Backup and IT DR Challenges
Doug Radford (Head of Service Delivery) at the Institute of Directors (IoD) approached System Professional for some help with a review of the organisation’s internal Backup, IT DR and Business Continuity processes, as well as the future remediation plans.
The IoD has been supporting businesses and the people who run them since 1903. As the UK’s longest-running organisation for professional leaders, the IoD is dedicated to supporting its members, encouraging entrepreneurial activity and promoting responsible business practice for the benefit of the business community and society as a whole.
At the time of the initial scoping meeting with System Professional, the IoD was using a traditional onsite backup to disk and tape utility, which had been in place for some time. “The existing backup process and routine was manually intensive, whilst recovery from offsite tape storage was almost prohibitively time-consuming,’” explained Doug.
He highlighted how there were 3 key drivers that prompted the wider Backup and DR review – “Firstly, we knew that we wanted to analyse, improve and document our IT DR and Business Continuity processes. Secondly, we needed to upgrade an unreliable and ageing backup infrastructure. Thirdly, both the size of our backups and duration of the backup cycle was not sustainable. From a Business Continuity perspective, we were looking at 4-5 days of elapsed time to recover key systems and services, which was not acceptable.”
System Professional recommended Veeam not only to address the issues of the onsite backups, but also the offsite Backup as a Service (BaaS) provision using Veeam Cloud Connect.
As part of his supplier due diligence, Doug reviewed the market and assessed several competing vendor solutions. Selecting System Professional and Veeam as his preferred partners, he outlined how “We had previous engagements with Sys Pro and had always been impressed with their consultative approach, plus their BaaS proposal was the most concise and easy to implement. In addition, since the IoD is a VMware house with around 60 virtual machines (VMs), Veeam was a natural option. It is incredibly well integrated with vSphere and provides rich functionality for VMware VMs.”
Veeam provides full VMware vSphere support including VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs), Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM) policy backup and restore, vSphere 6 tag integration, as well as the Backup and replication of Fault Tolerant VMs.
Shortly after the new Veeam solution went live, the IOD suffered a major outage that put the new backup service to the test. Doug outlined how “We needed to recover about 1TB of data as a matter of urgency. Veeam and Sys Pro allowed us to recover within a quarter of the time than we would have in the past. We had run trial editions of Veeam previously, but this was the first true demonstration of the benefits we would receive in our production environment.”
Consulting, Test and DRaaS
A key element of the IoD review process extended beyond BaaS into full system recovery in the event of a DR invocation. System Professional worked with Doug and the IoD IT team to develop a comprehensive IT DR strategy that would enable their users to access key systems in the event of a catastrophic disaster or unplanned outage.
Johnathan Wates, System Professional’s Account Director, explained how “In order to achieve this, we engaged in a number of workshop activities starting with the business requirements and captured both the Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs). We undertook a detailed audit and assessment of the applications and servers, as well as defining any constraints, dependencies and risks.”
“As part of the application assessment we defined recovery methods ranging from native DR features at the application layer through to using Veeam backup and replication technologies. Most importantly, having defined the failover procedure we also paid particular attention to the failback process. During this project phase we produced detailed technical design and operational management documentation,” added Johnathan.
“Having agreed the detailed design and architecture with Doug and the IoD team, we then went about the implementation phase. This included a comprehensive testing phase whereby we tested individual application recovery, performance as well as the overall user experience. Having performed a full DR test post project completion we now have full confidence in the DR procedure and the time it takes to fail over in a real life DR scenario.”
Doug stressed that “Our new Backup and DR solution is cost-neutral compared to what we were using before, but with significantly more benefits. It also works on a more flexible, op-ex cost model, so as we flex our systems up or down, we are only paying for the backup capacity we need and have to retain.”
He added how “It has enabled quicker recovery onsite, peace of mind with the offsite backups, and reduced business risk with the DR as a Service (DRaaS) provision from Sys Pro. We have also seen a massive reduction in backup times – our backup window has been
reduced from 15 hours to 4 hours.”
In summary, Doug highlighted how “The IoD IT Service Delivery team of 6 staff have directly benefitted from the new Backup and DR service, as their daily backup workloads have been significantly reduced. The IoD as a whole (circa 200 staff) benefit from a more reliable, efficient and faster DR / Business Continuity process, while the IT team are able to offer more granular restores on a day to day basis, for each individual IoD staff member. We will look to develop this in future, removing the emphasis on managing an onsite IT infrastructure and continue our move more towards a cloud hosting model.”