Three Welsh councils have joined together to build a new disaster recovery site to save money on the badly needed operation.
Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Wrexham have installed disaster recovery platforms from Sun Microsystems and chosen technical support from Fujitsu Services to help run the operation, which covers e-mail, revenues, benefits, social care, libraries and many others.
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The councils said they would not have been able to afford the level of disaster recovery they now have without joining forces. Previously, all three councils did not have all their main operations covered by a disaster recovery facility that could provide an alternative data processing platform.
Cardiff for example, when faced with an outage, could previously only make emergency housing benefit payments but could not carry on processing new benefit claims - now it can.
Crispin O'Connell, chief ICT officer at Cardiff, said, "This deal not only provides a great opportunity for Cardiff but also for the other participating councils.
"The infrastructure has been designed in such a way that other councils within Wales could also use our disaster recovery centre."
The councils link into the site using the Welsh Assembly’s Wales Lifelong Learning Network that already connects to the 22 Welsh councils. Each of the three participating councils has a 100mbps connection to the disaster recovery site via this network, and the same connection could be used by additional councils joining the scheme.
O’Connell admitted that the back-up platform could only support continued processing of data for no more than one of the three councils if more than one experienced difficulties. But he said Cardiff was previously faced with a similar problem when having to join a queue for disaster recovery facilities behind other customers of its previous provider.
All three councils were already using Sun-based platforms so their partnership was relatively easy to achieve. If other councils joined the scheme extra hardware would have to be added to the central site, and non-Sun users would find it more difficult to join the scheme.
The disaster recovery centre, based in Cardiff, is due to go live in August and will house seven Sun Fire V440 servers and one Sun Fire V480 server, a Sun StorEdge 6320 system and a Sun StorEdge L180 tape library for the centre's recovery framework.
Sun and Fujitsu have signed a four-year deal with the councils. The cost of the disaster recovery site has not been revealed.
Charles Andrews, director of public sector sales at Sun, said, "Local government as a whole is looking to exploit economies of scale and get real value for money, whilst making sure business targets are met. Shared services between councils has to be the best way of achieving this."