup. And, Winningham hasn’t had to spend any time on scripting or maintaining the software since the installation.

“I haven’t had to touch it since. Being able to run a private cloud painlessly and with a consistent user experience was huge,” Winningham said. “The admin screen lets us see who’s backed up and lock down clients, and shows us where machines are. I think notebook and mobile usage is going to continue to thrust forward so having that endpoint backup makes sense now. You have to get out of the mindset of ‘we run our file server’ because it’s not like that anymore.”

CrashPlan PROe has also greatly reduced the number of support tickets for the department’s team. “It’s dropped the number of tickets to near nothing. The only people coming in with tickets are those who aren’t on PROe yet,” Winningham said. “Previously, it took forever to sort through the whole process because with Time Machine it was all or nothing. Now that only the selected files necessary for backup are in the cloud, it significantly reduces the sorting through all the clutter.”

CrashPlan PROe has not only saved OSU time and resources, but it’s recovered critical research data through its disaster recovery capabilities. When a prominent faculty member’s computer hard drive fried on a South American power grid on the eve before a presentation, she easily and remotely accessed all of her sensitive research data from the private cloud.

“She wasn’t able to get a new computer in time. It would have been too late. I told her to just download the PROe mobile app, type in her Active Directory credentials, then find the files she needed for her presentation,” Winningham said. “She loaded the presentation using the PROe app on her iPhone and gave the presentation directly off of her phone. She saved months of work, and it saved the university the tens of thousands of dollars it cost to send her there for the presentation.”

When the faculty member returned from her trip, Winningham did a full CrashPlan PROe restore on her new computer. The files were seamlessly transferred, and she was able to easily and quickly resume her work on the new computer.

“It wasn’t stressful. She can see how to do it herself over wireless, and her life is restored again,” Winningham said. “If one of our users falls down into a disaster, we can tell them ‘we’ll pull you back and reset you.’ It’s like when Mario jumps into the lava. We’ll reset and give you a new life again.”

OSU is now exploring the expansion of CrashPlan PROe across the entire college of arts and sciences. The math department has laid the groundwork for adding 500 direct faculty, staff and graduate students, and another 50,000 end-users.

“This has been so successful, and it’s worked and scaled well,” Winningham said. “When we look at expanding to the super colleges, PROe is like an insurance policy for their tools and data. Bad things happen, and when you need it, it’s there.”

CrashPlan PROe’s Business Value