Tourism company Voyage Hotels and Resorts has built three new data centres, each housing a new storage area network (SAN), and a multi-protocol WAN as part of a strategy to consolidate its IT operations to improve reliability.
Voyage operates 24 hotels on seventeen sites, with seven of its properties situated at Uluru.
Yet the central Australian site was the only one with shared IT facilities: the company's other sites relied on local applications and local storage.
"We backed up to different tapes on each site," explains Greg Hucker, Voyage's General Manager for IT and Telecommunications.
"Someone like the night auditor or a back office would change the tape, but that was the extent of their IT responsibility."
"Depending on the size of the property the tapes would then go into the safe," often without verification that the data could be successfully restored. Nor was storage planned. "All our storage was server attached and we were very reactive when we ran out of space - we'd add more drives!"
When Hucker was promoted into his role he quickly saw that this situation did not represent sufficient protection for the company's data.
"I was doing regional IT&T in the Northern Territory," he explains. "Once I got the big job I wanted to reduce risk because it was very clear that we were riding on a bit of luck with our backups."
For Hucker, risk represents not only the usual corporate issues, but the chance of holidaymakers' memories being sour rather than sweet.
"If there were an overnight failure and the staff could not restore data, the guests' satisfaction could be lost. You could have guests at the counter screaming because staff do not know who is in the hotel or which rooms are clean."
Hucker realised that centralised IT facilities could address this kind of scenario and safeguard guests' experience.
The critical element of his plans was therefore a move to enterprise- wide applications that could be centrally-administered to reduce reliance on local staff with slim IT skills.
"For us, the cornerstone to our strategy was consolidation," Hucker says. "And the outcomes of this strategy were to save the business money, to improve performance and availability, and to build in greater redundancy on a number of levels," Hucker says.
Storage infrastructure, for which the company selected Hitachi Data Systems' TagmaStore Adaptable Modular Storage systems, was one element of that plan, and each of the company's three new data centres now also uses Hitachi AMS500 storage area network technology and over 3TB (terabytes) of data storage capacity.
Another new asset is a WAN that uses radio, satellite, Frame Relay, ISDN and business ADSL to connect to its new data centres, with the mix of carriage technologies a necessity given the remote locations of its resorts.
"Instead of attached storage we now have SANs with scale," Hucker explains. "And instead of local staff with few IT skills, we have a support team in Cairns and our properties have ready access to IT staff in 4-8 hours instead of the 2-4 days it used to take to fly support in."
Hucker says this means staff can now focus on guests instead of worrying about IT.
"This business is not about data centres and smart storage,'' Hucker says. "The business is to make sure that guests are enjoying their stay, that they are organised and are having that memorable experience. And the new system has given staff at each location the ability to shave off the amount of time they would have spent on mundane IT admin tasks."
And those tasks are now far easier to undertake for Voyages' dedicated IT team.
The end-to-end night audit process for Voyages properties now takes 20 minutes, compared to six hours previously. The SAN has dramatically reduced back-up times, as Hitachi's ShadowImage software allows copies of the company's database in about five minutes, compared to the previous four-hour data export process.