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London colleges set up remote back-up site

Bill Goodwin
Universities and colleges in London are transforming their disaster recovery plans by signing up to a high-capacity online back-up service.

The service, developed by a consortium of educational institutions and storage specialist InTechnology, allows universities to back-up and recover terabytes of critical data to a remote datacentre through high-capacity links.

The service is being rolled out to universities and colleges in the capital following a one-year trial by the London Business School and Birkbeck college, which showed it was cheaper and more effective than tape storage.

Russell Altendorff, director of IT at the London Business School, who co-ordinated the development of the system, said all public sector organisations were coming under pressure to improve their disaster recovery planning.

"One of the drivers is the recent focus on disaster recovery and major incident planning. A lot of the universities have had to produce comprehensive disaster recovery and risk management plans," he said.

Altendorff said that without the system the London Business School would struggle to back-up the mountain of data it generated, which had reached 2Tbytes and was growing rapidly.

"We were using a Veritas tape back-up system, but our disaster recovery requirements were growing and the time taken to do back-ups was rocketing," he said.

"Restoring data was becoming impractical because of the time it would take and its complexity."

Altendorff said the system, which allows universities to restore data to their own or a remote datacentre in the event of a disaster, had made a dramatic difference to the school's disaster recovery planning.

"For a very affordable price we have all our data not only backed up every single day, but it can be restored at well," he said.

The service, which can back-up data from Microsoft and Unix systems, is being offered by the London Metropolitan Network, a non-profit-making company owned by universities and colleges which operates a data network linking 100 institutions with low-cost 100Mbyte connections.

The London Metropolitan Network chose Intechnology to provide the back-up service, as it was the only organisation able to provide it online, said Altendorff.

Universities pay Intechnology for the service, but Intechnology returns part of the fee to the London Metropolitan Network to fund further research.

The London Metropolitan Network is working with software supplier Xytos and Intechnology to extend the service to provide low-cost off-site data storage for universities within the next year.

The service will allow universities to increase their data capacity without investing in new hardware.

"We have decided that because of our rate of growth and because we do not want to have a bigger datacentre, that we must outsource. But we cannot afford to pay top dollar," said Altendorff.

London Metropolitan Network also plans to create a disaster recovery suite for universities to allow them to access key applications remotely from a disaster recovery centre in London.

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