Mitigate Unexpected Threats With Remote Backup Technology
When network threats came in the form of Mother Nature, this systems integrator used remote backup to protect its client, an Iowa union training center.
When a '500-year flood' of the Cedar River threatened the town of Cedar Rapids, IA, in early 2008, Brandon Weber, managing partner at Union Built PC, immediately thought of his client, Mike Carson. Carson is director of the Cedar Rapids Electrical JATC (Joint Apprenticeship Training Center), which holds classes and performs on-site training for workers in the electrical industry. The center recently upgraded its entire network with the help of Union Built PC, a systems integrator based in Michigan. "In 2007, we moved them from a peer-to-peer Windows network to IBM Lotus Foundations Start software appliance [server], added laptops for the classrooms as well as other workstations, and built a wireless network," explains Weber. He adds there were several reasons Union Built PC recommended the IBM product. "We knew one of the training center's biggest concerns was ensuring critical files were safe and accessible. They also wanted to be able to manage and access files from a central location, so we kept that in mind." Lotus Foundations Start provides a backup and recovery system with automatic incremental disk backups and a one-button system recovery.
Use Functionality To Overcome Objections
Upgrading the training center's network and equipment didn't happen quickly or without skepticism. "We originally met Mike at a trade show, then he called us a few months later to find out more about the Lotus Foundations appliance and what it could do. We spoke again at the conference the following year, and he was finally able to convince his committee to move forward," explains Weber. It helped, he adds, that other Union Built PC training center customers were available at the conference to talk with Carson. "We have built a reputation among training centers and are growing that reputation to include other centers in other labor union jurisdictions," he says. "Now, that market accounts for more than half of our company's current revenue, and there is a lot of room to grow."
For the Cedar Rapids center and Carson, the biggest hurdle to making the decision was balancing the need for an upgrade with the cost to achieve a good outcome. The center has operations serving 6 employees and 30 to 40 trainees on any given day, but they weren't convinced they had enough of a need to justify the cost ($12,000 for the server, plus another $25,000 for the laptops, wireless gear, mobile laptop cart, and labor). "The hard disk backups and the network security the appliance provides helped them get over that objection," says Weber.
Use Remote Support To Close A Sale
Once the decision was made to move forward, Union Built PC recommended the Lotus Foundations Start, its own Model UB-15W laptops, and a Linksys wireless access point (WAP54G) and repeater (WRE54G). "The remote support capabilities of the Lotus Foundation's appliance were a big factor in the decision," explains Weber. "The center doesn't have an IT staff, and they wanted to make sure we could do as much as possible remotely. The training center had little disaster recovery in place, and the IT company it had under contract would often push service calls off by several hours or sometimes days." That meant the center needed a company that responded quickly and a solution that wouldn't require on-site or regular IT support.
With the security-rich appliance in place, the center migrated onto its new network, which featured password-protected logins, drive mapping, and program access based on permissions. In addition, with automated disaster recovery in place, Carson and his staff needed only occasional remote support from Union Built PC. But in spring 2008, as Iowa suffered from one of the worst floods in its history, Weber heard that the Cedar River was sweeping away entire towns and heading straight for Cedar Rapids. Weber said he called Mike immediately and found his client was distracted and worried about family, friends, and other downtown businesses. Concerned about the impact the flood could have on the training center, Weber and his team took action. Two days before the river inundated the city, Union Built PC established a virtual private network (VPN) connection and began copying critical data such as financial records, documents, and databases. "Because of the way the Lotus appliance works, we could quickly pinpoint what we wanted, then drag and drop it onto our servers in Michigan," explains Weber. By the time the power went out in Cedar Rapids the next night, the files were safe. "We were preparing to load the data onto a new server so we could get the center up and running immediately when I received a call from Mike that all was well."
While Union Built PC had never tackled that kind of remote backup before, it has since. "We have a client in Tampa, FL, and as tropical storm Fay approached in late August, we performed a remote backup for that client, finishing just before Fay fizzled out," says Weber. "I have learned that Mother Nature doesn't always tip her hand, but when she does, and you have a limited amount of time to act, you'd better seize the day."
For Weber, the experience reinforced the ability of the Lotus appliance to provide emergency backup remotely. "Now we know that with the technology we have in place at many training centers just like this one around the country [a growing market for Union Built PC], we can help our clients recover, no matter how high the water rises."