Making the Grade

This private liberal arts college's hybrid cloud deployment is the cornerstone of a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy.

Founded in 1813, Colby College is a four-year college in Waterville, Maine. It grants degrees in 54 majors from 24 academic departments, and staff levels vary year-to-year due to visiting professors, researchers and lecturers. Faculty members—world-class teachers and scholars committed to liberal arts education—collaborate with students in a learning experience that is transformational for both.

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Previously, Colby College relied on two software products to back up its faculty/staff laptops and desktops: Macintosh computers ran Retrospect while Windows machines used Symantec. Frustrations in managing two disparate backup products, combined with instances of data loss led Marc Cote, Colby’s Windows/Macintosh technical consultant, to seek a more efficient, unified solution. During his research and review of available options, he read about CrashPlan as a “top endpoint backup solution” and decided to add it to his test group.

Critical Needs

  • Cross-platform support for Mac and Windows laptops and desktops
  • Single, unified management console for ease of administration
  • Option for on-premises control of encryption keys and hybrid cloud deployment
  • Continuous, invisible data protection
  • Cost-effective yet enterprise-grade and scalable

How It Works

“At the time we were moving away from Retrospect and Symantec, we put three options to the test—Cobian, CrashPlan and Mozy,” said Cote. “Our IT group fell in love with CrashPlan. Both Cobian and Mozy were eliminated after the team discovered they lacked centralized admin controls—managing the software individually on client machines would have been a nightmare. Also, cost was a factor, and in that regard CrashPlan presented the best option. But easy cross-platform control was really what we were looking for, and CrashPlan definitely gave us that.”

At Colby, CrashPlan was introduced within the IT group then deployed across the college, department by department. One computer per staff member was backed up, with CrashPlan set to exclude personal music and movie files from the backup. In some cases, backup needed to meet legal and regulatory stipulations—including legal holds—which require information to be maintained for specified periods of time.

“A significant advantage for our users is that CrashPlan offers Active Directory support,” said Cote. “Users sign in and authenticate once, so they don’t have to keep a million passwords. Plus, we can assign roles based on where they are and what they do. So, for music professors, we need to back up music files, but maybe we don’t want to permit that for other users. Flexibility is an important part of how we support our users.”

In fact, a Colby professor teaching in Africa encountered a situation where his host school needed to limit data transfer due to narrow network bandwidth. With CrashPlan, Cote and his team fine-tuned the professor’s laptop’s backup settings, so it could continue to safeguard his work while meeting the bandwidth requirements of the local institution.

Overall, CrashPlan gives Colby’s IT team control and confidence in its endpoint backup solution, and reliability has been key.

“It does everything we need it to do,” added Cote. “One of our favorite CrashPlan features is our ability to target specific files for backups. But overall, everything ties together very nicely, and the ability to restore data whenever needed is seamless.”

Backup is Good, Restore is Better

Colby’s faculty and staff rejoice in CrashPlan’s self-service restore capability. Before CrashPlan, it took a full day for IT to restore a user’s data. Now, the users themselves can simply log in, pick the file and version, and be back in business in two minutes.

“One of our Admissions Office users loves the fact he can easily restore files he’s created, deleted, moved, etc.,” said Cote. “We’ve also had some hard drive crashes where we were easily able to restore data for our users, which minimized downtime for everyone.”

Keys to the Kingdom

Colby’s CrashPlan deployment started with private cloud, but the IT team soon learned it needed a more robust disaster recovery strategy. After re-examining requirements, IT decided a hybrid cloud approach best met its needs for multi-destination and cloud deployment flexibility.

With our old systems, we spent 35 percent of our time on maintenance. Now it’s only 5 percent of our time, which frees us up to focus on distributing new computers and helping users. We’re not wasting time with backups, and our staff can just forget it’s there unless they need it. No one worries about backups anymore.
Marc Cote, Windows/Macintosh Technical Consultant at Colby College

“What really appeals to us about hybrid cloud is we hold the ‘keys to the kingdom,’” said Cote. “We store encryption keys onsite but gradually move end-user data to cloud backup.”

CrashPlan’s Business Value