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Brent Council plots £3.8m datacentre revamp to protect IT infrastructure from cyber attacks

Local authority is embarking on a multi-faceted datacentre revamp to protect it from cyber criminals and ensure it can bounce back more quickly from potential outages

Brent Council is embarking on a £3.8m datacentre revamp, which will include an urgent upgrade of its backup and disaster recovery setup to safeguard it against cyber attacks.

The work will include an “incremental” migration from the council’s legacy “physical storage and virtualisation” setup to a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) that will be equipped with disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) capabilities, along with the replacement of its current data backup system.

“We are replacing our legacy backup solutions for the council with one that can provide a robust and resilient solution which further protects us, and our data, from malicious attack,” said the council’s Technology roadmap 2021-2025 document.

“We will implement an automated recovery solution that can, in the event of a disaster or mass failure of services, restore these in order of priority quickly and efficiently.”

The backup and disaster recovery system revamp is expected to cost about £850,000 in 2021/2022, while the storage and virtualisation portion of the project is expected to cost a total of £550,000 between 2021 and 2025, the Technology roadmap document said.

The local authority will also undertake a “further” £550,000 review of its datacentre hosting arrangements over the next couple of years with the aim of consolidating the number of server farms it operates, “if financially and operationally opportune” to do so, the document added.

The council has also earmarked £1.5m of funding to deliver a “continual programme of work” that will seek to “replace our aged Microsoft Windows Server operating systems with their finite support lifetime, so that the environment can be effectively managed, patched and supported”, according to the document, and will spend £300,000 to “refresh” the connectivity and access points to the datacentre network.

Approval for the datacentre revamp plan was sought during a council cabinet meeting on 14 June 2021, and the work is part of a wider £10.3m IT overhaul the local authority is embarking on over the coming years.

Read more about datacentre upgrade projects

Alongside the datacentre upgrade, the organisation will also be investing in upgrading the networks between its datacentres and council sites, improving its cyber security protections, and providing council staff with new laptops and mobile devices over the next four to five years.

The aim of these works, as detailed in the Technology roadmap 2021-2025 document, is to improve the security, resiliency and availability of council services while also reducing the costs involved with delivering them to local citizens.

The project is part of an even broader £35m IT investment programme that is being embarked on by Brent, Lewisham and Southwark councils through their Shared Technology Services initiative to prevent their systems from being successfully targeted by cyber criminals.

As detailed in the Brent technology roadmap capital investment document, there is a particular concern about Brent Council’s ability bounce back from a cyber attack or outage unless a new backup and disaster recovery system is rolled out soon.

“There is an immediate need to implement a new backup and disaster recovery solution,” said the document. “The replacement solution will protect the IT infrastructure and the council’s data from malicious attack, such as the one recently experienced by another London borough.

“In the event of an IT failure, the council will be in a position to recover quickly by implementing changes in the way the data is stored.”

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