Colocation data centre ensures data recovery for sports agency

By implementing a colocation data centre as part of its disaster recovery strategy, sports marketing agency Fast Track has ensured business continuity and protected itself against data loss and downtime.

Sports marketing agency Fast Track decided to adopt a disaster recovery strategy and build a colocation data centre for data recovery after the July 11, 2005, London bombings, which caused chaos and data loss for several businesses. With the implementation of the virtual colocation data centre, the company claims to have since cushioned itself against the likelihood of downtime and a £8,000- to £10,000-per-day loss if another disaster were to strike.

Fast Track manages and promotes events for broadcasters and governing bodies of sport to deliver programmes, including the U.K. Athletics and the Paralympic World Cups.

Based near St. James Park, London, Fast Track is used to experiencing power outages. The company and its surrounding area had previously experienced power overloads and workmen cutting through cables, so a business disaster recovery plan seemed to be a way forward.

"We wanted to get our data out of London, because the power prices are very high but also because of the threat of terrorism -- we felt our location was a high target," said Magnus Leask, IT director at Fast Track. "If the business was to go down, we would lose so much per day, we would go redundant -- we would lose about £10,000 a day in downtime."

Two years ago, the company deployed Neverfail for RIM BlackBerry and Neverfail ClusterProtector in both its physical data centre in London as well as its secondary virtual data centre in Maidenhead, Kent. The implementation was designed to provide continuous availability for its Microsoft Exchange environments, in addition to protecting key applications in its secondary data centre.

Fast Track's second data centre runs on VMware servers, with Neverfail included for failover operations from the physical primary servers to its virtual servers in the second data centre, which are managed by Connections for London (C4L).

Data recovery tools
Prior to its secondary virtual data centre, Leask said Fast Track depended on a tape data recovery strategy, which was time consuming and unreliable.

The company decided on Neverfail due to a function that allows failover and fail back. When required, the company can fail over operations and fail back to test how applications run on a virtualised platform. By failing over this way, Fast Track is able to "try before buying" and allows the IT team to gain confidence in how the businesses IT could eventually run on a fully virtualised platform.

"We were worried how to roll back to our primary data centre," he said.

Leask said Fast Track has approximately 180 staff members, 130 of which are based in its London offices. The company also has offices in Portsmouth, Glasgow, Bournemouth, Madrid and Abu Dhabi.

"We have offices in several locations around the world, so that means different time zones and even different working weeks. We need a high level of service for all of our events, whether that be email communication or access to our services round the clock," Leask said.

Colocation data centre services
Leask said Fast Track invested approximately £100,000 in capital for its second data centre, but by opting for colocation data centre services it was cheaper than if the company had attempted to put its own business recovery procedures in place. C4L charges for its services on a per-rack basis for power and cooling.

"We have a rack in Maidenhead. The equipment is ours, but the security, data centre power and cooling is down to C4L. It costs about £8,000 to £10,000 a year for the rental of their space, power and comms," he said.

Leask said that in the future, Fast Track will progress towards a fully virtualised environment in both its primary and secondary data centres, as virtual servers have proven cheaper to run and have lowered the company's carbon footprint.

Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor for

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