Although data disasters are relatively uncommon, daily backup processes can prove an increasing burden. By working with DTP Group, in collaboration with HP and Partner Services, Cambridgeshire County Council has implemented a new storage area network, data backup and recovery software solution. The council has now and centralised its backups to increase efficiency reduce costs while ensuring that key operational data is available in the event of disaster.
Cambridgeshire County Council looks after one of the UK's fastest-growing regions with a population of 571,000. Apart from the City of Cambridge, the area also includes Huntingdon, Ely, March and Wisbech. There are over 400 council sites (including schools), 14,000 employees, and a budget of £510 million.
Cambridgeshire County Council's Department of Information Technology supports 4,000 users and 150 application servers running Microsoft Windows, Unix and AIX platforms, adding extra complexity to backup routines. While many servers are centrally located, some file and print servers are installed in remote offices across the county. Under the old regime, backups were fragmented and needed attention system by system.
According to Angela Bucksey, Head of Business Support, "Our backups were taking too long. There was a four-weekly cycle with tapes kept off-site. It also took two to three hours to check the backups thoroughly."
The growth in files, servers and data volumes meant an increasing backup bottleneck, with a mountain of tapes and less available time. The systems most affected were Microsoft Windows 2000 and 2003 server-based applications, including e-mail, along with remote Windows 2000 file and print servers. A legacy storage area network used for shared files had also reached capacity.
A new high performance storage, backup and recovery solution was required. This had to be future-proof, and capable of delivering increased service availability levels, greater resilience, and a useful reduction in data backup and recovery times. Online data storage capacity was to be substantially boosted too. Cambridgeshire wanted a partner to implement this new solution and to provide on-going maintenance and support.
The HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) 5000 RAID storage system and M-series network switches seemed ideal if matched with suitable backup and recovery software. As members of the Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation, the council had a shortlist of pre-approved suppliers which included DTP Group.
"We've always had a strong relationship with DTP Group as suppliers for small to medium servers. They're very good in going the extra mile for us," commented Angela. "DTP Group brought in HP and Partner Services for a joint presentation."
DTP Group recommended HP OpenView Storage Data Protector software for the backup tasks, complementing the HP hardware, and a range of implementation and support services. The work began in Autumn 2004 with some project definition workshops and, following this, the HP EVA 5000 was installed as council staff upgraded the Microsoft Exchange server software on new HP ProLiant Servers.
"We're now capable of backing up 99 per cent of our server base to the new technology. The storage area network is also much easier to use with a greater range of management tools," continued Angela.
More than half of the shared office data is currently held by the 8 Terabyte HP EVA 5000 and also backed up onto high-capacity LTO tapes. Reduced administration means that more time can be spent on proactive work for optimum server data security. Staff are also helped by HP's Proactive 24 support service which combines efficient problem prevention with responsive technical assistance.
There are some new document management projects underway for eventual inclusion in the new, simpler backup regime. Further detailed work is also in progress to implement backup procedures for the remaining servers while more shared data is being migrated to the new storage area network. And, in the unlikely event of disaster, Cambridgeshire County Council feels better prepared than ever before.
These e-mail servers were the first systems to be backed up via the EVA 5000 to high-capacity Linear Tape Open (LTO) tapes using HP Data Protector. Cambridgeshire and DTP Group then migrated the shared office data to the EVA 5000 and began to include other servers in the new backup regime. This meant replacing older backup software with HP Data Protector. DTP also arranged the necessary staff training and skills transfer.
The project has now provided a single, cost-effective data storage, backup and recovery solution. Most backups can be initiated centrally and the process is much faster. Technical skills have been successfully transferred to the onsite team, and a reduction in the total number of skills required to manage the environment has also been achieved. So far, 60 network-connected servers are transferring data across the network, through the EVA 5000 and out to tape. Thanks to HP Data Protector software, backup and recovery procedures are more easily automated.