The Health Research Board (HRB) is a statutory agency under the aegis of the Department of Health. The HRB is the lead funder of health research and provides key evidence for policy and service planning in relation to a variety of health issues.
The service provides a comprehensive data management solution which incorporates Office 365, backup, smart archiving, storage and disaster recovery.
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In May 2015, HRB came out to tender for a supplier to design and implement a new high availability server environment running VMware to replace the HRB’s existing environment. The ultimate goal was to achieve an infrastructure refresh, new highly available server environment, a Storage Area Network (SAN), and a full business continuity solution including online backups to replace their tape environment.
Initial migration of old infrastructure to new had to be followed by a review and optimisation process for management and performance in line with industry standard best practices. This optimisation should include items like OS upgrades, moving of any physical servers to virtual environment etc.
While the existing system operated adequately, it was not ideal as it was dependent on tape and people having to manually re-build servers and restore data in the event of a serious failure. The old system had no business continuity solution and no archiving technology. Email was run as an in-house Exchange system on local infrastructure. The server environment was running on Windows Server 2003.
Faced with meeting the increasing demands of managing 24 x7 applications and the need to manage continuously growing data, HRB were faced with either a further expensive investment in a traditional DR solution – with dual sites and all the replication required in terms of hardware and software etc, or looking at a cloud based alternative.
The Backup requirements were to have three months of daily backups, 15 weekly backups and 12 monthly backups stored offsite. With a full backup size of 2TB and a daily incremental backup size of 400GB, this backup retention required c. 78TB of storage to hold all backups on disk.
As part of the response to the tender, Savenet recommended a number of additional items to the solution which would have the benefit of greatly reducing the amount of data being actively managed and backed up, whilst also reducing the overall cost of the project significantly. These were:
- Email and File archiving solution
- The implementation of Microsoft Office 365 to replace the in-house Exchange
We implemented a Dell hardware solution consisting of two R730 servers which run the VMware ESXi environment and reused the HRB existing VMware licenses. The old Dell MD3000 SAN was replaced with a new Dell Powervault MD3420 SAN. As part of this refresh we also migrated their servers from Windows server 2003 to 2012.
We implemented a fully managed backup solution that allows HRB to continue using their existing Veeam backup software and licenses, but removes tape from their environment, by implementing a Cloud Hosted Backup De-duplication solution.
The local physical tape library is replaced with a Falconstor Optimised Backup de-duplication (OBD) virtual appliance (VA), which is located on the customer site. This is a NAS with block level de-duplication. Veeam uses this device as a local backup target.
The onsite Falconstor appliance replicates de-duplicated data offsite on a daily basis to a second Falconstor virtual appliance hosted on the Savenet Cloud Platform over a secure VPN connection. The FalconStor OBD appliance gets a de-dupe ratio of 27:1, which means that 78TB of Veeam backups is reduced down to 2.8TB of storage. This level of de-duplication allows HRB to have a full local copy of all backups onsite as well as offsite.
Cloud Archiving Solution – Mailmeter, File Archiver and Cloud Archive Storage
We implemented Mailmeter from Waterford Technologies as the email archiving platform. This product provides comprehensive archiving and e-discovery capabilities, as well as being a legally valid form of tamper proof email auditing.
We also implemented File Archiver from Waterford Technologies. This provides a powerful file archiving platform which enables reporting, data analysis, e-discovery and audit traceability for all the HRB’s file data.
This solution frees up approximately 1TB of file data from the current live environment and reduces the amount of data needing to be backed up. It also helps to keep the backup set at a “fixed” level, so the archive is continually growing, but the backup set stays constant. The archived files themselves are all stored in the Savenet cloud object storage environment.
Moving to Office 365 meant that the business continuity requirement of user access to email was easily met. Savenet worked closely with the HRB to recommend the optimum Office 365 package and then implemented the rollout project – including the migration of 180 mailboxes.
Savenet implemented a fully managed enterprise class DR solution for HRB using next generation replication technology called Zerto – the first hypervisor-based replication in the industry. This allows Savenet to restore any virtual machine in minutes with just the click of a mouse. The initial solution provides replication for HRBs Core servers, such as Active Directory, SAP, SharePoint, File Services and several other line of business applications, which are replicated into Savenet’s cloud via a secure VPN.
The disaster recovery solution Savenet implemented also enables 80 desktop connections to the Savenet Cloud DR environment. Users can access applications from anywhere with internet access on any device, as a result a dedicated hot site was not needed.
Solution Benefits and Ongoing Development
- Elimination of tape without any compromises – retains existing Veeam backup solution
- Full copy of backup data is onsite and offsite.
- Easily scalable to any level
- Because Mailmeter is in place, there is no requirement to back up the email system; as Mailmeter keeps a copy of every email that goes in or out of Office 365; all stored in the Savenet cloud object storage system.
- Enterprise class DR solution – our DR SLA is under 1 hour in practise. Two DR tests a year as standard.
- Full business continuity – if the building is unavailable, all the users have to do is login to the applications over the internet and carry on.
- Recover Point Objective (RPO) reduced from 12 hours – to under 15 seconds.
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) reduced from 48 hours – to 1 hour.
- 95% of HRB’s data is de-duped before being sent to the Savenet Cloud site delivering massive bandwidth savings.
- The new solution has dramatically improved the HRB’s protection against any form of data loss and enabled comprehensive e-discovery and analysis of all email and file data.
- By adopting a mix of fully managed cloud technologies HRB are saving considerable amounts of time and money on IT infrastructure and personnel.
- By using smart file archiving technology, the HRB now has very small growth in the backup set size, DR storage size and SAN environment. These expensive technologies remain at a steady level of consumption and the low cost archive is what grows continuously.
- Every email that is sent in or out of the business is copied into Mailmeter which is a very powerful, fully searchable archiving system.
- No secondary DR site and hardware to manage, no dedicated hot site is required.
The tender was for a five-year contract and was rolled out between August and November 2015.
This type of managed cloud services solution which encompasses, Backup, Archiving, DR and Email is the first of its kind in the Public Sector and should be used as a roadmap to deliver real costs savings from the cloud in the rest of the Public Sector.
Martin Morgan, IT Manager said “The HRB wanted to embrace the latest cloud technologies to provide the highest levels of system availability, scalability and resilience for our stakeholders while also providing value for money.
Savenet were able to take our requirements wish list and turn them into reality. They also took a unique approach the solution design – they were the only company who put smart archiving and data management at the core of the new infrastructure. This helped to make the entire solution much more cost effective and simpler to manage. It keeps our backup and storage environments at a steady level whilst our low cost cloud archive grows. Savenet were the only company who were able to provide such a breadth of cloud services – from backup and DR to archiving and Office 365.
Thanks to the expertise provided by the Savenet team, we have been able to create a highly cost- effective, first rate ICT infrastructure that allows for continuous improvement, but also ensures a proactive approach to risk and data management.
The implementation has been extremely smooth and Savenet are easily one of the very best technical companies I have hired in my career.”