Maternal Health, Preschool and Child care centres are very good at taking care of babies and children, but Kathryn Green knows they are not always so good at taking care of data.
Green, the IT Infrastructure Co-ordinator at Melbourne’s Banyule City Council, knows about Maternal Health, Preschool and child care centres because the Council operates sixteen such facilities, and another 13 sites away from its headquarters.
Many operate their own servers, complete with tape drives for backup. But many of these remote offices struggled to change their tapes regularly.
“There is not a lot of administrative support or IT staff out there,” Green says. “Places like child care centres were not very good at replacing their backup tapes. It was always a struggle.” So was processing tapes on arrival at the Council’s headquarters, which involved loading the tapes onto an HDS SAN, then arranging for eventual re-transfer to tape for offsite storage. This regime consumed plenty of the small IT team’s time and also made for slow recovery times. And with tapes arriving sporadically – and perhaps carrying an incomplete backup –Green worried their efforts would not always protect data adequately.
“We never had complete data loss,” she says. “We always made sure we got a weekly backup of each site.”
Green therefore decided to centralise backup of the Council’s 29 offices so that data would go straight from remote office servers to the SATA disk of its SAN.
“The decision was about heading off the risk,” she says.
Happily, one important piece of infrastructure to enable this plan was already in place, in the form of a microwave wide area network connecting the Council’s offices.
But the Council’s previous backup application – ArcServe – was not up to the task.
“ArcServe never quite coped with the vagaries of our Microsoft applications,” Green says, mentioning SharePoint and Active Directory as essential tools for the Council’s operations. Nor did the software enjoy Council’s mixed Windows, Linux and NetWare environment.
Enter CommVault, whose software Green found ideal for Council’s needs.
“It’s flexible,” she says. “If a backup is interrupted or the WAN connection goes down it seamlessly reconnects and resumes the backup. Or if a server needs rebooting, it just comes back again. It was also very easy to install, easy to perform restores and has beautiful reporting.”
All of the Council’s servers now upload an incremental backup every day. At the organisation’s largest office, where the majority of its user population resides, a small Dell-branded EMC SAN is also backed up over the WAN to headquarters Around two weeks’ worth of data is stored on the Council’s main SAN, with synthetic full backups sent to tape and offsite as well.
Green cannot quantify a monetary benefit, but says the new arrangements are certainly more reliable and efficient than the previous regime.
“We’re not shipping tapes and doing uploads and all that any more,” she says, adding that restoring data can now be accomplished with “very fast turnaround.”
Best of all is that the IT team now has more time on its hands. “Productivity improvements have certainly relieved the network administrator to do more.”
That “more” already includes improved email archiving, a CommVault feature the Council has recently adopted. In the future, it also hopes to implement file archiving features to further improve the integrity of its data.