Data storage online: Tugboat firm E.N. Bisso partners with Venyu cloud

E.N. Bisso has migrated most of its IT assets to cloud partner Venyu's environment, a transition that includes running NAS in the cloud.

Some customer organizations remain somewhat squeamish when it comes to data storage online.

E.N. Bisso & Son Inc. isn't one of those organizations. The New Orleans-based company, which operates a fleet of tugboats in the Lower Mississippi River, has migrated the bulk of its IT infrastructure to the cloud -- along with its data assets.

While the cloud has become a popular destination for backup and archival data, an enterprise may think twice before using the cloud as a primary data store. E.N. Bisso, however, went to the cloud without hesitation.

"I didn't have any reservations," said Michael Collins, network administrator at E.N. Bisso.

The company tapped Venyu Solutions Inc., a managed hosting and cloud services provider based in Baton Rouge, La., to manage its move to the cloud. E.N. Bisso had been running physical servers and a network-attached storage (NAS) device in a small data center. Now, most of the company's IT gear has been transferred to Venyu's public cloud, which is built on VMware's vCloud.

E.N. Bisso's once-physical NAS appliance is now NAS in the cloud; a virtualized Windows Server 2008 server running under Venyu's management.

"I still refer to it as a NAS," Collins said. "The difference is it is just a virtualized server."

Collins said he manages the cloud storage environment -- and other resources such as the amount of RAM allocated to each virtual server -- through a Venyu Web portal that emulates VMware's vCenter management console.

"It has been solid for us," Collins said of the cloud environment. "We haven't had any issues."

We wanted to move away from owning any physical hardware anymore and [toward] hosting everything in the cloud.
Michael CollinsNetwork administrator, E.N. Bisso

Matt Wallace, vice president of marketing at Venyu, said it has become easier to sell customers on the notion of storing data in the cloud. That wasn't the case just a couple of years ago.

"In the early days, there was definitely a lot of training and education … all the way up the chain" to a customer's decision makers, Wallace noted. "It has absolutely gotten easier. There's a lot more awareness in the marketplace."

Wallace credited virtualization as playing a huge role in the cloud conversion. The transition to the cloud is less jarring for customers with largely virtualized infrastructures.

"They have already virtualized a significant portion of their IT; what's the difference between them holding the equipment and us running their [virtual machines] for them?" Wallace asked.

Cloud path starts with virtualization

E.N. Bisso followed the virtualization path to the cloud. The company began to virtualize its IT components about five years ago and by 2012, when Collins joined the company, it was ready to move to the cloud. The triggering event was an Exchange Server failure.

"We wanted to move away from owning any physical hardware anymore and [toward] hosting everything in the cloud," Collins recalled. "That first server I virtualized in the cloud was the Exchange Server."

Other servers, along with the NAS device, followed Exchange to the cloud.

Collins said he was able to move the additional virtual machines to the cloud at a pace convenient for the company, citing the incremental approach to cloud migration as one of virtualization's attractive features.

"You don't have to do it all at once," Collins said.

E.N. Bisso finished the migration to Venyu's cloud in 2014. Today, the tugboat towing company's on-premises gear is down to two file servers, Voice over IP (VoIP) phones, a firewall and a few wireless routers.

"Everything else is at Venyu," Collins said.

Anurag Agrawal, CEO and analyst at market researcher Techaisle, said E.N. Bisso's cloud push is consistent with what he has seen studying other small businesses. He said Techaisle, which focuses on the channel and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has found that small-business IT departments use the cloud to supplement their IT infrastructure resources, procuring cloud-based storage to offload data from on-premises drives, for example.

Agrawal added, however, that small businesses are expanding their use of cloud computing "even into business-critical applications." He said Techaisle's 2015 U.S. SMB Cloud Computing Adoption study reveals that more than half of small-business respondents say they use or plan to use the cloud for IT infrastructure, while 37% indicate the cloud for supporting non-core processes and applications. But nearly 30 percent of the respondents said they are implementing cloud to run at least some core applications, he said.

E.N. Bisso fits that pattern. Venyu noted that the company runs such business platforms as Microsoft Great Plains and MarineCFO in the cloud. The latter application handles personnel scheduling, compliance, fleet management and billing.

Protecting data storage online: Disaster recovery

Companies engaged in data storage online may neglect backup and disaster recovery. With its primary data housed on a virtual server in the cloud, E.N. Bisso decided to tap Venyu's disaster recovery capabilities.

Specifically, E.N. Bisso uses Venyu's RestartIT+ service. Here's how the service works: While E.N. Bisso uses Venyu's public cloud for production, RestartIT+ backs up the company's data to Venyu's Baton Rouge data center. The data is then replicated to a second Venyu data center 250 miles away in Bossier City, La.

With RestartIT+, the recovery time objective is 12 to 24 hours for large data stores, while file restores can be done in minutes, according to Venyu. Collins said his company is thinking about adopting Venyu's RestartIT+VM service, which the managed hosting company said provides nearly instantaneous recovery. The service is built on Zerto's Cloud DR software, which replicates virtual machines and provides disaster recovery for public and hybrid clouds.

Collins said whether E.N. Bisso opts to go with RestartIT+VM is an issue for the company's upper management to decide.

While E.N. Bisso ponders its next cloud move, Venyu's Wallace views the company as a classic small-business cloud adoption case.

"He's a one-man shop," Wallace said, referring to Collins. "Offloading the task of … maintaining hardware to our cloud just made a lot of sense."

Next Steps

Read about cloud storage security concerns.

Learn how to deploy cloud storage resources.

Alibaba's Aliyun targets 2,000-plus partners, adds data protection pact for users

Dig Deeper on Primary and secondary storage