The Health Lottery picks two datacentres for data security and resilience

The Health Lottery decided to have host its applications on two ideltical datacentres as a disaster recovery good practice and for high resilience

The Health Lottery, the UK lottery game which donates 20% to health-related good causes, wanted an infrastructural solution that would secure its increasing volumes of data, help it remain compliant and increase its IT resilience.

The IT team decided to have a twin datacentre strategy to overcome its main challenges and make its IT robust.

The Health Lottery Scheme was launched 18 months ago and today it manages 51 society lotteries that operate in rotation, with each representing a different geographical region of the UK and raising money to address health inequalities in their area. Since its launch, the local society lotteries have raised over £24m.

The ticket costs £1 and 20p of every pound played goes directly to causes such as MenCap, the School Food Trust, the Alzheimers Society, Dementia UK and the Youth Sports Trust.

Growing volume of data

But with 40,000 retail partners such as Tesco and the Co-op, and prizes ranging from £20 to £100,000, the Health Lottery has a large group of regular players and a growing volume of data.

The game, delivered via its retail partners as well as online, is at the heart of the businesses and so the ICT development and infrastructure requirements were considerable form the start, said David Wall, the Health Lottery’s chief operating officer.

“Our strategy was to outsource ICT and keep core staff to a minimum,” said David Wall.

The IT team needed three major suppliers – one for its software, one for infrastructure management and one for the physical hosting of infrastructure which could support and protect the software apps, customer data and the online infrastructure.

“On the infrastructure side, our key challenge was security. We needed restricted access to our servers for nominated personnel only and we needed to demonstrate this clearly as part of strict compliance regulations,” Wall said.

The team also wanted a service provider that could help it burst into the cloud in the future and develop mobile device strategies to create newer business opportunities, he added.

The Health Lottery then selected Equinix, the provider of carrier-neutral datacentres and internet services. It met its infrastructure needs by hosting the apps on Equinix datacentre but having remote links to its own headquarters and to the television draw studio.

Datacentre strategy to meet data regulation compliance

Date security was one of the primary reasons, it selected Equinix, Wall said.

For online gaming service providers, transaction security and data security compliance are extremely important.

The Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) must be complied with at the datacentre level.

Equinix’s datacentres are certified and come with ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 security systems accreditation that helps eliminate the need for lengthy and repeated assessments, Wall said.

“Clearly the primary concern in our business is with the security of our data and the continuity of the game,” he said. The multiple physical and data security levels in the IT facility helps the lottery scheme company to comply with current and potential future gaming regulations.

But in addition to security management, the Health Lottery’s IT team has ensured systems’ resilience to ensure the continuity of the game and minimal downtime with two datacentres.

“For added resilience, we chose to deploy two Equinix datacentres, mirroring data in case of a disaster recovery scenario. While this is not strictly required by regulations, we prefer to follow the best practice for complete peace of mind,” said Wall.

Disaster recovery best practice

Although running two identical active-active datacentres costs more than having a single IT facility, it is a disaster recovery best practice for businesses that are dependent on constant high-availability such as the Health Lottery or critical public services or even the financial services sector.

The mirror sites, in two geographically-diverse datacentres, underpin the resilience of data and delivery and share identical security processes, ensuring that the Health Lottery is prepared against any eventuality, Wall said.

While the datacentre facility helps the Health Lottery to meet data compliance regulations and its resiliency requirements, it also benefits from high-power density space with a wider choice of network service providers because the datacentre is a carrier-neutral facility.

Customers using datacentre provided by telecommunication companies or ISPs cannot switch providers without physically moving the server to another location. Network- or carrier-neutral datacentres are operated by third parties and allow customers to switch providers and use multiple providers.

“We get greater levels of efficiency by cross-connecting, saving on leased lines and enhancing resilience. Moving forward, as the cloud and mobile gaming take off, we will take advantage of these new opportunities. Equinix’s ecosystem will give us the flexibility to develop our channels, choose new directions, and build new games,” said Wall.

The Health Lottery has an international master agreement in place with Equinix which means it can choose to expand its operations outside the UK seamlessly. The IT team also runs monthly reviews to check on IT efficiency, Wall said.

Read more on Datacentre disaster recovery and security